How can I not be influenced negatively by circumstances?
I do not know the negative circumstances you are referring to, but when I read the question I remembered the words of the apostle Paul who once said:
The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:24-27,30-31)(NASB)
God, who is Almighty, has appointed for each of us certain circumstances and times. He decided who my parents would be, what would be my nationality, what are the boundaries in which to live and the time in which I must be born. God has decided all these things so that I can seek Him and find Him, even though He is not far from us. Regardless of your context, you need to know that in the circumstances in which you are, God calls you to repentance, He “is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent”.
I suppose the question was addressed to me by a person who has already reconciled himself to God and is now under the pressure of negative influences, and that person wants to know how to proceed.
Below I will write 7 tips that help me personally not to be influenced by the negative circumstances of life and I hope they’ll help you also.
1. Realize that you live in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation …
Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. (Philippians 2:14-16)(NASB)
If you want to learn how not to let yourself be overcome by circumstances, first be quick to realize that you live in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. This verse is not only about Philippi’s society, it is also a reality for us today. Humanity lies in the power of the evil one, and all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The world is crooked and perverse, and so we were, but God, in the midst of these wicked circumstances, called us to Him, and what a great release was the day when we answered His calling. My dear, if you read these lines and understand that you, in fact, still live a wicked and perverse life, even if you call yourself a Christian, hurry first to reconcile with God. Only then will you be able to learn how not to be influenced by evil.
People often fall prey to negative circumstances, because they do not realize the danger that surrounds them. So, the first step, we must realize that we are in a permanent danger, and the nation and society that surrounds us can influence us badly. Therefore…
2. Understand that God wants you to represent Him in these circumstances
Before His arrest, the Lord Jesus prayed for us, His disciples. In His prayer, He prayed to the Father as it follows:
I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. (John 17:15-17(NASB)
If you became a child of God, you must understand that even if you live in this world, you no longer belong to it. You have been redeemed with a price, and now you are called to represent the one who died and was raised for you. The Lord Jesus prayed that we would remain in this world, even if we no longer belong to it. Why? That we may be lights in the midst of this wicked and broken nation. Our attitude must bring light into the darkness of this world, that is why you are still living on this earth. How can you be a light? The Lord Jesus said, “Sanctify them by your truth, Your Word is the truth.” This is what the Lord wants from us. Every day we should come to His Word and sanctify ourselves, set ourselves aside for Him. Let us separate ourselves from the dirtiness of this world and live a holy life for God. We are called to represent Him, we are His ambassadors in the midst of this world. The wicked one will cling to us, but we, by sanctifying ourselves through His Word, can be conquerors. By letting us live in the midst of this world, God does not want us to be fused with it, but rather to show the world what a holy life is, lived in the light of His Word.
If you are a Christian and negative circumstances (whatever their nature) have overwhelmed you, understand that in this condition you no longer represent your Lord. You have lost your purpose for which God lets you live here on earth.
3. Run away from negative influences
The Apostle Paul gave Timothy the following command:
Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22)(NSAB)
If the context in which you find yourself is feeding the lusts of youth, God tells you to flee. If not, you will be negatively influenced and you will fall prey to your lusts. Joseph is a good example for us to understand this. Being a 17-year-old, he lived in Potiphar’s house. Joseph was handsome in the face, and his master’s wife tempted him every day, asking him to lie with her. Joseph was not caught in her trap, but he said, “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” This wicked woman did not calm down, but put an evil plan in motion to make Joseph lie with her. So one day when Joseph came into the house, she caught him and said, “Sleep with me.” What did the human nature of Joseph say in these moments? I’m sure his cravings were telling him to accept. Nobody would know, and after all, he is away from home, away from his father and why would he remain faithful to a God who “abandoned” him in captivity? However, in those moments Joseph doesn’t stay any longer to explain to this woman why it is not good to sleep with her, but has fled. There are circumstances in life when it is inappropriate to talk to your lusts. There is a great danger of falling prey to them, therefore, as Joseph did, and as Paul told to Timothy, we must run away from the lusts of youth. If you know that the place where you are, is always a great temptation for you, avoid that place, flee from temptation and you will be happy.
4. Negative experiences should not define your behavior
There are very many Christians who had many negative experiences in life. We all, more or less, have gone through unpleasant circumstances. However, whatever should happen in our lives, it does not have to define our behavior. However bitter may be an experience in life, it should not be allowed to take roots in your life. Joseph had every chance of becoming the embittered man on the face of the earth, but what an example of a righteous man he is! When he could have complained that he was in captivity and then in bondage in prison, because he wanted to live a holy life, anyone else in his place would have cried for mercy every day. Yet Joseph, being in prison, focuses not on himself but on others. He looks at the faces of Pharaoh’s officers and asks, “Why do you have such a faint face today?” What a beautiful example! A man who learned to live above all the unpleasant experiences of life. Negative experiences have not influenced him for the worse, but have formed a beautiful character in him. Because he has been molded by God in all circumstances, Joseph has become a gemstone, a vessel of honor in the hand of God!
5. Look for models of holy people from which you can learn
The society from the city of Corinth was very immoral and decayed. Paul, however, tells the Corinthians not to follow the models of society, but his example:
Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)(NASB)
Josiah, a young man who was born in an immoral, idolatrous family, where God’s values were forgotten long ago, had all the prerequisites to follow the example of his grandfather or his father. However, Josiah chose another model for his life, David. This shows us that the cultural and social context in which we were born can not be an excuse for us to live like others. It is possible to be born and grow up in an idolatrous and immoral society and still not let yourself be influenced by them.
My dear, who is your model? Who do you learn from? Who are you looking at? In whose footprints do you walk? Maybe you will say, “There are no patterns around me that I can follow.” I want to tell you that the Bible is filled with models of holy people who have chosen to live holy and pure before God. Study the characters of Scripture and choose from there an example you want to follow.
The mission “Precept Ministries” has a wide range of character studies. E.g:
- Judges (even from some negative examples, you can learn from the mistakes of others)
And many other courses from which you can take examples for your life.
6. Any circumstances should be used for the progress of the Gospel
Paul was in prison in Rome. Many wanted death for him, and he was bound, because he wanted to make Christ known. What an unpleasant experience to be in chains for doing a good thing. It would have seemed to be a negative experience, but not for Paul. The Apostle looked at these circumstances and said:
,,Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel,’’ (Philippians 1:12)(NASB)
Someone else in his place would fall into depression and be disappointed in the goodness of God. Still, Paul knew how to look at every situation in his life as a possibility to further spread the gospel.
I want to ask you: how do you look at the difficult circumstances of your life? As a possibility to further spread the gospel or as a reason to complain? If you let the hardships, the persecutions and the sufferings affect you, then you will forget the gospel and you will forsake your call from God.
7. Do not forget that God can change evil in good
This principle helped Joseph overcome the negative situations in his life. When Jacob, his father, died, Joseph’s brothers believed he was still under the influence of past experiences, so they sent messengers to him to ask for forgiveness, then they themselves came and fell down before him. But Joseph said to them:
“Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (Genesis 50:19-20)(NASB)
If you learn to see God in all the circumstances of life, you will come to understand that He can change any evil in good. This is how He did in Joseph’s life, so he did in Paul’s life and so promises to do in the life of any child of His:
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.’’(Romans 8:28)(NASB)
Do not doubt this, because “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever” and in “Him is neither change nor shadow of moving.”
God help us in the difficult situations of life to be more than conquerors through Him who overcame all things!
Translated by Ina Croitoru