Introduction: What is a “winning attitude?”  The attitude that you will always win? A “winsome” attitude that attracts others to you? An attitude that everything will work out? A criticism of some preachers today is that they promote a “self-improvement gospel.” The goal is to make you a richer, more self-confident, and better adjusted person. You will be a winner! Is that part of the gospel? Let’s plunge into our study of the Bible and see how it defines a “winning attitude!”

  1.         Winning Thessalonians

  1.         Read 2 Thessalonians 1:1-3. Let’s concentrate on verse 3.  What is growing among the members of the church in Thessalonica? (Their faith and their love for each other.)

  1.         Read 2 Thessalonians 1:4. Why is this so remarkable? (The church members are being persecuted. They are being afflicted.)

  1.         Do you have a theory as to why Christians who are persecuted and afflicted would love fellow church members more? Why would their faith increase?

  1.         Read 2 Thessalonians 1:5. Is Paul saying that their faith and love result in suffering? That God “rewards” the righteous with suffering?

  1.         Read 2 Thessalonians 1:6. Wait a minute! Is this connected to the “righteous judgment” of verse 5? (Yes! I think Paul is saying that when we suffer, we have “evidence” that God will “repay with affliction those who afflict you.”)

  1.         How is current suffering evidence that God will make things right? (If we believe in a loving and just God, we know our current suffering is something that He will fix.)

  1.         Read 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8. What is the timing of our relief? (It may not be until the Second Coming of Jesus.)

  1.         Our initial question was about a “winning attitude.” If you have the attitude that whatever is going wrong right now, God will give us relief and “pay back” the one harming us, is that a winning attitude? (It is a positive attitude that the day will come when God’s people will “win.”)

  1.         What is part of an attitude like that? Vengeance? Getting even? Retribution? (Yes, see verse 6. But, more importantly, God loves us and He will do justice. We can trust Him to do the right thing.)

  1.         What does that say about us and personal payback? (We should leave it to God.)

  1.         How does a winning attitude deal with the time factor?

  1.         Winning in Canaan

  1.         Read Matthew 15:21-22. How would you feel if your child was “severely oppressed by a demon?”

  1.         How would you describe the attitude of this woman? (It says she was “crying.”)

  1.         Why does the Bible tell us that she is a Canaanite? (She is not Jewish. She is a Gentile.)

  1.         Notice that she calls Jesus “Lord,” and “Son of David.” What does that mean? (It must mean that she shares the view that Jesus is the Messiah, even though she is not Jewish.)

  1.         Read Matthew 15:23. Which is more offensive: to answer a person harshly or just ignore them? (Being ignored, when you are crying out for help, is awful.)

  1.         Do you think she could hear the disciples begging to send her away?

  1.         Would you stay if you were this mother?

  1.         Read Matthew 15:24-26. Is Jesus calling her a “dog?”

  1.         Read Matthew 15:27. Is this how you would respond? Would you admit that you were a dog and claim the rights of a dog?

  1.         Read Matthew 15:28. How do you explain Jesus’ previously harsh attitude and words?

  1.         Recently, I’ve discovered a new perspective on the Bible – that the Bible “testifies” or “bears witness” about Jesus. John 5:39. That means I should consider first (and perhaps only) what a text reveals about Jesus. What does this story reveal about Jesus? (Jesus’ goal was to test her faith, not insult her.)

  1.         Do you think Jesus knew in advance that she would pass this test?

  1.         If your answer is “yes,” and I think it should be, what is Jesus teaching the disciples and us about Him? (Sometimes Jesus allows us to go through difficult times to benefit others.)

  1.         Were any Canaanite women harmed in this test? (Her pride might have been bruised, but her daughter was “healed instantly.”)

  1.         What should we learn about a “winning attitude” from this story?

  1.         Winning and the Recliner

  1.         Read Mark 14:3-4. Would you object if this happened to you? There is an American football tradition of dumping a barrel of drink on the winning coach.  I would prefer a handshake or a clap on the back. (Apparently having nard poured on your head was not a bad thing, because the objection is only that it is wasteful.)

  1.         Read Mark 14:4. Have you heard “scolds” like this? You should not have built a beautiful church, wear beautiful clothes, drive a beautiful car, or live in a beautiful home – because the money could have been given to the poor.

  1.         I thought Jesus was poor! Is that wrong?

  1.         Read Mark 14:6-7. What winning attitude does Jesus endorse?

  1.         Are the poor a pressing matter, according to Jesus? (When I was young, poor people were starving. That would be a pressing matter. Today, virtually every country where people were starving has adopted, more or less, a free-market economy. Starvation today does not arise from poverty, but rather from war or evil leadership. This confirms Jesus’ words in our day.)

  1.         Read Mark 14:8-9. If we look for how this story testifies about Jesus, what lesson should we learn? (Bringing glory to Jesus is our priority.)

  1.         Who ends up with the glory in this story? (The loving woman. She is unselfish, and she honors Jesus.)

  1.         What is the winning attitude here?

  1.         Winning in Debate

  1.         Read 1 Peter 3:14-15. What triggers your testimony here? (You are asked.)

  1.         What attitude should we have when witnessing for Jesus? (We should be respectful and gentle.)

  1.         Read 1 Peter 3:16. What attitude will pagans possess? (They will revile and slander us.)

  1.         Will the truth be obvious if we have a “good conscience?”

  1.         Read 1 Peter 3:18. Who is our example in being treated badly? (Remember when we discussed the Canaanite woman earlier? She suffered temporarily to benefit others. Jesus suffered to benefit us. She reflects what was in Jesus’ future.)

  1.         What is the winning attitude here?

  1.         Friend, we have learned that what constitutes a winning attitude is not obvious. Our study of the Bible teaches us that a winning attitude is trusting Jesus and bringing glory to Him even in difficult circumstances. Will you ask the Holy Spirit to help you to have a winning attitude?

  1.         Next week: An Exciting Way to Get Involved.