I had the opportunity to speak on healthy spiritual thinking earlier this week, and studying for that lesson reminded me just how important our thinking is. The Bible says that all the springs of our life come from inside us, from our heart (Prov. 4:23). Jesus said that sinful actions come from our hearts (Mark 7:21-23). Being transformed in Christ comes from “being renewed in the spirit of our mind” (Rom. 12:2, Eph. 4:22-24). Those verses tell me this: the battle for our souls will be fought inside our own thinking!
So it’s worth reflecting on what my thoughts are, and where they’re going. Am I thinking more like Jesus? Do I see the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) more in my attitudes? Or is negativity and bitterness changing my heart? Is materialism or temptation or pride getting a foothold in my thought process? We are surrounded by people who have been changed for the worse by years of sinful thinking, and we must not allow ourselves to go down that path.
|Image from: www.lightstock.com|
What can we do to move our thinking patterns in a more Christlike direction?
1) Remove sources of negative thinking. Philippians 4:8 tells Christians to “think about” things that are good, so we need to avoid things that are producing unhealthy, frustrating thoughts. Turn off the news for awhile if necessary. Get off Facebook if it’s a problem. Distance yourself – while still being polite – from the people who are continually bringing you down by the way they talk. Take a break from the sports world or the world of political talk if they are putting you in a bad mood. If there is a consistent source of negative thinking in your life, see if it’s something you can avoid.
2) Match bad thoughts with godly thoughts. The only problem with #1 above is that it has limitations. We can avoid some bad voices in the world, but we can’t avoid all sources of frustration. We still have to go to work every day and see the self-centered co-worker or the overbearing boss. We still have to face rush hour traffic. We will still see things on TV or Facebook that make us shake our heads. Parenting will still produce frustrating days, and I don’t think God wants us to avoid our kids! Some sources of frustration will always be there. What do we do then?
Well, we must learn to match bad thoughts with better thoughts. Instead of letting negative thoughts grow in our minds, we must find the self-control to cancel them out with something better. Eventually, that negative way of thinking will lose its power, and the better thoughts will become more natural. This step is even more powerful when we use Scripture for matching thoughts.
Do you need to keep some of these ready when you are tempted to bad thinking?
· I will be strong and courageous. I won’t be frightened, because God will be with me wherever I go. (Joshua 1:9)
· I won’t be overcome by evil, but I will overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
· I will show love to others because God has shown love to me. (1 John 4:11)
· I will put God first and trust His promise that I will always have what I need. (Matthew 6:33)
· I brought nothing into this world and I won’t take anything out, so I will choose contentment (1 Timothy 6:6-8).
· I don’t want sinful things, I trust God’s way is best and He will bless me (James 4:10, Proverbs 3:5-6).
· This situation is too big for me to do anything about it, so God I hand it to you, trusting that you know what to do with it (1 Peter 5:7).
· I won’t stress about tomorrow because Jesus promises it will take care of itself (Matthew 6:34). Besides, God is already there.
· This is not my home; I’m seeking something bigger and better (Hebrews 11:13-14, Colossians 3:1-2).
Reflect on what negative thoughts you’ve been battling, and have a Scripture ready to match those thoughts when they arise. Don’t let a spiritually negative thought remain unchallenged in your head.
3) Make time for “thankful prayers.” In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul says that the bridge from “anxiety” (verse 6) to “peace” (verse 7) includes prayer, and he specifically mentions prayers “with thanksgiving.” Do you have a time when your mind rolls through things that frustrate you? When you’re driving to work? When you’re laying in bed at night waiting to go to sleep? During a commercial break? Instead of letting those unhealthy thoughts keep growing in our minds, perhaps we can shift to more godly thoughts by praying to God, and simply listing things we are thankful for. How great would it be to make a “thankful prayer” the last thing we do each day, as we lie down in bed? To go to sleep each night, not replaying the unkind word someone said to us, but instead drifting off in the midst of positive, thankful, godly thinking about all the blessings God has given us. More “thankful prayers” can’t help but produce a more healthy, God-centered attitude.
How we think is important – that’s where our battle with Satan plays out, and the results of that internal battle will be seen in our actions. Satan will try to grow “roots of bitterness” in our hearts and minds (Heb. 12:15), and we must not allow that to happen. I believe these 3 steps are a good start down a better path. Let’s turn our thinking toward God and more godly attitudes, and we will see our hearts and lives transformed into the Christ-centered, fruit-of-the-Spirit people God knows we can be.