For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power. [1 Corinthians 4:20 (NLT)]
Thirty years ago, Al Franken played a character on Saturday Night Live named Stuart Smalley. Host of a fictitious self-help show called “Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley,” Stuart would look into in a mirror and affirm that he was good enough, smart enough, and that people liked him. A member of several twelve-step programs, Stuart often shared maxims like, “Denial Ain’t Just a River in Egypt!” along with affirmations that he was entitled to his share of happiness and (my personal favorite) that it is easier to put on slippers than to carpet the world.
Even though we laughed at Stuart’s corny affirmations, what we say to ourselves is important. The word affirmation comes from the Latin word affirmare, which means to make steady or strengthen. Affirmations really do strengthen us because they can break the cycle of negative thoughts that lead to negative speech and actions. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”
Last May, Jonathon Borge, Senior Editor of Oprah Daily, compiled 40 daily affirmations. It’s no surprise that most quotes came from life-coaches, motivational speakers, self-help authors, and Oprah. One notable exception was boxing champion Muhammad Ali’s: “I am the greatest!” First said in 1964, Ali may or may not have been the greatest boxer but, as Christians, we know that God is greater. Ali’s was a prideful affirmation bordering on blasphemy! Life-coach Tim Storey’s affirmation was, “Your life is about to be incredible.” That’s probably true as far as it goes since Storey never specified incredibly what. Incredibly difficult, confusing, boring, exciting, happy, painful, easy, or sad? We must never forget that, along with an abundant life, Jesus promised troubles so it will be all of those things at one time or another.
Self-help author Louise Hay’s affirmation was, “I am in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing.” While that’s a great way to justify our situation and actions, it’s not true. While they may have been in the right place at the right time, Adam and Eve didn’t do the right thing when they disobeyed God, nor did Jacob when he impersonated Esau, Rachel when she stole her father’s idols, Aaron when he fashioned the golden calf, David when he bedded Bathsheba, Solomon when he amassed his enormous harem, Peter when he denied knowing Jesus, the Pharisees when they falsely accused Jesus, or John Mark when he abandoned Paul. Sadly, being in the right place at the right time doesn’t mean we’re doing the right thing!
As Christians, what sort of things should we affirm? Rather than turning to Stuart Smalley, self-help authors, or talk show hosts, perhaps we should look to God’s Word to guide us. God’s promise found in Isaiah 41:10 tell us that we can face life with confidence: “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” We can affirm an attitude of thanksgiving with the words of 1 Chronicles 16:34: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.” With the words of Ephesians 4:32, we can affirm how we’ll treat others: “Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” The words of 1 Peter 4:8 affirm our love for our neighbors: “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” Because of Galatians 5:22-23, we can choose to be filled with His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The words of Psalm 118 affirm that we can know that God is good, His faithful love endures forever, He is our strength and song, and that His love endures forever. Perhaps my favorite affirmation of all is found in verse 24: “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” It’s one with which I start my day.
We don’t have to look in a mirror to convince ourselves of our value or that we are loved. We know because the Bible tells us so!