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Your Attitude Determines Your Altitude!

November 26, 1995 | First Presbyterian Church Orlando | Romans 12:1-2

Ann Turnage is a most remarkable woman. Her husband, Mac Turnage, is an associate pastor at the Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Houston, Texas. Her daughter, Lynn Turnage, is a friend of the Edington family. Ann Turnage is a remarkable woman because of her strong faith, her inner strength, her determination, and her great Christian attitude which has enabled her to fight a winning battle against cancer. Ann Turnage is a cancer survivor who is now dedicating her life to the difficult, but necessary task of helping other people fight this dreadful and frightening disease. She has developed a cancer ministry called “Can-Care.” The mission of “Can-Care” is to improve the quality of life for cancer patients and their families, and they do an incredible job of providing that kind of care.

Not long ago, Ann Tournage spoke at a National Cancer Survivor’s Day luncheon. She delivered herself of a line which has found a home in my heart. Speaking of the importance of having a good attitude toward life, she said: “Attitude is your paint brush. It colors every situation.” Isn’t that a great quote? Attitude is your paint brush. It colors every situation. When I first encountered those words by Ann Turnage, I was reminded of some other words—these by Dr. Victor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist, who was imprisoned by the Nazis. Later on Frankl wrote:

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the ones who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from us but one thing—the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s own attitude in a given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

You know what Dr. Frankl was saying, don’t you? He was saying what Ann Turnage said: “Attitude is your paint brush. It colors every situation.” And you know what Ann Turnage was saying, don’t you? She was saying what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 12: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

The Apostle Paul was right. Victor Frankl was right. Ann Turnage was right. Attitude is so important. Attitude determines who we are and how we live day to day. I like to put it this way: Your attitude in life determines your altitude in life. How high you soar in the business of living is going to be determined by the attitude you bring to the flight. Let me pinpoint three attitudes which can transform your life into a soaring, high-flying victorious experience in Christ.

There is the attitude of helpfulness.

Paul says: “Do not be conformed to this world.” In other words, do not let the world cram you into its mold. For far too long the world has taught that the way to get ahead in this world is to look after number 1; to step on whomever or whatever you have to step on in order to climb higher on the ladder of success. Thankfully, even in the business world, we are beginning to see that that approach just does not work. In fact, the current rage among management consultants in the secular world is the concept called “servant leadership.” Of course it’s not new—it’s as old as Jesus, but it teaches that the most effective leader or manager is one who leads, not by saying but by doing, not by being served, but by serving, not by standing above the fray, but by helping out in the trenches. Servant leaders are the most effective leaders.

Marian Preminger was born into enormous wealth in Hungary in 1913. Her family’s castle had eighteen bedrooms, its own chapel, an elegant ballroom, a dining room with a table which could seat 82 people. She was reared in the midst of almost unbelievable luxury. Marian attended school in Vienna. When she was eighteen, she met and married a wealthy young man. The marriage lasted little more than a year. She stayed on in Vienna and pursued life as an actress. She met a young German movie director named Otto Preminger. They fell in love and were married. Ultimately they moved to Hollywood. There Marian fell into the rather sordid style of life which was typical of Hollywood in those days. When Otto Preminger discovered that, he divorced her. Her life was in shambles. She returned to Europe to Paris to live. One day in 1948, she opened the newspaper and read that Albert Schweitzer, whom she had admired from her school days in Vienna was in France on one of his periodic trips to raise funds for his missionary work in Africa. He was staying in a little French village called Gunsbach. On a whim, she called to see if she could make an appointment to see him, and she was granted a visit the very next day. She went out to Gunsbach and was told that she could find Schweitzer in the village church. When she entered the church, Schweitzer was playing the organ. She sat and listened for a while until he noticed her. She introduced herself. He asked, “Can you read music?” She replied, “Yes.” He invited her then to turn the pages for him. Later on, he invited her to stay for dinner. There she joined his extended family—those people who always came to be with the great man. He presided over the meal with grace, and then he concluded by reading scripture and praying a magnificent prayer.

At the end of that meal, Marian Preminger knew that she had found what she had been looking for all of her life. She stopped trying to conform to the world; instead she was transformed by the renewing of her mind. She went back to Africa with Albert Schweitzer and worked in his hospital, serving and helping the poor. This woman, waited on hand and foot by servants all of her life—chose now to be a servant herself. She spent the rest of her days changing bandages, bathing sick bodies, feeding lepers who had no hands with which to feed themselves, but she was happy and blessed and fulfilled. When she died, her obituary in The New York Times carried this quote from her: “Albert Schweitzer once said there are two classes of people in the world—the helpers and the non-helpers. Because of him, I chose to be a helper.”

On a higher level, we can all say that about Jesus Christ. Because of Him, I choose to be a helper in life. That’s where Albert Schweitzer got it in the first place—from Jesus. Jesus said, “If you will give yourself in service to others, in love for others, in helpfulness to others, then you will find real life.” The Christian faith calls us to choose the attitude of helpfulness in life.

Next, there is the attitude of kindness.

It’s amazing what that attitude of kindness can do. I like what one writer had to say: “Kindness is a language that the blind can see, and the deaf can hear.”

A teenage girl came to see me, looking for a little advice. She was seventeen years old. She and her mom were not getting along. “Mom’s driving me crazy,” she said. As soon as I walk in every day she starts in on me. It’s been this way ever since she and my dad divorced. I know she’s under a lot of pressure, but she’s always fussing and griping at me. She doesn’t like my clothes, she doesn’t like my hair, she doesn’t like my music. She doesn’t seem to like anything about me. I said to her: “When your mom starts in on you, what do you do?” She replied: “I scream back at her. I go to my room, slam the door, and lock it. She bangs on the door and shouts at me through the door and I shout right back. I don’t know what to do about it. I’ve tried everything.” I asked, “Have you tried kindness?” “Kindness,” she said, “what do you mean?” “When you get home tonight, where will your mother be?” She answered, “Well, since I have cheerleading practice in a little while, I probably won’t get home until 6:30, she’ll probably be in the kitchen working on dinner.” “OK,” I said. “Try this. When you get home, before your mother has a chance to say anything, walk over to her in the kitchen, wrap your arms around her neck and say, ‘Mom, I know I drive you up the wall sometimes, but I don’t mean to. I love you, and I want you to know that.’” The teenage girl responded: “She will think I’m crazy.” And I said, “Try it anyway.” The next day that seventeen-year-old girl called me up and said: “Dr. Edington, you won’t believe what happened. I did what you told me to do, and you know what? Mom started crying. She hugged me so tightly, I almost couldn’t breathe. She forgot about work, she forgot about her problems. She even forgot about dinner. We sat down at the kitchen table and we talked non-stop for three hours. It was wonderful. I loved it. I know we have some work to do, and I have some work to do, but now, I think we are closer than ever.” Isn’t it amazing what the attitude of kindness can do? The Bible says so simply but so profoundly: “Be kind to one another.” That attitude of kindness will enable you to soar high and far in life.

And then there is the attitude of confidence.

My friends, we don’t have to run scared through life. We don’t have to be anxiety-ridden. We can be confident. Why? Because we trust God. Someone once asked the great preacher, Dr. Phillips Brooks, how he could be so serene and poised all the time. I love Phillips Brooks’ answer. He said: “Because I am a Christian.” He was right, wasn’t he? As Christians we can be confident because we trust God, and we know that nothing can separate us from Him and from His love.

One day in the spring of 1929, Charles Paddock went to East Tech High School in Cleveland, Ohio, to speak to the students there. Charles Paddock was a great Olympic athlete, and had just represented our country at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam. After he finished speaking, a young black kid with spindly little legs went up onto the stage to speak to Charles Paddock. “Mr. Paddock,” he said, “I’d give anything to be in the Olympics someday too.” Charles Paddock looked at the boy and said, “Son, let me tell you something. If you’ll trust God and give Him your very best, you might be amazed at what He will do with your life.” Those words cut deep into the heart of that little boy, and do you know what happened? Seven years later, that little boy, now grown into a young man, won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. His name, of course, was Jesse Owens.

But that’s not the end of the story. After his incredible performance in the Olympic Games, Jesse Owens was given a victory parade through the streets of Cleveland. Thousands jammed the streets of that city to cheer for the great American hero. One of them was a frail, skinny, little boy—barely noticeable in the crowd, but somehow Jesse Owens spotted him in that huge throng. He asked his driver to stop the car. He got out, walked over to the youngster, and he asked, “What’s your name?” The skinny little fellow said, “People around here just call me Bones. But someday, Mr. Owens, I’d like to be just like you.” Jesse Owens then said: “Well, Bones, let me tell you what someone told me when I was about your age. If you will trust God and give Him your very best, you might be amazed at what He will do in your life.” Those words burrowed down deep in that little boy’s mind and heart. He trusted God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, and he gave to God the very best that he had to offer, and there came a day, in the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland, when that skinny little fellow, now grown, won two gold medals in the hurdles and tied Jesse Owens’ record in the 100-meter dash. His name—Harrison “Bones” Dillard. There is no telling what God has in store for you. It might be something that becomes world renowned, or it might be something that nobody but you knows anything about, but I’ll tell you this … if you love Him with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul and all your strength; if you trust God with your life, then you may well be overwhelmed at all that He gives you and all that He makes possible in your life. That’s the secret of moving through life with an attitude of confidence.

Well, there you have it. Three great Christian attitudes: helpfulness, kindness, confidence. The Apostle Paul said: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may discern what is the will of God; what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Victor Frankl said: “No one can take away from us the freedom to choose our own attitude in any given set of circumstances.”

Ann Turnage said: “Your attitude is your paintbrush in life. It will color every situation you encounter along your life’s way.”

I say: “Your attitude in life determines your altitude in life.”

Give your life to Jesus Christ and there will be no limit to how high and how far you fly in life …

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