Print Friendly, PDF & Email

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (NKJV)

(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)

When you first read the title of this message, you may have thought it was going to be yet another teaching about saying the right words, being positive, never letting anything negative come out of your mouth, never having any negative or weak thoughts about yourself, etc, etc, etc. You’d be wrong.

The other day I picked up a copy of a book by a well know multi-gazillionaire. On the jacket were ringing endorsements by a who’s-who of business leaders and well known Christian personalities. Normally I wouldn’t take much notice of a secular “success” book because they are all typically of the same vein: positive thinking, success mentality, time management, goals, etc. Almost all of them are rehash’s of the same ideas, just with a new spin and some personal stories. However, because of the amount of Christian endorsements, this one caught my attention. So I purchased the book and took it home for a quick read. I was thoroughly disappointed, but not surprised.

The book was nothing more than the same old tired positive-thinking, self-esteem, personal-success, humanist hogwash that you can find on endless shelves at the bookstore (secular or Christian) although with a twist: this book purported to tell you not only HOW these principles worked, but WHY they worked. It was liberally sprinkled with Bible verses and Christian-sounding phrases and principles.

I was left puzzled and bewildered for several reasons. First, even with all the Bible verses, Christian principles and Christian endorsements, there was still an entire chapter devoted to how are positive thinking EVOLVED over time as a necessary survival skill as we went from cavemen to modern humans. Evidently, positive thinking was a trait that allowed those who possessed it to live longer, move up the social ladder and survive better. So that trait “evolved” in humans as we left the caves for our high rise buildings. In modern times, evidently we’ve “forgotten” about this “evolved ability” and now the author is helping us rediscover this “truth”.

This was the great revelation of “why” positive thinking is so powerful. This “why” was the author’s claim of what set his book apart from all the other “success” books available.

1 Corinthians 3:18-19 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”; (NKJV)

I wish I could say that I was totally surprised that 1) the author used the Bible to support his thoughts, and 2) that there were so many well known Christians who endorsed the book. Given some of the names, I have to wonder if they were simply paid to do so without even reading it because there were a couple of names on there that truly shocked me given the content.

On the other hand, with the popularity of “Positive Thinking”, “Possibility Thinking”, “Prosperity Thinking” and all sorts of positive-confession, false humanist “Bible teaching” in Christianity today, I guess it’s not really all that surprising that Christian “leaders” would endorse such a thing. A serious Christian need only to compare the world’s “success” books with much of the “positive” teaching in churches today, to see that:

The world has transformed the church’s thinking,
rather than the Church transforming the world.

Right about now, I’m mostly likely getting floods of emails from my brethren who are sending me quotes from books, Bible verses with promises, and stern rebukes about my “negativity”. After all, it’s people like me who just don’t “get it”, and who haven’t learned that “what we think we are”, “what you say is what you get” and “you confess what you desire”.

The book in question mirrors much of what is taught today. Don’t think anything negative. Don’t speak anything negative. Only believe that you are the best. Never give room in your mind for your weaknesses. Never allow others to “confess” something negative about you. Don’t accept weaknesses in your life. Replace every weakness with a strength. Be positive. Be affirming to yourself. Build your self esteem. And on and on and on.

You won’t actually find anything like this in Scripture (quite the opposite actually), but it doesn’t stop both secular and Christian teachers from lifting multitudes of Bible verses from context to support the humanistic idea of positive thinking and self esteem.

To the contrary, the Bible declares we should be realistic about sin (Jer 17.9), be humble in our thinking (Col 3.12), subordinate ourselves to others (1 Pet 5.5), be careful not to think too highly of ourselves (Rom 12.3), admit our sinfulness and understand that overall, we are sinful at heart, deceptive in our thinking and foolish with our so-called wisdom. You won’t hear that from any “positive thinkers”. The positive thinking crowd (Christian or secular) says, “look at Self, elevate Self” while God plainly says the opposite, “deny Self, humble Self”.

Why the big soap box today? Frankly, because this whole “positive thinking” trend has reached destructive and nonsensical proportions within Christianity. I hear from, and run across, endless numbers of Christians who subscribe to this, and our Christian leaders for whatever reason are dropping the ball on exposing this for what it is: humanistic, man-centered, deceptive false teaching.

This teaching is often dressed up in Christian language, and masquerades as “believing God’s promises” but there is a world of difference between positive-thinking and simply having full and trusting faith in God’s promises. The former is man-powered, and the latter is God-centered. A true Biblical approach to believing God’s promises is to take God at His word without doubt, while recognizing and admitting our inability, weakness, faithlessness, sinfulness, ineptness, and propensity to deceive ourselves.

Let me finish with just one verse for thought that depicts the TRUE “thinking” we should have about ourselves. Biblical “positive thinking” is being glad about, and embracing our weakness. We could study dozens of verses that clearly and completely contradict the humanist positive thinking ideas (I guess I should quit identifying them strictly as “humanist” since Christianity is now one of the primary teachers) but here’s just one for your consideration:

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (NKJV)

Here we have the Apostle Paul responding to God after the Lord refused to remove the “thorn in the flesh” from Paul. God had allowed something very annoying, very uncomfortable and very distracting to hound Paul in order that Paul would remain weak and dependent on God. Paul begged God to remove this “thorn”. If Paul lived today, he simply could “positive confess” the thing away, but unfortunately for the Apostle, that “truth” was still undiscovered in his time!

Notice that Paul wasn’t just resigned. He didn’t just accept his weakness. He said that he would BRAG about his infirmities and take pleasure in his weaknesses. Oh, brothers and sisters, that just WOULD NOT preach well into today’s world! That’s a negative confession. That’s allowing negative thoughts in your head. That’s accepting weakness and negativity.

Paul said he took pleasure in his sickness (what about “claiming your healing” and the “divine right to health” taught today?); he took pleasure in his needs (doesn’t the modern “prosperity teaching” say otherwise?); he took pleasure in his persecutions (is that positive thinking?); and he took pleasure in his distresses (certainly NOT positive thinking!).

The Apostle Paul would most certainly be considered an unenlightened pessimistic or stoic in today’s world, and even in many churches. To help you understand, consider the meaning of some of the key words when we look at the original Greek, then go back and study the verse with these fuller meanings:

  • Grace – good will, loving-kindness, unmerited favor
  • Sufficient – to be possessed of unfailing strength; to be strong, to suffice, to be enough
  • Strength – power, ability; inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth
  • Perfected – to bring to a close, to finish, to end, passed, finished, to perform, execute, complete, fulfill
  • Weakness and infirmities – want of strength, weakness, infirmity; native weakness and frailty; feebleness of health or sickness
  • Boast, take pleasure – to glory (whether with reason or without), to glory on account of a thing, to glory in a thing
  • Reproaches – insolence, impudence, pride, haughtiness, a wrong springing from insolence, an injury, affront, insult, mental injury and wantonness of its infliction being prominent
  • Needs – necessity, imposed either by the circumstances, or by law of duty regarding to one’s advantage, custom, argument; calamity, distress, straits
  • Persecutions – mistreatment, afflictions, being harmed without cause
  • Distresses – narrowness of place, a narrow place; dire calamity, extreme affliction

It’s time for serious Christians to reconsider the influence of the world on our thinking, and return to thinking like God tells us to think. One thing you can always be sure of. Whatever is widely popular with the world, and most of the time whatever is popular in Christianity, is ALMOST ALWAYS in contradiction with God’s Word.

We need to throw out all the humanist influence from our thinking and teaching and return to proclaiming the Truth about how we should “think” as found in Scripture. The world says to be “successful” you should not entertain any thoughts of weakness. God says the opposite. Many Churches today teach that Positive Thinking is the power to create our own reality. The Bible teaches that “all out humility” and “acceptance of our frailty and sinfulness” is the key to real faith. Why? Because only from a position of weakness can we come fully to depend on God.

I am weak and helpless.
Now THAT is true “positive thinking”.

I brag to you about my weaknesses and inability because it forces me to rely on God and trust in Him alone. Now THAT is true, Biblical positive thinking.

Lord God, Help us to have Your thoughts about our thinking. Help us to glory in our weaknesses as they drive us to be dependent on You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Contemplation: Have you ever thought much about this whole idea of self-esteem and positive-thinking? Do you accept it because it sounds good? Do you accept it because of peer pressure, both in the world and in churches? Have you ever really stopped and considered if it is Biblical or not?

Application: Humanist, man-centered, self-esteem, positive thinking ideas have begun to saturate Christian teaching and books. It’s time for Christians to be discerning about these things. At it’s core, “positive thinking” (as is taught today), it about man’s power and man’s ability. It is elevating man’s strength over our dependency on God. It’s time that Christians re-learn what God has to say about our “thinking” and teach His Truth, and not our foolish wisdom.

James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?


WHAT ARE YOUR QUESTIONS FOR ME? Ask here. To give a gift of support, click here.