How do we get breakthrough in our circumstances?
There are scores of studies that link poverty to mindset (1) and specifically to scarcity mindset (2) and fatalism (3). But as Christians, how do we change our mindset when we are facing negative circumstances?
The starting line — meditate on good things. “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8 NLT). I use this scripture to teach people in my book, Love Your Enemy: A 30-Day Guide, but we can apply it to praying for our circumstances. Here is the biblical logic:
“And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 NLT). Our beginning place is that God exists. This belief in God’s existence comes by faith. A faith which is a gift of Christ’s Spirit in us, “not of works in case anyone should boast ” (4). But even though it is a gift, it can be developed, like learning an instrument, playing a sport, etc.
Imagine a circumstance in your life right now that needs to be addressed. See that God exists in that circumstance. He is not absent from it. That is your faith. God is in you because you are his spiritual temple, but he is in your circumstance too.
Now let’s look at the second part of Hebrews 11:6. God rewards those that seek him. So in this place of seeing God in our circumstance, seek him. How do we seek him there? We begin to apply the good things of Philippians 4:8. Does your circumstance appear to be full of lies? See Jesus standing in the middle of it, full of blazing truth. Worship him there. Meditate on him there. Is your difficulty injustice? See Jesus standing as the one who takes right action and deeply cares about the injustice. Trust in him above and beyond the circumstance you are up against.
Do you see how you can go through Philippians 4:8 and apply a different mindset than what your circumstance wants you to bend into?
Now here is the amazing thing. As we begin to hope in God, something happens: the reward of seeking him. Listen to Paul’s prayer, “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13 NLT). Our expectation on God in our circumstance begins to fill us with joy and peace (5).
But we are not bottles with lids. Our spiritual containers are cups and fountains. When our meditation and gaze is on Jesus standing the middle of our circumstance, it fills us with hope and eventually overflows joy and peace back into our circumstance. And joy and peace are atmosphere changers. Those are emotions that rule the air around us. They tangle with the dark clouds and open the sky of heaven’s culture around you.
This is a strong path of breakthrough for anyone with a tiny seed of God’s faith in them (6). Practice seeing Jesus in all your circumstances and see the change.
For example, Paul C. Gorski’s (2018) Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty: Strategies for Erasing the Poverty Gap.
For example, Angelique S. Shantz & Geoffrey Kistruck (2018) The Scarcity Mindset: An Experimental Study of the Effects of Scarcity on Entrepreneurship.
Masum A. Patwary, William T. O’Hare, K. Maudood Elahi, M. Manzurul Hassan, Mosharraf H. Sarker (2010) Domes and the Dead: An example of extreme fatalism among mortuary workers in Bangladesh
See Ephesians 2:6
The text preceding Philippians 4:8 is great too: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Php 4:6–7 NLT).
See Matthew 17:20