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Who would you rather hang out with?  (Pick up to three)

[ ] Pessimistic people             [ ]  Optimistic overcomers
[ ] Fearful friends                   [ ]  Confident colleagues
[ ] Caustic co-workers           [ ]  Encouragers

I avoid the three on the left every chance I get.
I’m sorry if you’re one of these, but you’re just not good for me.

Pessimists see everything that can go wrong before we even get started, and figure several of those things are sure to happen.  Pessimists can suck the life out of life before you leave the house, before your project even gets off the ground. Murphy was one.

Fearful people are afraid to venture out for fear of what might happen, known or not. “What if we have a flat on the way?  Why does she hate me; do you think she hates me?  If that happens it’s going to ruin our country.  I’m afraid this isn’t going to work.  Oh, this is too hard; let’s stop now.  The boss is just going to say no, why ask?  It’s going to implode – let’s just quit now.”

Caustic people have only critical, angry, divisive observations as they go through life. If they smile it’s only for a second or two. It’s a bit disadvantageous in a way, because I can look for warning labels for acidic things in my garage that will burn on contact, but unfortunately, there’s no label for caustic people (not that they’d wear a warning label if there was one).   Which means I’m sometimes in a conversation with Caustic Craig before I’m aware of what he’s really like.

Life is challenging. The Lord provides energy, optimism, good ideas, and motivation (both temporal and eternal) to go a good job.  But a pessimist –or worse yet a whole committee of them– pulls my attention from my Savior to focus on potential failure. Confronting pessimists seldom works. Motivating them is all uphill. Pessimists, it seems, LIKE looking at the underside of life.  I’ve adopted a little axiom I learned from Dave Rodquist when we served together at First Evangelical Free Church in Tucson.  When dealing with pessimists and “can’t-dos” he’d gently smile and say with soft-spoken confidence, “If you’d rather walk, that’s fine, but the bus is leaving at a quarter to.”

Have you ever seen a fearful basketball team win their state championship?  Me either.  Ever see a fearful business owner thrive?  Nope, me either.  Fear is only a good short-term motivator.  It’ll prompt swift evasive maneuvering and a quick slam on the brakes to avoid an accident, but to ride with a fearful driver?  No thank you.  Fear of overwhelming indebtedness can call you to action but it’s long-term strategy that motivates you all the way to financial freedom.  So when people dwell on the fear-inducing things they see on the news I soon look for something else to do. “What, do you think God’s away on vacation or something?” God never goes off duty. Nothing has ever surprised Him. He’s never been out of control.  So why talk as though he’s inept?  No, I’ve got a few things to finish before He returns for me. I like what Paul wrote to his son in the faith, Timothy:  God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Tim. 1:7).  You can talk ‘fraidy-cat if you want; I need to get back to work.

My least-favorite of all, though, are caustic, divisive people.  Maybe it’s because as a young-adult this was me.  Everything I said had a bit of an edge to it.  I was proficient at fault-finding, criticizing, and judging. For some twisted reason I enjoyed pitting one Christian against another, pointing out where people were wrong, or at least disagreed with me.  I spiritualized my criticism, calling it warning people or pointing out areas to improve, when in fact I just enjoyed stirring things up.  In a conversation with Wes Phillips (pastoring Calvary Bible Church, Neenah, WI at the time) I felt the Lord’s pointer-finger on my sternum and heard Him whisper “knock it off, Phil”. (Prov. 6.16-19).  Over time I’ve learned how to think critically, without being critical.  But caustic people set me on edge quicker than any other.  I don’t hang around with them; they’re just not good for my outlook on life or ministry.

So what kind of people DO I hang around with?  Whenever I can, I spend time with  optimistic, faith-driven, winsome, encouraging folks; people who exemplify what Paul wrote to Timothy  (2 Tim. 1.7).

They live life in the power and strength God provides.
They love God and the people around them.
They’re people who exercise self-discipline as part of their quest for excellence.

It’s a much more encouraging crowd, believe me. And the best part is, like singing and playing with people who are better musicians than I am, I find the quality of my life rising to the level of the people I’m hanging around with on my way to one day hearing the Lord’s “Well-done.”

Something to ponder …

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