Sometimes I think jealous thoughts.
Sometimes I think mean thoughts.
Sometimes I think covetous thoughts.
Yes I, a Christ follower who works in ministry, still deal with bad thoughts. But I have to say, even though they still compete for my attention now and then, I don’t cater to them nearly as much as I used to. It’s not that I’ve learned how to never have a bad thought; that’s impossible. I’m just better-prepared to deal with them.
Most of us don’t take seriously how much our thoughts affect our lives – or others.
- We freely make up conversations in our heads to prove our points and defend ourselves. And in doing so, we put words in others’ mouths that they never said.
- We consider a few “choice” words when someone cuts us off the road or we think about what we’d like to do to them.
- We constructively critique others and then think about how much better of a job we would do.
You can imagine how much worse I might treat my husband if I’ve already had ten fights with him in my head before he gets home. And just imagine the inflated and false ego’s we obtain by our “constructive” thoughts.
We don’t really get that our thoughts directly affect how we treat others, how we handle problems, how we behave in relationships—even how we relate to God. And so, we spend little, if no, attention managing them.
For many years I thought all I had to do was try hard to stop thinking bad thoughts when they came at me. The problem was, they wouldn’t stay away for long. And so I was in a constant battle – think a bad thought, push it away. Think another one, push it away…
Yet God gives us the solution to the battles of our minds in this all-too-familiar passage:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Phil. 4:8, NIV)
We can fight bad with good. We can counter unhealthy with healthy.
But here’s the catch: many of us know this – even have this verse memorized. We know we should turn our bad thoughts onto whatever is true, noble and right. But we wait until we’re in the heat of battle and then try to activate this Scripture. We’re too lazy to exercise it beforehand and don’t have any good thoughts available in our arsenal of weapons.
That would be like a boxer waiting until he’s in a fight to exercise his muscles. But the harder he works his muscles beforehand, the stronger they become, and the better chance he has of winning the fight.
We must practice thinking good thoughts — purposely and consistently. We must be proactive. Like the boxer, we have to prepare ourselves ahead of time and that takes discipline and practice.
Here are a few thoughts we can exercise our minds with:
- Let the words of my mouth as well as what I meditate on be acceptable to You, God. (Psalm 19:14)
- I need to be more concerned about the good of others than I am of my own self. (1 Cor. 10:24)
- God will not withhold any good thing from me. (Prov. 3:5-6)
- I will bless those who curse me (or cut me off on the freeway). (Luke 6:27-29)
I know for me, being proactive and regularly “exercising” my thoughts has yielded incredible results. I hope you are either already in a great exercise program or starting one today!