by Jeff Ebert, Set Me Free Ministries Team Member
Perception. Such a big word. This word can destroy your world or bless it; it’s your choice.
God gave us the freedom to choose how we think. He loves us so much that He actually gave us our lives and allowed us to believe in Him—or not. He also gave us the freedom to look at things from the bad side—or the good.
Recently, I had a chance to talk to a close friend overseas. After we exchanged a few nice words, we got onto the subject of kindness, humility, and respect. Being from different cultures—and me being prone to ask questions—of course, I am going to pry. In America, 95 percent of the time, TV news channels, headlines, and newspapers let us know the “bad” things that are happening. So I wanted to know if the same was going on overseas. Little did I know, it was.
So as we started to talk negatively about humanity and how people handle situations, we stopped ourselves. Then we realized the irony of talking negatively about negative situations. So instead, we started brainstorming how we could both help change those negative experiences and those negative findings. The one common ground we stood on was perception.
Perception is one of the top three (if not the first) words in my book when it comes to my Christian faith. If I didn't live off faith, I would live off perception, and here’s why:
I recently experienced a situation where I was tested to be patient. I was pulling into a gas station, and a fuel tanker had just arrived and was still in motion. Instead of rushing and weaving around him, because the truth is I really wanted to get gas before he began his work, I waited on a neighboring street. I feel guilty about this now, but some thoughts came into my head. “Hurry up! I have to get to work!” After about a minute of this, I calmed down and breathed, and then Jesus came in and said, “Hey, let’s have a chat.”
Our chat worked so well that at the end of it, instead of “Hurry up, etc., etc.,” my thoughts turned into “Thank you. Thank you for doing your job, and thank you for allowing me to get to work by filling my tank with gas.” As this occurred, the fuel tanker driver noticed me, stopped, and waved me in. Thinking the situation was over, I filled my gas tank up. I went into the station to grab some tea and pay my bill, and then I intended to go on my way.
Jesus said no. Jesus wasn’t done testing my patience. At the counter, an old high school friend stopped me, so we started chatting. The fuel tanker driver came into the store, stood right next to the counter, and put his hand out in front of me. As I realized he wanted to shake my hand, I extended my own hand. The driver started in by interrupting the conversation I was having with my friend.
“I just wanted to thank you,” he said. “I have so much trouble with people who think they need to get their gas this instant and need to be somewhere that I'm not surprised more accidents don't happen around the fuel pump.” The gentleman laid down a five-dollar bill to pay for my tea and random assortment of goodies and left.
Here’s where perception kicks in. Before, when I wasn’t patient, Jesus came in and told me to change my attitude. So I did. Instead of focusing on me and my “problems” of being late or in a hurry, I focused on the fuel tanker and the positives. I even began to pray for his problems and for his family and life instead of focusing on me. I changed my perception toward someone in a split second, and everything changed. I understand how easy it is to lean toward the “me, me, me” attitude. I do it all the time; I’ll admit to that. But where does it get you? To work one minute earlier? To school one minute earlier? Instead of focusing on yourself, take a chance to change your perspective and see it through someone else's eyes.
Perception comes into play in friendships and relationships, even with random strangers on a daily basis. I deal regularly with people who have “different” attitudes—in some people's words, negative attitudes. Being in somewhat of a customer relation industry, I hear foul mouths and complaints all the time. I actually sat with a friend once and during a foul-mouth spew, I looked him in the eyes, and said, “Have you ever dropped an F-bomb, and everything change for the good?” Just think about that for a second. In my own experience, no, no it hasn’t.
So instead of getting negative about something, about a coworker, about a situation, why don’t we turn to God? Why don’t we turn to Him and pray for a better perspective on the situation? I would think that more experiences would turn out in a positive manner if we looked at them from a positive perspective. When you've had a negative attitude in a situation, you continue to think of it as a negative experience—sometimes even years later. So instead of causing drama in life and aches and pains in your future, how easy would it be to take a positive outlook on things and change your perspective?
Here’s what God says about perception:
Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your cares on the Lord, and He will sustain you, He will never let the righteous be shaken.”
We could try to take on situations by ourselves, but where would that get us? He promises us that He will take care of us, so let go of the human nature and trust that God will handle the situation you are in. Positive thinking starts with letting go of old habits.
Psalm 16:8 tells us, “I keep eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”
Look to God in finding your perspective. Instead of explaining an experience yourself or trying to take on that situation, focus on God, and you will not be shaken by that negativity.
Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because he trusts in You.”
Let your mind rest, get rid of the thoughts that harm others and yourself, and be steadfast. These things come when we trust in Him. Pray, and He will give you a different perspective.
My final verse on perception (even though there are countless more) is 2 Timothy 1:7. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.”
The Holy Spirit works in you to do good and think good. Human nature causes us to do bad and think bad. Let the Holy Spirit do His job.