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Attitude Changes Everything

Those serving in ministry can often feel unappreciated. But if we allow hurt and bitterness to take root, it becomes almost impossible to see...

By Justin Firesheets
August 8, 2016 8:42 am EST

Topics: Leadership,
Tags: communication, leadership, ministry, training,

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Without the right attitude, I may be keeping myself and my team from experiencing the greatest blessing they’d ever know.


A former coworker once gave me a word of wisdom that I’ve never forgotten. He said, “The only things in life that you can control are your attitude and your effort.”

It really is true. We can’t control our circumstances, but we can control how we see them and how hard we work in them.

This principal runs deep in the story of the 12 Israelite spies, told in Numbers chapters 13-14. In preparation for stepping into Canaan after the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, the Lord had commanded Moses to send a group of spies (one representing each of the 12 tribes) to explore the land and provide information to Moses and the rest of the nation.

Despite knowing that it was the land God had promised to them as an inheritance, and despite seeing the bountiful nature of the land, 10 of the 12 spies were consumed with fear and pessimism at the thought of an invasion. Only Caleb and Joshua held fast to the belief that God would help them overcome their enemies and fulfill His promise.

In the blink of an eye, the entire nation went from blessed to cursed. The negative perspective of the 10 spies influenced the rest of the nation so greatly that God promised that they would wander the desert for 40 years until all of the naysayers were dead. The negative attitude of a few poisoned an entire people and prevented them from receiving the blessings that God had in store for them.

This story is a stark reminder of the importance of maintaining a healthy attitude, and it’s a principle that still holds true today.

For those actively serving in ministry, ours can often feel like an unappreciated and thankless job. And regardless of how positively and securely we see our identity and confidence in Christ and regardless of how much we may agree with the vision of our ministry, we can sometimes still allow our attitude to drift and become unhealthy. We lose sight of God’s promises and shift our focus more on our circumstances than on the One who controls them.

Attitude is a critical component of the makeup of any leader, because it has the power to influence three major areas of that leader’s life:

Perspective

The 10 negative spies knew what promises that God had made. They had seen him perform numerous miracles in the desert, not to mention having lived through the Israelites’ escape from Egypt. In fact, they had also seen firsthand the way people were punished for disobeying God or turning their own way. But regardless of what they knew to be true from their own experience, they still chose to see their circumstances as bigger than God. It was a mistaken perspective that ended up costing the lives of them, their families, and thousands of others they influenced.

Every day, I have a choice. Do I allow myself to get frustrated by those around me, or do I choose to give them the same grace God gave me? When my ideas aren’t accepted, do I take it personally and become bitter, or do I use that as an opportunity to learn and grow to be better prepared for another opportunity? I must focus on the silver lining instead of the dark cloud.

Performance

After the 10 spies gave their negative report, there was a huge uprising of anger and resentment not only towards Moses, but also towards God for leading them out of captivity only to die in the desert. God responded by telling the nation that they would be punished for their sins, and in a rash moment of decision-making, the Israelites decided to attack the Canaanites anyway. Without God’s blessing on them, they were quickly and soundly beaten. Unhealthy emotions clouded their judgment and led them to make a poor decision.

When I allow hurt, bitterness, or rejection to become roots that grow in my heart, it becomes almost impossible to see my circumstances in a healthy way. I only see the ways that those around me have hurt me or are doing things “the wrong way” (i.e., not the way I would have done them). I may refuse to help others, feeling they don’t deserve it because of how they may have treated me in the past. I might even begin saying negative things about my ministry and its leadership to my friends, or even start posting those things on social media. How we act and react is directly tied to the condition of our heart, and it’s critical to learn the restraint needed to step back from our situation, take a deep breath, and reassess (with input from others with wisdom) whether we are making healthy decisions.

Position

Numbers 13:2 (NIV) says that the Lord commanded Moses to choose “a leader” from each ancestral tribe of Jacob. So, each of the 12 men chosen for the task was already recognized among his people as a man of wisdom and experience and held a place of influence.

But after their report about Canaan, the 10 negative spies were struck with a plague and died. God showed his people immediately that He would not allow His people to be led and influenced by people with a bad attitude. Attitude is infectious, and the grumbling and negativity of the 10 instantly poisoned the rest of the nation and personally cost those leaders everything. Ultimately, the nation suffered because of how they were led. The unhealthy attitude of their influencers led them down a road that led only to death.

More is caught than taught; how my team sees me lead will in turn affect how they respond in the future. If they see my negative attitude towards the worship team, pastors, or others in the church because I’m upset with something they have done, that will immediately affect how my team sees those people as well. And if I can’t show honor to the people in authority around me, God won’t allow me to maintain my position of authority and to be honored by those under me. I can’t expect an attitude from my team that I myself am not willing to have.

But on the flip side of the 10 negative spies were Joshua and Caleb. They had seen God provide for them multiple times, and in the face of yet another giant obstacle and the intimidation that the Canaanites provided, they chose to still see the promise of God through their circumstances. In fact, Caleb tells his countrymen in Numbers 13:30 (NIV) that they could “certainly” take the land. Talk about a positive attitude!

He and Joshua became the only two adult males to survive the next 40 years in the desert. Surely over that time they had plenty of chances to become angry and bitter over how they had been “wronged” and been treated unjustly, despite being in the right from the outset.

But they stood firm as an example of a healthy mindset. And just before entering the Promised Land, Joshua was installed as the nation’s new leader, proving again that position is directly tied to attitude.

Serving in a ministry world includes all kinds of challenges --- many of them well beyond our individual control. At the end of the day, I may not necessarily be able to impact the actions and decisions of the people around me. But I can control my response.

Attitude is contagious and culture leaks; the Israelite spies proved that. In my position as a ministry leader, my attitude infects those around me also. And my attitude and response will directly affect not just the future of my team, but of myself as well.

As the Israelite spies learned, influence is not a right, but a responsibility. And without the right attitude, I may be keeping myself and my team from experiencing the greatest blessing they’d ever know.

 

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