Fear. Worry. Addiction. Self destructive thoughts and patterns. Insurmountable odds. Our past. These are things that many of us battle on a daily basis. They are mentally and physically taxing. It’s hard to sleep when these battles loom over us because they’re all we think about. The idea of getting free of them rarely enters our mind anymore because we’ve given up hope of overcoming them. They are powerful and make us feel powerless against them. We yield to them because we know it’s useless. So we live under their cloud in a defeated life without hope of winning victory over them.
If you struggle with these things, you’re not alone. Millions of people live just like that believing they’re the only ones going through it because the enemy of their soul has lied to them. He knows if he wins these battles, he can sideline you for a lifetime. But God has not given you a spirit of fear, nor has He abandoned you. He has given you the strength and the tools to break every chain and every stronghold that tries to hold you down and keep you from the life He created you to live. Remember that our weapons are not carnal, but are mighty through God (2 Cor 10:4)!
Psalm 18:35 puts it this way, “You empower me for victory with your wrap-around presence. Your power within makes me strong to subdue, and by stooping down in gentleness you strengthened me and made me great!” (TPT) Yes, you were made to be great and victorious through God. When we spend time in His presence through prayer, reading His Word and in praise and worship, He envelops us with the power we need to overcome. You don’t have to be a prisoner to these other things because you’ve been empowered for victory. Capture the thoughts that are not from God, and change them to what God’s Word says.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
One of the things I like to tell people is to choose your attitude or your day will choose it for you. I used to commute to work. Some days it was an hour, and others it would take nearly three. I drove a stick shift and would be sitting in traffic laying on and off the clutch. It was easy to get worked up and upset constantly riding the bumper of someone else while some person (not what I called them 😉) would be trying to weave through stop and go traffic. I then read where people who sit in traffic like that are susceptible to heart attacks. I decided I couldn’t allow myself to get worked up and call people names. I started choosing my attitude no matter how bad traffic was, even if it caused me to be late to a class I was training. I put on soft music and sang along in order to distract my mind. I also reminded myself that there was nothing I could do about the traffic. Some days, I just had to keep reminding myself over and over.
As a believer, there’s often a battle of the mind that has to be won over and over. It’s easy to let my past creep up on me to change my focus from what God’s grace has done to the things I’ve done in my past. That condemning mindset wants to try to tell me I’m not forgiven , I’ve used up too much grace, God could never use me, I’ve done too much, and so on. If i dwell on those thoughts, it would be easy to be unproductive, stagnant in my growth and cold to Christ in our relationship. I realize I’m unworthy of His grace, but I also remind myself that His grace is sufficient and the work has already been done. I have to choose my attitude and renew my way of thinking daily in order to keep growing and receiving God’s grace. I remind myself it’s not about what I’ve done, but what He’s done and is doing in me.
Ephesians 4:23-24 says, “And be continually renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh, untarnished mental and spiritual attitude], and put on the new self [the regenerated and renewed nature], created in God’s image, [godlike] in the righteousness and holiness of the truth [living in a way that expresses to God your gratitude for your salvation]” (AMP). When I’m feeling unworthy or those thoughts creep up, I remind myself of these verses to renew my way of thinking, to remember I’m made in God’s image and to thank Jesus for what He did for me. We all have choose our attitude, how we think and what we dwell on or we can go down some dark rabbit holes that will hold us back from the life we were created to live. If you’re struggling with those thoughts, ask God to help you continually renew your mind so you can be transformed from the inside out.
Several years ago, Apple was floundering as a company. They had lost their soul and direction. They decided to bring Steve Jobs back as the CEO to see if he could turn it around. One of the things he did after revamping their product line was to change advertising agencies. The agency that won pitched him the idea of the now famous “Think Different” campaign. The commercial showed different geniuses from history with a voice that started off, “There are people who see the world differently. They see things in new ways.” While the commercial went on to advertise Apple, it’s a reminder that you and I ask Christians are called to think differently.
Proverbs 23:7 tells that our thoughts determine who we are. We must then learn how to control them or at least stop the negative thoughts that lie to us. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us that we must bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. We can’t just allow idle thoughts or negative thoughts to float around in our heads. We must capture them and change them. It’s easier said than done, I know, but it starts with challenging the thoughts that don’t like up with what God says. When those thoughts come in, you counter with who God says you are and what He’s promised to us as believers. God knows that the way to change our lives is through changing our thoughts.
Isaiah 8:11 says, “The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does” (NLT). Why would God do that? Because we are called to be and live differently. We are to be set apart and to see the world in a different way. We are to change culture rather than to be a reflection of it. The only way to do that is to think differently and to see the world as God does. He transforms us by the renewing of our thoughts and in turn, we transform the world. Don’t get caught up today thinking and seeing the world the way others do. Pray and ask God to change how you think and see so that it reflects how He sees it. In turn, you’ll begin to fulfill your purpose and help others along the way.
When I was in high school, I went on my first mission trip. We went to a small village in Mexico to finish building a church and to host its opening service. About a month before we went, we got word that a donkey had fallen into their well and died. They were unable to get it out for several days. Their water was tainted and undrinkable. When they finally got it out, they had to drain the well and let it fill back up. Until then, they had to find other ways to get water into the village. I remember visiting that well on our visit. We stood around it and marveled how deep it was. I also remember praying over that well that it would continue to provide life giving water to that village.
Wells are a source of life, and so are the words you put into your mind. The Bible says that the power of life and death is in the tongue. It also tells us that we are what we think. It’s important that you and I guard what we allow into our minds. From books, to news, to movies, to people we hang out with, the words they speak are either giving you life or death. They are either edifying you or tearing you down. Their words reverberate in our minds and become the things we think about. We wouldn’t knowingly drink poisonous water, so why would we knowingly put detrimental words into our mind?
Proverbs 13:14 says, “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, so, no more drinking from death-tainted wells!” (MSG) If we’re going to change our lives, we’re going to have to change what wells we allow ourselves to drink from. We need to be more cautious about what we allow into our minds so that the thoughts we dwell on are life giving ones. If we drink from life giving wells, then we ourselves can become life giving wells for others. Pay attention to the wells you’re drinking from and ask yourself if they’re a death tainted well or a life giving one. Change where your thoughts come from and you’ll change your life.
The Bible talks a lot about what we think because God understands the power of our thoughts. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Our thoughts determine who we are and how we act. Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts. (GNB)” Another version wrote that same verse, “More than anything you guard, protect your mind. (CEB)” Solomon understood the importance of our thoughts and wanted those who read his writings to understand it as well.
Brian Tracy’s Law of Concentration states that whatever you dwell upon grows. If you worry a lot, then those thoughts will snowball and continue to grow. The things you think the most about take the center stage in your life. They control your schedule, your mood, your attitude, your actions and so much more. We often let our minds dwell on something for so long that it grows into an obsession. There was a time when I couldn’t get enough of the news. At home, I had my 24 hour news channel on and in my car, I had new radio. When I realized it was controlling my actions and mood, I had to break free.
Brian Tracy also teaches the Law of Substitution that says, “The conscious mind can only hold one thought at a time.” It can be a positive thought or a negative thought. I am the one who chooses what I think about. I am the gatekeeper. As Solomon said, I have to be careful of how I think. I cannot allow thoughts of worry overrun my mind. I cannot permit thoughts that are detrimental to my faith and family to stay in my mind. I cannot entertain thoughts and ideas that are contrary to God’s Word. I must consciously substitute those thoughts for the thoughts that lead me down God’s paths.
Philippians 4:8 tells us, “Fill your mind with things that are good and deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and honorable. (GNB)” The way I fill my mind with those things is to force myself to think about them when the other thoughts come in. I must protect my mind if I’m going to protect my actions. I have to constantly watch each and every thought that enters my mind and learn how to push out the thoughts that are detrimental to who I am in Christ and to replace them with the thoughts that feed who I am in Him. According to that first scripture I shared, I become what I think about.
Food for thought: Who do you want to be? What thoughts are detrimental to being that person? What thoughts can you replace them with? You can change who you are by changing what you think.