Summary: In this sermon we learn the importance of attitude, and we learn how to have a positive, joyful and hopeful attitude.


A. Does this bumper sticker describe you: Warning – I have an attitude and I know how to use it!

1. Today I want to talk about the fact that attitude makes a difference.

2. I preached on a similar topic last Tuesday night out at Camp Hunt’s Work and Worship Week, and some of you were in attendance.

3. I hope you won’t mind hearing the lesson again, although I have modified it a little bit.

4. Next week, Lord willing, we will return to our series on Joseph.

B. Back in the 1970s, during a rash of airplane hijackings in our country, one plane was hijacked after it left Miami on its way to New York.

1. The hijacker ordered the pilot to take the plane to Havana, “or else!”

2. The pilot could tell that the hijacker was desperate, so he did what the hijacker said.

3. However, when the gunman tried to intimidate the passengers, they started roaring with laughter.

a. No matter what the hijacker did, the passengers laughed.

b. They laughed all the way to Havana.

c. They laughed while the plane was on the ground during tense negotiations.

d. They laughed when the plane was on its way to New York.

4. The passengers turned the whole experience into a big party.

5. Besides the hijacker and the pilot, there was only one other person on the plane who was not laughing.

a. This man was worried that the hijacker would react violently to their laughter.

b. Who was this passenger who didn’t find any of this to be funny?

6. His name was Allen Funt from the television show Candid Camera.

a. When the other passengers saw that Allen Funt was on board, they assumed that this was all a prank.

b. They were waiting for someone to jump out of their hiding place and say, “Surprise! You’re on Candid Camera.”

7. None of this, however, was a prank – it was a real, dangerous hijacking.

8. But, because no one else on the plane thought it was, they were relaxed and came through the crisis in great form.

I. The Difference Attitude Makes

A. This is one of the great keys to successful living – what we think, our attitude, makes such a difference.

1. The most critical thing is not what is happening to us, or what we are going through, it is what we think about it that matters.

2. When Paul and Silas were thrown in jail for preaching Christ, they sang hymns and gave thanks to God.

3. Wait a minute – they had been severely beaten and thrown in prison and they were doing what?

4. Most people would have been crying in pain, or crying for their rights, or complaining about their situation – but not Paul and Silas.

5. What was the difference? It was their attitude – their faith and their purpose, and their commitment.

B. In many respects the only real prison in life is the prison of our own minds.

1. Regardless of our circumstances, God can help us have the right attitude, and that makes all the difference.

2. Charles Swindoll wrote, “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day of our lives regarding the attitude we embrace for that day.”

3. Would you agree with Swindoll that attitude is that important? I agree with him.

C. I’m impressed with the philosophy of the following statement: “God chooses what we go through. We choose how we go through it.”

1. That statement describes Viktor Frankl’s attitude as he was terribly mistreated in a Nazi concentration camp.

2. His words to his persecutors have been an inspiration to millions of people.

3. He said, “The one thing you cannot take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”

D. That same understanding is clearly communicated in this anonymous piece:

1. “We cannot choose how many years we live, but we can choose how much life those years will have.

2. We cannot control the beauty of our face, but we can control the expression on it.

3. We cannot control life’s difficult moments, but we can choose to make life less difficult.

4. We cannot control the negative atmosphere of the world, but we can control the atmosphere of our minds.

5. Too often, we choose to try to control the things we cannot.

6. Too seldom, we choose to control what we can…our attitude.”

E. If you are tempted to think that attitudes aren’t important to God, then there is an Old Testament incident that should settle it once and for all.

1. It was such a monumental moment in Israel’s history, that almost all the writers of Scripture refer to this incident either directly or indirectly.

2. The incident we need to learn from is found in Numbers 13 and 14.

3. Moses had sent the 12 spies into the Promise Land and they came back with a report.

4. They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.” (Num. 13:27-29)

5. Then Bible says: Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” (Num. 13:30)

6. But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

(Num. 13:31-33)

a. You talk about negative thinking!

b. You talk about a lack of faith!

7. What happened next? The Bible says: That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! 3 Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn't it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” (Num. 14:1-4)

a. Back to Egypt? Back to Egypt? Things had been really great back in Egypt, right?

8. Moses and Aaron fell facedown in prayer in front of all Israel.

9. Joshua and Caleb, the two good spies who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the people: “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (Num. 14:7-9)

a. How’s that for a faith-filled, positive attitude!?

10. None of this changed the people’s minds – the assembly talked of stoning Moses, his brother, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb.

11. That’s when God showed up. The Bible says: The LORD said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? 12 I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.” (Num. 14:11-12)

F. If you know the rest of the story, you know that God didn’t destroy them that day, but The Lord did decide that those 20 years old and older would not be allowed to enter the Promise Land.

1. So for the next 40 years, the Lord forced them to wander in the desert until all the adults died off.

2. Why did God kill off an entire generation of His people? Because of their attitude.

3. Those who choose murmuring, complaining, negativity and doubting as their lifestyle and attitude will spend the rest of their lives in the desert wilderness.

4. Bad attitudes are what make life a dry, hard, joyless, and parched experience.

5. So do you think God has changed in what He thinks or does about attitudes? I don’t think so!

II. How To Have A Positive, Joyful Attitude

A. So how can we have the kind of positive, joyful, hopeful attitude that pleases God?

1. Let’s look at some things that the apostle Paul wrote about that give us a clue into how he had such a godly, positive attitude.

2. Let’s take a brief survey of Philippians.

3. A good, positive, joyful attitude comes from several things.

B. First of all, it comes from believing in God.

1. As Paul opened the letter to the Philippians, he expressed these words of faith: I thank my God every time I remember you. 4In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (1:3-6)

a. Do we have that kind of faith in God that what God begins He will finish?

b. If we have that kind of faith in God, then it will effect our attitudes.

c. Won’t we more likely be positive and joyful, rather than negative and discouraged?

2. Let’s notice what Paul said a few verses later: Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 13As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. (1:12-14)

a. The last three weeks, we have been studying Joseph’s life, and we have seen that he had this same kind of attitude.

b. No matter what was happening in his life, he trusted that God was at work and would bring some kind of good out of it.

c. How important is it for us to have that same kind of faith in God?

d. If we can trust God and believe that in the end He will work all things together for good (Rom. 8:28), then our attitude will be positive and joyful even during our trials and suffering.

3. Look at how Paul again expressed his faith in God in chapter 4: I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (4:10-13)

a. Wow!! What an attitude! What faith in God.

b. God can give us the strength to do everything and endure anything, and have a contented, joyful attitude in the midst of it! How about that?

4. Paul made one more reference to his faith and how it effected his attitude. Look at verse 19: “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

a. I love how personally Paul speaks of God…It is his God that he trusts in.

b. Paul knows that he belongs to God and God belongs to him.

c. When we have entered into the New Covenant, we can speak with that same kind of personal possession.

d. And all that results in greater confidence and greater joy.

e. God will meet all our needs – that’s His promise, and that helps our attitude.

C. Another thing that helped Paul have a positive, joyful attitude was knowing God’s grace and forgiveness.

1. In chapter 3, Paul described his old life in Judaism and how he had put so much confidence in his accomplishments.

2. But then after he met Christ, he changed. He gave up everything and put his confidence in Christ.

3. All he wanted to know was Christ and the power of his resurrection and to have fellowship with Christ, even in His sufferings.

4. After he made those points, he wrote: Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (3:12-14)

5. Paul knew that God forgave him for how he had not believed in Christ and had persecuted members of the church.

6. Imagine how different things would have been if Paul had wallowed in the failures and sins of his past.

7. Imagine how depressed and ineffective he would have been if he continued to carry the guilt and shame of his past.

8. But Paul was able to accept and embrace God’s grace and forgiveness, and put all of it behind him.

9. Regardless of our past, God’s grace and forgiveness takes it all away.

10. God forgives and God forgets, and this releases us from the chains of guilt and shame.

11. It allows us to experience real joy and hope.

D. Another thing that helped Paul have a positive, joyful attitude was prayer.

1. Paul wrote: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (4:4-7)

2. Wow! Look what prayer can do!

3. It can cause us to rejoice and be at peace even if we are facing many troubles and concerns.

4. As we pray, we can bring anything before God, anything that is weighing us down, anything we need, anything that we are struggling with.

5. And then as we pray with faith and thanksgiving, we experience joy and peace, because we trust that God will take care of us.

E. The final thing we notice that Paul did that led to his positive, joyful attitude was that he focused on that which was positive and good.

1. Look at verses 8 and 9: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (4:8-9)

2. How important it is to guard our hearts and minds.

3. How important it is to fill our hearts and minds with only that which is good and helpful.

4. Certainly this includes Scripture and the promises of God found there.

5. Satan tries to attack us through our minds by planting negative and sinful thoughts and causing us to dwell on them, and Satan tries to get us to doubt God.

6. That kind of thing will not only ruin our attitude, it will destroy our lives.

7. Let’s be sure to focus on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy and see what effect that has on our attitudes.


A. I want to end with this illustration – you know how much I love the Peanuts.

1. One day Charlie Brown held up his hands before his friend Lucy and said: “These are the hands which may some day accomplish great things. These are the hands which may some day do marvelous works. They may build mighty bridges, or heal the sick, or hit home runs, or write soul-stirring novels. These are the hands which may some day change the world.”

2. Lucy, who always sees things as they are, replied, “Your hands have jelly on them, Charlie Brown.”

3. God can give us the strength to have a positive, joyful, hopeful attitude, and when God gives us that, then don’t let anyone or anything take that away.

4. Remember, in the end, it is your attitude, much more than your aptitude, that will determine your altitude.

5. Attitude makes the difference!

Resource: “Attitude is Everything” Article by Douglas Parsons, May 31, 1989.