Straight from a Heart with Attitude
By Lisa Elliot
At the beginning of every New Year I ask the Lord to plant a word in my mind and write it on the tablet of my heart so that I have a focus for the year. I usually base this word upon a verse or passage to give it a scriptural backbone. Often the word comes out of whatever I happen to be reading in my Bible as I begin the New Year.
I’ve had words like comfort, peace, hope, and simplicity. Nothing too complicated but rather something joy-inspiring. In fact, I was hoping that joy would be my word for the year. However, God placed another word upon my heart instead—attitude—based upon Philippians 2:5 which says, “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” (NLT).
Attitude is not exactly the kind of word I was expecting. Nor am I finding it an easy one to attain to, especially as he explains what that attitude looks like. “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8, NLT). In terms of personal application, that would imply that having the same attitude or mindset of Christ begins with humility. In other words, giving up my rights and dying to self. Ugh! Not again!
I remember when I was young and attending my first Christian camp. From time to time throughout the week, the camp director would get our attention by shouting out, “Attitude check.” To which we campers were required to shout back in response, “Praise the Lord.” It was especially emphasized when we were leaving the campground to embark on a daytrip. That’s when we needed to watch our attitude more than ever because we never knew who’d be watching us. That meant watching our words and our behaviour as well as remembering we were not only guarding the camp’s reputation, but the Lord’s.
Looking back now, I see how important checking our attitude is. After all, it’s out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). In other words, it’s best to watch our attitude before it leaks out and goes public!
It’s amazing to me that as I’ve zeroed in on the word attitude, how much more aware of my attitude I’ve been in my day-to-day life. Not to mention, how much adjusting I have to do if I’m required to align it with that of Jesus.
So far this year, I’ve learned that attitude is all about putting others ahead of myself, regarding others as more important than myself (Phil. 2:6-7), thinking on things that produce life rather than death (Phil. 3:8). But, not merely thinking on these things, rather putting them into practice (Phil. 3:9)—joyfully and with thanksgiving (Phil. 4:6-7)! That’s where the “praising the Lord” part of our attitude check comes in.
In writing the book of Philippians it’s important to remember that Paul wrote this book while he was in chains and imprisoned in a dingy cell. This tells me that Paul chose joy in spite of his circumstances. He didn’t praise God for them, but rather he praised God in the middle of them. Furthermore, Paul saw God’s purpose in his trials. He says in Phil. 1:12, “Now I want you to know brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel” (BSB). Paul recognized that “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21, NIV). That’s not only joy. That’s attitude!
I’m recognizing that nurturing a joyful, Christ-like attitude has a lot to do with our heart’s condition, our thoughts, our words, our actions, and our motive for doing what we do. Our attitude needs careful attention on an ongoing, day-by-day, often minute-by-minute basis. That’s how easily our attitude can slip.
Therefore, in order to keep my attitude in check for the year ahead, I decided to make reading Philippians a part of my regular Bible reading; taking note of the words, phrases, and verses that make my heart stand at attention, writing out the entire book, recording thoughts, challenges, instructions, warnings, truths and insights as I come across them, and even putting some of Philippians to memory so that God’s Word is more deeply impressed upon my heart.
While adjusting my attitude seems like a significant challenge, here is what gives me hope as I face the year ahead, “[B]eing confident of this, that he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6, BSB).
About this Contributor:
Lisa Elliott is an inspirational speaker and award-winning author of The Ben Ripple, Dancing in the Rain, and A Ministry Survival Guide. She’s also a writer for Just Between Us Magazine, theStory, and Good Ground. She and her pastor-husband, David, have four children (three on earth, one in heaven) and serve the Lord together in Ottawa, ON, Canada.