"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." Philippians 4:8
"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5
The mind is a very powerful thing. Did you ever read this verse in Philippians and simply wonder why Paul was telling his friends this? Why did he just stick this tidbit in one of his letters about thinking on this list of positive things? I think it's because Paul knew something about the human mind. When we wake up in the morning and think about how the day ahead of us is not going to be good, or is going to be rough- we're setting our thoughts in the wrong direction right off the bat. Even if we know our day is going to bring trials, we should set our thoughts higher- we should wake up and tell our selves that it's going to be a great day. And then keep repeating that- maybe our mind will start to believe it, and our day won't be as much of a trial as we had anticipated.
Paul also tells the Corinthians to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. That is quite the statement! Think of all those random thoughts we have throughout the day- how many of those would Jesus be proud of? Those thoughts that you had toward that driver who cut you off... next time, capture that thought before it goes anywhere. Start training yourself to say a quick prayer for other drivers' safety instead of thinking bad thoughts about them.
Negative thoughts can affect out health and physical well-being. Let me give you a clear-cut example. I used to suffer with migraines every once in a while- and I found out that many of them were food triggered, so I started watching more closely what I ate. Well, standard procedure for me for a migraine was that I could feel it coming on. As quickly as I could I would take several painkillers, and get some caffeine into my system to try and stave it off. Then I would lie down and simply wait for it to take over- which it inevitably would. Then I would have to deal with a migraine for a day or so before it wore off and I could function normally again.
I can't tell you the last time I had a migraine- food induced or otherwise. In fact, I've started eating small amounts of the foods that gave me migraines in the first place. Why? Because I refuse to accept that eating bacon will give me a headache and cause me to throw up. Now, when I feel a migraine coming on, I do still take the painkillers, and the caffeine, but then I tell myself that it's just a little headache and it will go away soon. And then I continue to go about my day. I don't give up. I don't give in to the headache-turning-into a debilitating migraine. I've trained my mind to stop dwelling on the impending migraine, and I've turned my mind to the idea of rejecting them. So reject them I do, and I never suffer with a migraine anymore.
My mom was telling me the other day about a great-aunt who is 106 years old. The woman refuses to accept the fact that she is old and at deaths door. When people talk about all the diseases and ailments that come with aging, she tunes them out. She never accepted the fact that as she increased the years of her life, that it meant that she needed to succumb to aging calamities- things like arthritis, forgetfulness, and other diseases. Instead, she grabs hold of the idea that she is in perfect health and will live until the day that she is called home to be with Jesus. What a powerful testimony she is! Even when we turn on the TV these days, we see commercial after commercial touting products geared towards the aging. These commercials tell us that it is a certainty that we will lose bladder function, that we will have to watch our blood sugar, and that our joints will hurt and ache. Instead of accepting the reality that those commercials are telling us- we need to reject that reality and accept the reality that we are born again in Christ. And that when we became born again in Christ- that entitled us to the perfection that Jesus walked in while He was on earth.
Our thoughts can set the tone for the reality we live out. Paul knew this! Even our children can show us the power of positive thinking! Last week my kids started swimming lessons, and Zander kind of struggled for the first few days. He just didn't think that he could do the things that he was being asked to do. As the lessons went on, I could tell his teacher was getting frustrated, because Zander didn't even want to attempt some of the things- he would just wait until someone helped him out. My job was clear- I needed to encourage him and tell him that he could do these things- and I did so, every single day. And then the idea came up that we needed to take the kids to the pool just to play. So we did that, and when we got there, I told Zander that he should show Daddy all the tricks he could do in the pool. He insisted that he couldn't and I told him that he could- that he just needed practice. He kind of dismissed me and the idea, but a short while later, there he was, swimming. Swimming! And sticking his face in the water, and going under for 10 seconds at a time- I don't think I've ever seen Zander so proud of himself.
The next day when Zander got to swimming lessons, he showed his teacher all that he could do, and surprised everyone with the tenacity with which he tackled the things he is not proficient at yet. His mind wanted to tell him that swimming was too hard for him, that he would never learn to swim- but by flooding out those thoughts with positive thoughts, he finally got to the point where he believed those thoughts.
And that right there is the big lesson. I have an ankle that I broke many years ago. It gets sore a lot, and I've had it prayed for several times, and always after it's been prayed for it feels great for a while, and then the pain comes back. I could resign myself to the idea that I had a broken ankle that never healed right and I could be dealing with pain for the rest of my life, OR I could break those thoughts. And that's what I do. Every time my ankle flares up I tell myself that God gave me a new ankle and it doesn't hurt anymore. I keep walking or working or going up and down the stairs, ignoring the discomfort flaring from my leg- and the whole time I'm telling myself that I am a NEW creation in Christ Jesus, and I will not accept a bum leg. And someday, I have complete confidence that my thoughts and my ankle will line up and I will not have pain anymore- because God did take care of me and give me a new ankle. But the devil wants me to reject that new ankle. The devil wants me to dwell on the pain and the discomfort, instead of the freedom that is just on the other side of those thoughts.
Think happy thoughts. A mantra used in a children's story can serve us well all through our lives if we just heed the advice and guard our thoughts.
"A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Proverbs 17:22
Our reality is that we are citizens of Heaven, and our thoughts should reflect that. We should remain cheerful and reject what the world says is going to happen to us. Just the other day I read that prognosticators are predicting that the cost of groceries is going to go up 20% in the next year. Why do they do that? Why do they predict doom and gloom? Sure, groceries may go up 20%, but what the news story missed was that income is predicted to increase at a rate of 22%- so while the physical price of that pound of beef may go up, our income will more than cover it. Instead of clinging and accepting the bad news we hear- we need to proclaim God's Goodness over all that we take in. We need to filter out what is bad and what is going to bring us down, and accept those things that are going to feed our thought life positively. Nothing cures an ailment like a cheerful heart.