Updated: Feb 26
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” - A.W. Tozer
Stop. Reread that. I know it’s a writing “no-no” to reference a quote at the beginning of an article and I can just imagine my high school English teachers frowning at the sight of it, but I couldn’t wait until the end for this one, it’s just too powerful. Besides, if you don’t read any further and all you remember is what A.W. Tozer said, then I’m a happy camper. Seriously, please chew on it. Let it marinate. I’ve already ran out of food metaphors, but you get the idea. Your thought life is probably the most important part of your faith walk.
Thoughts precede actions. James said, “Faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:26 NIV). Now let's read that backwards. The grammar gets a little wonky, but the concept is the same. Deeds are dead without faith. What is faith? The author of Hebrews says it's "confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1 NIV). If you have confidence and assurance about something, are your thoughts scattered? I would bet not.
So, if your thoughts are not scattered, you can have a confident faith in God, which motivates you to do good works for His Kingdom. That sounds like a good formula to me! How do we control our thoughts? Reading and applying Scripture. If we didn't break down that verse in James, we could easily think he meant,"you have to work for your faith." Put that idea to the test with other Scripture. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV). Phew! That's a relief!
Our thoughts really can change the whole narrative of our lives. What we think about God either brings us to believe what He says or causes us to doubt Him. And what we do (or don’t do) with that belief is the fruit of our faith.
Our thoughts have a lot of power over us, the power of life or death.
That sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s really not. I’ll let Paul explain: “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6 NLT). Yeesh, that’s hard to digest (okay, maybe I had 1 more food metaphor in me). The reality is that most of the time we don’t have control over the first thought that comes to mind, but we do have control over our influences. As Christians we have an Advocate, the Holy Spirit. We can choose whether we listen to the nudges of the Holy Spirit for guidance or ignore them.
Are your thoughts led by your will or God's will?
Your decisions will follow whichever route you choose, there's life at one end and death at the other. Essentially, we end up "serving" whatever is "mastering"over us. Paul shatters the illusion that freedom comes from serving our heart's every sinful desire. Those who practice this are deceived by a false sense of freedom, mastered by the king of death (sin). But those who rely on Christ to transform their minds have a master who is the King of life. He's not only the Giver of life, He wants to be your friend. Jesus said, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15 NIV). Jesus wants to share the plans of heaven with you. He loves you and wants you to know Him. Do you believe that?
Everything we do stems from that belief or the absence of that belief.
How do we protect our thoughts?
This Christian life is not meant to be lived apart from the body of Christ. Romans reminds us, "Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ" (Romans 12:12 NIV). Each part or member has its function, though it cannot function apart from the body. From our fellow believer we need support, guidance, a timely word from Scripture, and so on. Hebrews says, “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:12-13 NIV). Do the people you surround yourself with bring you closer to God or pull you farther away from Him?
We need encouragement from other believers. Maybe that’s a friend, parent, mentor, pastor, or even your partner. I know you got through this whole article without any reference to dating. That was purposeful. Hopefully I adequately highlighted the importance of your thought life outside of a dating relationship. But you probably opened up this blog for relationship advise of some sort. So here it is. If you don't learn to control the influences of your thoughts, your relationship won't lead you in righteousness.
I know that sounds absolute, but remember that your thoughts precede your actions. How we speak and act towards one another has consequences, whether good or bad. And the kind of success I'm referring to is not worldy success. In the world, relationships can "flourish" outwardly to keep up appearances, but be decaying inwardly as the spiritual health of it is not tended to. I personally overthink situations. Without a doubt this gets me in trouble in relationships because I create a narrative in my head that's outside of reality. Acting on a make-believe situation is never wise. Now I'm learning to ask questions for clarification before I fully formulate my thoughts.
Additionally, what are you doing as a couple to positively influence each others thought life? Are you sharing devos, sermons, or the Word of God together? These are seemingly minor things, yet they make a major impact. When we are encouraged to turn to God and surrender ourselves to Him, the Holy Spirit leads us to the will of the Father, the route of life everlasting. Does your partner know the affect your thoughts have on your faith walk, and do they therefore care about protecting your thoughts? Are they careful about protecting their own?
If we truly believe what the Bible says about our thought life, we should make necessary adjustments to realign our thinking with God's.
Take some time to reflect on areas of your life that sin has become a master. I know it can be scary to acknowledge our sin, but true freedom is where the Spirit of the Lord is. Jesus did not come to condemn you. Have a conversation with God about it and let His loving kindness bring you to repentance so that He can be master of all.