June 18, 2014

Battling wrong thoughts . . .

“ . . . You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” (Psalm 23:5)

Once when troubled by stinkin’ thinkin’, I asked my pastor what to do. He said, “Just because a bird flies over you, you don’t need to let it build a nest in your hair . . . ”

In other words, unhelpful and sinful thoughts will come to the door, but we don’t need to let them in. The way our brains work, we can deflect them by thinking something else. Learning how to do that is part of the Christian experience. The Bible tells us how to replace those thoughts. . .

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4–9)

Put Jesus in the middle of my thoughts. Instead of worrying, tell God and ask Him to take care of things. He will give amazing peace, and when that peace is threatened, deliberately choose better things to think about. Persist. Practice. Thinking godly thoughts is possible to those who have the mind of Christ.

What I feed my mind is important too. Thinking pure and lovely thoughts is far more difficult if I watch violence and sinful activities on television or read books filled with impure actions and words.

Also, there are many other wonderful things to consider. For instance, enjoy creation and think about it. The psalmist praised God as he looked “at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place” (Psalm 8:3) and Solomon gives good advice when he tells my lazy mind to, “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.” (Proverbs 6:6) Taking thought about the lessons of creation could occupy anyone’s mind for a long time!

Another weapon against stinkin’ thinkin’ is remembering and being thankful for all that God has done, and how I do not deserve any of it. “Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.” (1 Samuel 12:24)

When I struggle, it helps to read Hebrews. It was written to Christians who were suffering various trials and persecutions for their new faith and tempted to return to the old covenant. They are reminded that Jesus is superior. The old covenant was temporary, a shadow of the true, and preparation for the salvation to be found in Christ alone. To battle their wrong desire to turn back, they were told . . .

Consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself . . . Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. (Hebrews 3:1–6)

Those first two words are my greatest weapon against the wrong thinking that can pester me and fill my mind —“Consider Jesus . . .”

Sometimes I consider His grace in leaving heaven to come here and die for sinners like me. Sometimes I consider all that He has done in my life. Sometimes I consider how He suffered and trusted His Father in the suffering when He had the power to make it go away.

For every battle I fight, Jesus fought a greater battle, like mine only more intense, more fierce. And He survived because “He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23)

He is also my kind and caring Shepherd who knows when I am troubled by those buzzing thoughts. He knows when I need the touch of His rod and staff and the soothing balm of His anointing oil. The Lord is my Shepherd . . .  I shall not want anything, including peace of mind.

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