Self-Fulfilling Prophecies (What We Think, We Become)
A cute little song sang by F. Sinatra, “High Hopes” (Cahn and Van Dusen) was released in the 1959 movie A Hole in the Head. It has a serious point:
1. Next time you’re found with your chin on the ground / There’s a lot to be learned, so look around…
Just what makes that little old ant / Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant? / Anyone knows an ant… can't / Move a rubber tree plant. / But he's got high hopes, he's got high hopes, / He’s got high apple pie, in the sky hopes, / So any time you’re gettin’ low / ‘Stead of lettin’ go / Just remember that ant; / Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant.
2. When troubles call, and your backs to the wall, / There a lot to be learned, that wall could fall.
Once there was a silly old ram / Thought he'd punch a hole in a dam; / No one could make that ram… scram; / He kept a’buttin’ that dam… / ‘Cause he had high hopes, he had high hopes, / He had high apple pie, in the sky hopes, / So any time you’re feelin’ bad / ‘Stead of feelin’ sad, Just remember that ram; Oops, / there goes a billion kilowatt dam!
3. (Tag ending) …problems are just bound to go pop… / Oops, there goes another problem… kerplop!
What do you think about yourself and life events? Strong or weak? Capable or unable? Can or can’t? “Winner” or a “loser”? We know well that even “winners” don’t always win and “losers” don’t always lose. Here’s truth: what we think about ourselves about being able to face challenges life puts in front of us (big or small, significant and “un”) will go a long way toward determining whether or not we overcome them or they defeat us. Our determination goes a looooong way!
What do you think about others? Because we live in relationships, what we think of others can either launch them, sometimes to the stars, or send them crashing down (perhaps never to get up again). It’s been proven time and again that it’s a far greater handicap to grow up with no one believing in you than it is to grow up in extreme poverty. Sociologists know that some great problems in our society today arise due to so many young people growing up without both parents… and the one remaining parent being unable to overcome the negative message a child gets from the one leaving – they weren’t worth staying around for.
Since the collective church is a body of “others,” I’ll ask, “What do you think of this church… the people in it?” Is it an association of losers (in one sense we all are) or of overcomers (empowered by the One in whom we put our faith and the indwelling of the Spirit)? What you think of your church family will be a deter-mining factor in the level of your involvement (and the level of your growth) and in helping the church to achieve great things for the kingdom of God, or just maintain status quo, or decline, and perhaps die.
What do you think about God? Do you really believe and trust Him? If so, how do you see Him? A loving Father? A distant, aloof, way-too-busy-to-have-time-for-you God? Have you made an effort to know Him personally through Bible reading or spending time with people who have found the way to know Him? Is God one of those things you plan to catch up on someday?
I want to ask all three questions again and expand my answers with Bible truth.
What do you believe about yourself?
If you visited a muddy construction site and wanted to inspect the work more closely, and the only way to get from car to building was a board laid on the mud, say a 1 x 8 (or 1 x 10), wouldn’t you be able to fairly easily walk across the boards? But what if we stretched the same board across the Grand Canyon? Could you walk across it then?
Here’s the thing… you probably could if you thought you could. Paul was a confident man when he said, “This one thing I do: I press on for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14) and, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Ge was a doubly-confident disciple – in himself and in Jesus Christ, who is “able, more than able.”
The point is simple… Most of life, good or bad, is an inside job… meaning it arises straight out of our attitudes about God and ourselves. We often hear statements like “What the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.” Or “What we think, we become.” And science can prove it:
A Stanford University psychologist has found that (1) some people have “fixed mindsets” – they believe their capabilities are set and cannot change, and (2) some people have “growth mindsets” – they believe they can work and thus improve themselves. They tracked the school performance s of 373 students from beginning seventh grade to finishing eighth grade. Those with a “growth mindset” used I-think-I-can” to achieve a higher G.P.A.; those with a “fixed mindset” stayed where they were.
Englishman Roger Bannister broke the four-minute barrier of the mile with a time of 3 min., 59.4 sec. on May 6, 1954, also overcoming the general belief that doing so was impossible... He gave credit to his never-wavering belief that he could do it (and a dear friend/coach who always believed he could).
In The Happiness Advantage author Shawn Achor writes, “Simply believing change is possible really makes change possible.” So, in what areas of our lives, person-ally or church, can we move from the “fixed mindset” to the “growth mindset”?
What we think is what we will get. If it sounds simple, it is! Some would say, “But negative situations are a reality; they happen every day.” Yes, but our attitude is what makes situations positive or negative. Let’s realize that we’re in control of how we think and feel, and no person or thing on earth can take that control away unless we give it up. If we take control of our attitude we take control of our results. What should guide how we think? God’s Word, “…a lamp that guides my steps, a light that shows the path I should take” (Psalms 119:105).
What do you believe about others?
In the same way that our belief about ourselves either launches or limits us, our belief about others either launches or limits them. Parents… are you hearing this? Without the craziness that parents get into of thinking their child can do no wrong (another sermon), are you instilling a realistic confidence in yours?
Leontyne Price was born February 10, 1927 in Laurel, Mississippi. She rose to international acclaim in the 1950s-60s as the first African American to become a leading performer at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and one of the most popular American classical singers of her generation. Her beginning was humble: her father worked in a lumber mill, her mother was a midwife. But they believed in her. She had an aunt who worked as a laundress for the Chisolms, a wealthy white family. Mrs. Chisolm heard Leontyne sing when she visited her aunt there. Seeing she had rare talent, the Chisolms promoted her all through her high school years and financially supported her as she studied voice and music at Wilberforce College in Ohio, from which she launched professionally.
Think of Jesus’ confidence in the 12 men we know as “apostles”:
1. He changed Peter’s name to “Rock” (John 1:42). And he became one!
2. Jesus’ described Nathanael as “an Israelite in whom there is no guile” (John 1:46). We don’t see it fleshed out in the gospel texts… but think how hard he must have tried to live up to what Jesus said.
3. John went from “son of thunder” to “the disciple Jesus loved”? Why? Because Jesus told him he was loved… and how it launched him on his long, powerful ministry for Jesus!
4. Think of Jesus’ confidence in all 12… they quarreled over who among them was the greatest, and He simply pointed out that their concern was a pagan thing… “Not so among you…” He simply said (Matthew 20:26). And the quarrelling is mentioned no more!
One of my preaching heroes, Harold Hazelip, speaking of this, wrote:
“…like soil lovingly tilled still brings forth thorns and thistles… the disciples were sometimes brilliant, sometimes terribly dull, at times delightful, at times exceedingly wearisome. But Jesus said to them, “You shall be my witnesses…” and they were! They became His servants who “turned the world upside down” and preached the gospel to their entire world in their own generation (Colossians 1:23).
There’s no way to overstate how important it is for us to believe in each other, both in terms of our personal journeys to maturity and to the body’s maturity to greater service as we accomplish more of the works God puts before us to do.
We should believe the very best about each other and always give the “benefit of the doubt” because we’re brothers and sisters in this great God-family and “love… always believes…” (1 Corinthians 13:7). And we should always encourage one another. The writer of Hebrews put it this way,
“We should think about each other to see how we can encourage each other to show love and do good works. We must not quit meeting together, as some are doing. No, we need to keep on encouraging each other. This be-comes more and more important as you see the Day getting closer” (10:24-25).
Paul said: “Love each other in a way that makes you feel close like brothers and sisters. And give each other more honor than you give yourself” (Romans 12:10). He was always practicing what he preached:
1.“…we are persuaded better things of you… we want you to show… diligence to the very end…” (Hebrews 6:9-10)
2. “Confident of your obedience I write to you… knowing you will do even more than I ask…” (Philemon, v 21)
3. “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
What does God think of us? (the most important question of the three)
The biggest reason we should all achieve to the full extent of our talents and gifts (and beyond due to God’s power and Spirit) is because of what God thinks of us.
1. And He said of Abraham: “I have made a special agreement with him. I did this so that he would command his children and his descendants to live the way the Lord wants them to. I did this so that they would live right and be fair” (Genesis 18:19). And he did, and they did!
2. And He said to pagan Persian King Cyrus, “I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by name. I do this for my servant, Jacob. I do it for my chosen people, Israel. Cyrus, I am calling you by name. You don’t know me, but I know you” (Isaiah 45:3-5 ERV). And he did!
He said of us all:
1. Of mankind He said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” (Genesis 1:3)
2. “I have loved you with an everlasting love…” (Jeremiah 31:3)
3. “I know the plans I have for you… to prosper you, not to harm you, to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 10:29)
4. “…for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” (John 3:16)
5. “…we can see that it was while we were powerless to help ourselves that Christ died for sinful men… Yet the proof of God’s amazing love is this: …while we were sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6, 9)
6. “God, in his foreknowledge, chose them (those who love God) to bear the family likeness of his Son… Can anything separate us from the love of Christ? No, in all these things we win an overwhelming victory through him who has proved his love for us” (Romans 8:29ff.)
7. “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for, unless we throw in our hand, the ultimate harvest is assured” (Galatians 6:9).
We have rightly adopted Paul’s words to find strength as we face the winds and waves of life. We need to believe him: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
To end, another quote from my friend Harold Hazelip:
The only reason God hasn’t rolled down the curtain, turned out the lights, and called all the players to judgment? He believes still there are disciples His people can make and lives His people can change.