If you need to find out whether or not you have contracted a disease, the last thing you’ll want to hear is that you’ve been tested positive. The news is most devastating, to say the least. At first, you want to deny it. But then, when reality sets in, you’re left with some very serious matters such as what you’ll do next, who you’ll consult for help and advice, what you’ll need to know, and the like.
On the other hand, you’d be so relieved if the tests for your diagnosis turned out negative. Your mind would be so at ease to hear the news that the tests showed no disease found. Your worst fears would vanish. It would be like a 100-pound weight lifted from your shoulders.
But, then, there’s the possibility the test results might give out misinformation. Tests could show a disease or condition is found when in reality there is no disease. These results are called false positive. Or, tests may not detect a disease or condition that turns out to be present in which case the results are called false negative. Not all tests are completely accurate and may have their own limitations.
Testing is now the popular concept planted in the conscience of our coronavirus concerns during this pandemic period. So, we seem destined to go through times of waiting for the results—some we’d dread to hear (positive), some we’d be delighted to hear (negative), and some we wouldn’t know what to believe when we do hear it (false positive or false negative). In effect, even the testing could test our patience, as well as every other virtue we might try to muster, while waiting for the results.
There’s a fascinating analogy you can draw in relation to testing for a disease, like coronavirus, and what the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippian Church. If you were a Christian from the town of Philippi and read this letter, you’d be most encouraged.
First, Paul was writing as a prisoner in Rome. He was confined according to Roman law. For two years, he was held “…a prisoner under military custody, chained by the right arm both day and night to the left arm of one of the imperial body-guard, and not at liberty to go at large except in company with the soldier (Acts xxviii. 16),” (Bible Study Tools).
Given this condition, you might be surprised that Paul didn’t consider it a burden. He remained positive in spite of the fact that he was watched 24/7, unable to go anywhere he wanted, constantly chained to a soldier. Certainly, not much freedom in that situation, yet, Paul didn’t complain about it.
Metaphorically, he made lemonade out of lemons. That is, he turned a sour situation into something good. He had certain rights as a Roman citizen, and he was known to use them to his advantage (Acts 22:25-30). So, in spite of his imprisonment in Rome, he could receive visitors and share the Gospel with them while living in his own “rented quarters” (Acts 28:30).
Paul’s intention all along was to preach the Good News of Christ in Rome (Romans 1:15), the home of Caesar and capital of the Roman empire. But he didn’t enter the city under pleasant circumstances. He arrived as a prisoner, standing trial after being falsely accused by his fellow Jews who’d plotted to kill him (Acts 21:27-40; 23:12, 23-35).
Though under dire circumstances, his appeal to the emperor gave him the opportunity to achieve his goal in Rome (Acts 26:28-32). So, even though the Apostle Paul had every right to complain about how he was unjustly treated by his own people, threats on his life, the hardships he’d experienced on his journey to Rome (e.g., the shipwreck, being bitten by a venomous snake, Acts27:14-28:6), and then his two-year-long house arrest while awaiting trial in Rome, he didn’t hold any grudges. He didn’t even complain that he was a Roman prisoner. Rather than thinking of himself as a prisoner of Rome, he looked at himself as God’s “…ambassador in chains; that I may speak boldly as I ought to speak,” (Ephesians 6:20).
A second thing about Paul’s letter is you’d appreciate that he starts out saying in his letter, “I thank my God in all of my remembrance of you…” (Phil. 1:3, New American Standard Bible, NASB). Wow! He’s not thinking of himself but of you! Here you are living in your own comfort while he’s out there sacrificing so much for the sake of Christ yet he’s remembering you. And then he goes on to say he’s praying for you (Phil 1:4, 9) as he encourages you to “…abound more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excelent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ,” (Phil. 1:10).
As you read further in the letter, it suddenly dawns on you—this apostle really is taking it all in stride. He’s really got a handle on it! In spite of all that he’s going through, he repeatedly expresses his joy as he urges others to rejoice, too: “….in this I rejoice, yes, I will rejoice!…And you too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way, and share your joy with me!” (Phil. 1:18; 2:18).
Thirdly, while some might think that Paul was being too optimistic about his imprisonment and perhaps disillusioned thinking he would be acquitted (Phil. 1:19-26; Rom. 15:22-25), the fact is he was simply sharing his own sincere attitude as a believer in Christ. He was even telling others to be of the same mind (Phil. 2:2). For sure, if there were such a thing as testing for a disease called “positive-itis,” the Apostle Paul would have tested positive for it.
Now, here’s the irony if this were a disease…It’s something we’d WANT to catch. While we’d abhor being tested positive with a disease or condition like the coronavirus, we’d welcome positive-itis with open arms. In fact, we’d rejoice as much as the apostle if we contracted it like him.
What we would NOT want to hear is that positive-itis was tested negative in us. Most times we’d rejoice if we were tested negative for something like the coronavirus. But not when it comes to positive-itis. If positive-itis in us were found negative we’d be missing out on the blessings we’d receive otherwise. And that would truly leave us with something we’d never want to come down with—negative-itis. This kind of “itis” would leave us feeling helpless and hopeless with bouts of grumbling and disputing unlike those with positive-itis (Phil. 2:14-15).
Positive-itis enables us to rejoice even when Christ is preached out of wrong motives. Paul said that at least, “Christ is proclaimed,” by these people and that’s a good thing. So, even though some proclaim Christ for their own gain, you can still rejoice as you go about serving sincerely and unselfishly (Phil. 1:12-20).
Even if you should come down with some kind of threatening sickness, like one of Paul’s fellow workers did once (Epaphroditus), positive-itis will help you through it all with the support of other Christians (Phil. 2:24-30). Positive-itis helps us see the good in other believers who’ve suffered and the joy that comes by holding them up with high regard. And we can appreciate our own circumstances even better.
However, with positive-itis testing comes a warning. We do not want to be misinformed with false positive or false negative results. We could end up like “the evil workers” Paul refers to in chapter 3 of his letter (3:1-3). No doubt, they felt positive in their point of view, but they were positively wrong. They based their beliefs on the false idea of legalism via the Jewish rite of circumcision.
At the same time these “dogs,” as Paul calls them (Phil. 3:2), held false negative views toward him and others who had at onetime held the same beliefs (Phil. 3:4-6). They looked down on him because he’d changed his legalistic views when he accepted Christ into his life. As a result, Paul tested positive for Christ and found genuine joy and salvation through him (Phil. 3:7-12).
When testing positive for positive-itis, it’s good news because we’re seeing several symptoms of self-improvement while serving Christ. Paul lists these symptoms in Philippians 4:8. When our minds dwell on positive mindedness then we’ll be showing signs of “…whatever is true…honorable… right…pure…lovely…good repute…any excellence…anything worthy of praise….”
It’s not like being tested positive for a life-threatening bodily disease where everything could, and often does, lead to something worse. Rather, our health will actually get better. We’ll think, behave, and look better than we’ve ever been. In fact, it will give us the incentive to leave the past behind as we reach forward to a higher goal we’ll attain in the future life. For as the Apostle Paul stated when he envisioned the Lord’s glorious coming and eternal life for all believers,
“I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” (Phil. 3:13-14).
Then, he urges his fellow Christians to catch the same positive-itis with which he and others are diagnosed. He says to them and us,
“Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us,” (Phil. 3:17).
Paul’s desire for the church was that they would come down with positive-itis, too. Then they would see relationships healed (Phil. 4:1-3), peace flourishing (Phil. 4:7), and all their needs abundantly supplied just as God has done for him (Phil. 4:19).
Yes, testing positive for positive-itis—now, that positively has benefits! Have you caught it? What’s your diagnosis?
Good News to YOU!
P.S. Here’s a positive-itis-kind-of song with a message that I hope you’ll catch, too— http://youtu.be/niypYXVkf-Y