“He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.”—Proverbs 25:28
The picture here is intriguing. A city broken down and without walls is open to attack. It is vulnerable to the enemy. It is easily destroyed. Scripture tells us that if we do not accept responsibility for keeping our own spirit right, we become equally open to attack.
Our spirit can be affected by:
Our foes—dwelling on our criticism robs us of our joy, ruins our day, and causes us to lose focus on who God is and what He wants us to do for Him.
Our friends—most of us can accept the fact that there are those who dislike and oppose us. However, when a friend turns his back on us, it is especially difficult to deal with.
Our families—hardest of all is the attack that comes from within. I know many dear preachers who find little support from a hurt, critical or bitter family. They truly have a difficult burden to bear. How hard it is for them to keep a good spirit.
The facts of life—Scripture tells us, “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). Flat tires, bad weather, financial reversals, a broken furnace: all of these can affect our spirit.
A bad spirit can affect us in at least three ways:
It can affect our perception. Because of the unhappiness within us, we see everything in a negative vein. I am told that a drunk one time passed out on a sidewalk. A prankster decided to rub limburger cheese into his thick mustache. When he aroused from his stupor, a few breaths caused him to wrinkle his nose in disgust and say, “Boy, it stinks here. It smells like limburger cheese. I’m going out to the park where it won’t smell so much. To his surprise, when he got to the park, he still smelled limburger cheese. He decided to go further out into the country, but there he found the scent unchanged. “It’s terrible!” he exclaimed. “The whole world smells like limburger cheese!” His perception was that everything was bad, but the trouble was right under his nose. Likewise, those who allow their spirit to become damaged perceive that there is something wrong with everybody and everything when the trouble is right under their nose.
It can affect our perspective. When we have a bad spirit, we don’t see things in perspective. All our troubles become maximized, and all our blessings become minimized. Most of us have far more blessing in our lives than we do burdens. A good marriage, sweet children, loving church members, material provision—not to mention eternal salvation, an unchangeable Book, and the indwelling presence, comfort and help of the Holy Spirit! Sometimes when we develop a bad spirit, we forget our blessings and do not see things in the proper perspective.
It can affect our potential. People with a bad spirit can accomplish little for God. We become unattractive to others. We lack faith. We find ourselves in a critical mode.
Let me make two suggestions to help you keep your own spirit right.
1. Keep the right focus.
Focus on God, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3). It does not matter what happens in the rest of the world: our God is good. He is loving; He is perfect; He is sinless. He never leaves us or forsakes us. When we find ourselves becoming negative, discouraged, and down it is a reminder that we have not focused enough attention on God.
Focus on the goodness of God. He has saved us. He has sustained us. He has delivered us from innumerable difficulties and provided for multiple needs in the past. He has been better to us than we deserve.
Focus on the good around us. Not everybody is critical. Not everybody is negative. Not everybody is disloyal. Not everybody has left the church. Not everybody is insincere. Not everybody is a hypocrite. Rather than focusing on those who discourage and disappoint you, think about those who have done right and are a blessing.
2. Keep the right friends.
“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”—Proverbs 27:17
“Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.”—Proverbs 27:9
All of us are human. We have the tendency to become down and discouraged if we are not careful. Having friends with good spirits, right attitudes, and good hearts will do much to keep us on the right path and in the right attitude. Spend time with people who lift your spirits, not those who tear you down.