The Way You Think

Posted on: September 8th, 2013

Is the glass half-full or half-empty?  Is it partly sunny or partly cloudy?  Some believe the way you answer these questions may say something about your view of life and yourself.  For example, a half-full or partly sunny reply may imply you are optimistic and upbeat about life.  However, a half-empty or partly cloudy response may suggest you are more gloomy on life.  In both cases, it is what and how one thinks that influences his view of life.

Thousands of big and little thoughts come and go every day.  One moment you think about this and the next moment about that.  In fact, thinking is so much of a routine we do not even think about it.  Yet studies show the way you think affects your happiness, associations, and health.  Those who focus on good and wholesome thoughts do better than those who fill their mind with destructive thinking.  So if you are one of those who lean toward the negative are you destined to be that way?  Thankfully, the answer is no.

Before writing this piece, I went to the Internet and read several articles by “experts” on thinking.  They all agreed most people can reprogram their way of thinking if they want too.  However, the change is not always easy.  You have to make a conscience effort to drive out the bad and put in the good.  This all takes time, patience, and self-control, but if you want to change the way you think and feel, you can with some effort.

God agrees that we can, and sometimes must, change our thoughts to be happy and right. (Eph. 4:22-24)  Scriptures also teach us that thinking about the wrong things can be harmful.  Consider what Jesus said, “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:28)

I am not one who normally places much stock in what the “experts” say, because they often get it wrong.  This is especially true when their advice conflicts with Biblical teaching.  For example, some of the authors suggested we need to stop beating ourselves up over what is right and wrong.  Get rid of guilt feelings without getting rid of sin was their idea.  What an empty and destructive piece of advice.

On the other hand, the Bible teaches us to get rid of guilt feelings by admitting and correcting our mistakes. (Heb. 9:14)  How can we do this without thinking about our sins?  I am not saying they should consume our thoughts, but we must admit our wrongs before we can fix them.

Another consist theme, from many of the authors, was the idea that we need to think on what makes us feel good.  Like happy thoughts about the weekend, getting with friends, and partying.  Imagine the good time you are going to have on the lake this Sunday morning.  Feeling good is their focus, without any consideration of right and wrong.

However, God wants us to control and dispel evil thoughts. (Jer. 4:14)  We know how enticing sin can be because it appeals to fleshly appetites, and these can inhabit our mind.  So we can become preoccupied with feeling good rather than being good.  This is not the way Christians should think. (Prov. 15:26)

What can we do to control our thoughts and to replace evil thinking with good?  First, understand that thoughts begin in the heart, and so we must turn our heart to God.  Jesus said, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts.” (Matt. 15:19)  Those who love Christ will bring their thoughts into captivity to serve Him.  (2 Cor. 10:4-6)

We must also fill up our minds with God’s Word by constantly meditating on the Bible. (1 Tim. 4:13-16)  The Psalmist said, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. (Psalms 1:1-2)

Next, we should load down our minds with virtuous thoughts.  You can only think about one thing at a time, and so if you are thinking godly thoughts there is no room for evil.  Paul said, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.”  (Phil. 4:8)

If an evil thought enters your mind, replace it quickly with something good and wholesome. (Isa. 55:7)  This is a conscious choice, one we make when we realize what has happened.  We must not allow wickedness to gain a strong hold over us.

We should not underestimate the power of prayer to control our thoughts.  I believe it is almost impossible for us to think evil while humbly and sincerely praying to God.  Jesus told his disciples to “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt. 26:41)  If we do as Paul said and “pray without ceasing” our thoughts will be as they should.  (1 Thess. 5:17)

This is the power of positive thinking we should strive for.  It not only helps in this life, but prepares us for the life to come.  Christians are a glass half-full, partly sunny kind of people.

Terry Starling