AGCC Sun. a.m. 1/13/2002
#7      (The "7 Questions of the Backslider" Series -- Malachi)


TEXT:  Malachi 3:13-18; Psalm 73:1-28


Attitude is the single biggest controllable thing in our life that will make a huge difference in the quality of our life on a daily basis, and therefore affect a whole lifetime. YET … most of us hardly think about it as that important, or we joke about it or dismiss it lightly. It is clear however that attitude affects everything about us, and it directs the kind of responses we give to others in our life. It quite literally controls the quality of our life in so many ways, and often affects the quality of life for those who love us and are near to us! ILLUS: On May 21, 1941 the unsinkable German battleship the "Bismark" was sighted in the North Atlantic. Immediately planes and ships from the Royal British Navy sped to the scene and quickly took a few shots but the Bismark seemed to outrun them. As the Bismark headed toward the German controlled Fresh coast where it would be safe from attack a strange scene suddenly erupted. To the astonishment of all the massive battleships of the Royal Navy the Bismark suddenly swung around and re-entered the area where the British ships were massed in greatest strength! At the same time the Bismark turned toward the British ships it also seemed to wander around is a zigzag fashion erratically. This made the Bismark an easy target for the Royal Navy and they were able to successfully sink the "unsinkable" ship. What had happened? The Bismark apparently had its rudder hit by an early launched small torpedo and so the ship could not be controlled or guided. Without a working rudder it could only meander aimlessly and was now weak and easily targeted. Our attitude is our rudder, and it also can make a huge difference if it is working properly! -- Copied, Source - Unknown So why do we dismiss this area of life as minor so often? Most of the time we justify our bad attitudes, like it is some constitutional right. We often blame others or circumstances to justify our ugly responses, and some people actually enjoy the pity parties they throw for themselves. PROP. SENT:      The Bible teaches us that attitude can literally determine the quality of our life with God and others … and affect the way we enjoy or fail to enjoy living! It is the rudder of our ship and determines whether we drift aimlessly around life in a fog or find the destination God has for us.

I. ANATOMY OF A DESTRUCTIVE ATTITUDE     3:13-15 Psalm 73:1-16

A. Immediate Rewards     3:13-14 1. Israel's attitude was terrible! a. They griped about the demands of worship. b. They griped about the economy. c. They griped about the harassment of hostile neighbors. d. They griped about the lack of justice in the world, evil doers got away with murder and good people were sometimes punished unfairly. e. They griped about marriage as an institution -- evidenced by the high divorce rate that was mentioned earlier. f. Their kids wanted nothing to do with their religion … partly the result of their mixed marriages with unbelievers and their bad examples and attitude. g. They griped that believing in God didn't seem to make that much of a difference. 2. Sounds like a familiar list! 3. With all their griping it is no wonder that they had no joy in life or in their faith! a. It wasn't life however, it was their attitude toward it! b. They were caught up with self love and self satisfaction and so they found no joy in anything that required giving! c. They had not discovered the power and joy of a selfless life, and they failed to connect their bad attitude with their bad life! ILLUS:The most important thing my dad ever taught me is that there are more important things than me. -- John Ashcroft, Attorney General of the Unites States. Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 2. 4. It is clear that their focus was their own pleasure and not honoring God, notice how they respond to God's indictment against them. "You have said, 'It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty?" 3:14 (underline for emphasis) a. Their attitude was only good when they benefited from something! b. They saw worship as being "mourners before the Lord" … no wonder they found worship a burden with this attitude! c. They couldn't see down the road, their lives were lived for the moment. B. Inappropriate Responses!     3:15; Psalm 73:1-16 1. They sneered at living righteous lives because they had come to accept the belief that the unrighteous enjoyed life better than they did with faith! a. Look at their reactions: 3:15 "But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape." b. Ever heard this attitude before? 2. Asaph who was one of David's leaders over the Levitical choir had experienced the same temptation to lose focus, in Psalm 73:1-16 he tells how he almost slipped and lost his footing with his own attitude. (read passage from Psalm 73:1-16) a. In the short term this sometimes appears true, but it is just that - "short-term." b. If we are not careful when things don't go well we can lose perspective too, especially when we find sinners who seem to be doing just fine. 3. Both Asaph and Israel discovered just how powerful attitude can be in our lives … it can literally change the quality of our life! ILLUS:This may shock you, but I believe the single most significant decision I can make on a day-to-day basis is my choice of attitude. It is more important than my past, my education, my bankroll, my successes or failures, fame or pain, what other people think of me or say about me, my circumstances, or my position. Attitude is that `single string' that keeps me going or cripples my progress. It alone fuels my fire or assaults my hope. When my attitudes are right, there's no barrier too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme, no challenge too great for me. -- Charles R. Swindoll: As quoted in Bob Phillips, Phillips' Book of Great Thoughts & Funny Sayings, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1993), p. 28. 4. The quality of life for Israel in Malachi's day had little to do with the reality of the circumstances, but the perception of reality that they had embraced. a. They chose to be bitter instead of better. b. They chose to complain instead of changing. c. They chose to embrace a bad attitude rather than change it. 5. A change of attitude can literally change your life … even if nothing else changes! a. You need to see the big picture, not just the moment. b. This is what helped turn Asaph around, it would change Israel too if they started to look at the bigger picture and not just the moment. II. ANATOMY OF A DELIVERING ATTITUDE     3:16-18; Psalm 73:17-28 A. Important Reinforcement     3:16-18 1. What was the solution? a. First, a group of those in Israel decided to act rather than just continue to gripe about all the bad attitudes around. b. The steps they take here are important for us to know in conquering a bad attitude. 2. How to win over bad attitudes: a. It starts with a right attitude toward God! "Then those who feared the Lord …" 3:16a Attitude can't change until your heart changes! b. They were accountable to one another! "Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, …" 3:16a (1. It is important see how critical it was to hang around people who have a right attitude too! … the ones with the right attitude got together to talk!) (2. Good attitudes need reinforcement and good company! (3. Note too that with the right attitude it says, "… and the Lord listened and heard." 3:16b God hears when we have a right attitude! c. They acted to seal their good attitude "… A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored His name." 3:16b (1. They made it public record that they would choose to respond differently than the rest of the culture! (2. They committed themselves to a position in writing … for the long term! This was no momentary decision … and you can bet it would be tested over time. 3. Attitudes don't change without effort and help! a. If our attitudes are based on circumstances then they change with the circumstances, so when things are good so is our attitude, but when things are bad so is our attitude. b. If our attitudes are based on our relationship with God they can hold up to any circumstance because God never changes … so we can be consistent in our attitude toward life. This is what it means to "fear the Lord" … to build your life on HIM and not this world. 4. Notice how God responds to this group: "They will be mine," says the Lord Almighty, "in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serve him." 3:17 a. God explains that sometimes it takes time to see the difference between what the righteous get and the unrighteous get … but that day will come! b. "And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not." 3:18 5. It was NOT impossible to have a good attitude even in the midst of struggling … it all depended on the choice of their own wills! a. The one thing we have complete control over that no one else can take from us unless we surrender it is our will! ILLUS:We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. -- Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 41. b. Is it easy? NO, not always! Is it important? ABSOLUTELY! Does it make a difference? ABSOLUTELY! Does it change everything? Not always, but it always changes you! 6. Israel's worship could have been dynamic, their joy could be real, their families could be stable, their economy could be turning around … if only they took control over the one thing they really did have control over … their heart and attitude toward God and each other! B. Inspired Revelation     Psalm 73:17-28 1. How did Asaph pull out of his slump, how did he regain perspective? If it worked for him it just might work for us! a. His turn around began in God's House! "… it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny." Psa 73:16b-17 b. Too many times we dismiss the power of worship, the importance of coming to God's house. 2. Asaph's change started in God's house! a. He had first stated that he almost "slipped," now however he says that the wicked are the ones placed on "slippery ground…" b. Asaph realized that a much larger view had to be in focus than just what appeared now! c. Asaph realized that the end of the unrighteous will be a terrible end, but his own end will be wonderful if he walked with God … so though for the moment it seems unfair the end will settle all scores. 3. Asaph will now accept some injustice for ultimate truth and justice. 4. Sometimes we have to realize that life can be a mix of things now, but in the end it will all be right! ILLUS:The people of Zambia, in Africa, have a very wise saying: "If you wish to have rain, you must be content to have mud." -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997). 5. What a difference this revelation made to Asaph … and it will do the same for us too! a. We must not determine our attitude on a momentary set of circumstances, but rather on the character and promises of God. b. Once Asaph fixed his perspective his attitude changed monumentally. 6. So how do we deal with unpleasant and unrealized expectations? We change our attitude toward them and find a way to explore how God might use this for good! There is always a way to see it different from a positive perspective. ILLUS:A little boy was overheard talking to himself as he strutted through the backyard, baseball cap in place, toting ball and bat. He was heard to say, "I'm the greatest hitter in the world." Then he tossed the ball into the air, swung at it and missed. "Strike one!" Undaunted he picked up the ball, threw it into the air and said to himself, "I'm the greatest baseball hitter ever," and he swung at the ball again. And again he missed. "Strike two!" He paused a moment to examine his bat and ball carefully. Then a third time he threw the ball into the air. "I'm the greatest hitter who ever lived," he said. He swung the bat hard again, missed a third time. He cried out, "Wow! Strike three! What a pitcher! I'm the greatest pitcher in the world!" -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 40. 7. Notice how Asaph ends his struggle with a bad attitude: "But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds." Psa 73:28 a. He does three things: (1. Stays near to God (2. God becomes his refuge (3. He tells of God's deeds to others! b. Asaph had to act, to change in order for his attitude to change, and so did Israel in Malachi's day. 8. The outcome of their way of life depended in large measure on their attitude, this is still true today. a. It wasn't just the circumstances that mattered, it was how they viewed the circumstances. b. We have control over our attitude … how's yours? 9. If you struggle in this area, try finding the ones with good attitude and make a book of remembrance with them that you will honor God and see things from His point of view and not just your own. a. Even when it isn't easy, it will be rewarding … and may change your whole outlook on life. b. Do nothing with a bad attitude and you'll continue to have one. CONCLUSION:    How well we navigate the seas of life depend on the rudder of our life called "attitude!" When a rudder on a ship is bad it will wander aimlessly -- and can crash! The Bible tells us how important attitude is to behavior when it states, "as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he!" Prov. 23:7 Is your ship on a good course?