“For as a man thinks in his heart, so he is…” Proverbs 23:7
“Your thoughts betray you” Luke Skywalker to Darth Vader in Star Wars
Our thoughts can enable, encourage, strengthen, and embolden us or they can weaken, discourage, delude us, and even take us down a wrong path. Our American culture today is experiencing an epidemic of mental health problems and society is paying for it with more and more in disability due to depression and the inability to function! We cannot have bad thoughts, stay mentally healthy and be an overcoming Christian.
Before there ever is a problem with mental health there was always a problem with spiritual health. Are we spending more and more time on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram trying to “connect,” than we do in our Bibles or having actual interaction and fellowship with believers? Evidence suggests the rapid proliferation of technology and access to knowledge as well as social media has spawned an epidemic of Biblically ignorant, isolated Christians dropping out of church and unable to control their thoughts.
We must learn to take authority over and govern what we are thinking. Though many thoughts come in and we are not responsible for all of them, we are told what to do with them in scripture. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says:
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 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.
Here are 4 ways we respond to our thoughts and ways we COPE with them:
C-onvictions- We need to have righteous convictions born out of the truths found in the Word of God. Convictions on how we live and treat God ourselves and those around us. We cannot walk according to the “course of this world” any more. We must shed our unrighteous and unprofitable convictions about things that don’t matter to God and discover those that God thinks are more urgent. It’s not enough to just be sincere, because we could be sincerely deceived. We must be sincerely convinced about our beliefs based on the Word of God and God’s heart. We need to love what He loves and hate what He hates.
O-pinions- Opinions are most times a snap judgement we make about people, places, or things based on limited information and sources, outward appearances, and many times due to our own wrong attitudes. Nothing is quite as it appears. God doesn’t judge by outward appearances so why should we? We’re going to have opinions about things but if we do, let’s have them be based on truth and reality. Nothing is worse than an uninformed, ill-informed, individual snarkily commenting on a complex issue. Blowhards and opinionated people aren’t attractive to most people. An opinion is only a lightly held belief. Based on the truth and right discernment they can be helpful. Based on the wrong info they can be detrimental to progress.
P-rejudices- This word’s definition is literal: to pre-judge something. To make a judgement about a people, place, or thing based on only bad experiences handed down by others only fosters in us an inability to see clearly or completely. There is a history and back story to most things, another side that always brings greater understanding. However, knowledge alone doesn’t give anyone a right to judge whole areas of humanity. Jesus said in the last days “people group would rise against people group.” In Rwanda in the 90s, a million of the Tutsi and moderate Hutu tribe were butchered with machetes by the majority Hutu tribe. This is the fruit of extreme prejudice of one over another. We aren’t called as believers primarily to render judgment but bring reconciliation to people with God and through that, each other. Those with legitimate authority to lead or correct a situation know that prejudices don’t solve anything.
E-xperiences- We all have situations we’ve experienced that have been wonderful and unforgettable but also those traumatic experiences that many times can define our future. It is not uncommon to hear of people paralyzed in their present due to some horrible experience they suffered in the past, like divorce or rape or loss of parent early in life. Traumatic events have a way of “stamping” a mark that can direct our decisions the wrong way and prevent us from ever attempting things due to the impression they leave. This reveals a need for deliverance and a cleansing of our spirits of the defilement of that event!
2 Corinthians 7:1 says:
Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
The first commandment is “Love the Lord your God with all you heart, soul and mind”. Mt 23:27. But how can we even do that if we have trouble controlling our thoughts? So this is why the enemy works so hard on getting access to and redirecting the flow of our thoughts!
He is called the “Prince of the power of the air.” Ephesians 1:2 says “in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.”
It’s time to COPE with our thoughts so we can be free and fruitful!