Memorizing has never been my strong suit. I clearly recall a heart-racing, sweaty palm, knot-in-my-stomach sensation that occurred during my senior recital in 1993 when my mind went blank during one of the songs. Fortunately, when I opened my mouth the right word did come out…that time. There were a few times when I wasn’t that fortunate. By the way, that song was by Mozart and was entitled, “Alleluia,” and the lyrics to that song were, “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia…” Well, you get the picture.
Memorizing Bible verses has been somewhat of a trial as well. I can usually remember fragments, ideas, and phrases, but to put them all together correctly has been difficult for me. However, for some reason, there is a verse that has always been ingrained in my mind since I was young. “May the words from my mouth and the thoughts from my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my defender.” Psalm 19:14. I learned it one year at Bible camp and it’s been special to me ever since.
There is a verse that has struck me lately as one that is definitely worth memorizing. It also deals with our thoughts. “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8. Up until now, I would’ve been lying if I said that I had spent time thinking about a verse that tells us to put thought into what we are thinking about! On its surface, one may read it and automatically picture people frolicking and skipping in meadows full of wildflowers acting as if life is perfect. However, there is much more to this verse. Through His Word, we are being told that what we think about is completely in our control. Wait, what? Aren’t we held captive to the thoughts that enter our mind? No, I don’t actually believe that, but I would also be willing to bet that most, if not all of us, have been heard to utter sentences similar to this: “I can’t stop thinking about it.” or “I can’t sleep because I can’t turn my mind off.” I admit to making both of these statements in the past. But aren’t statements like this another way of saying that our thoughts control us? Okay, can I just say in a loving, Christ-like fashion, “Knock. It. Off!”? Friends, we are in control of our thoughts! We read in 2 Corinthians 10:5b, “…and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” Other versions say to “take prisoner, take hold of, and capture.” Any way one looks at it, the Bible is telling us to take strong action concerning the thoughts we allow ourselves to think! I’m boldly saying it’s a decision. When things get hard, we often decide it’s not worth trying anymore. But, can I encourage you to not give up on thinking thoughts that are acceptable to God? I firmly believe that making a decision to stop thinking thoughts that God isn’t the author of, and deliberately changing them to a prayer or an image of something positive is something we can succeed in by acting with resolve, perseverance, and prayer.
What kinds of thoughts am I referring to? The simple answer is: Thoughts that aren’t true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, or admirable – just like the verse says. The more specific answer would be: negative thoughts about ourselves, thoughts concerning temptations and sin, thoughts about regrets of the past, and fretting about possible future situations. These are the things that can keep us up at night.
1. Negative thoughts about ourselves. Just think about what your life might start to look like if you would see yourself in the truth of God’s perspective of you instead of your feelings about yourself. If that means you would benefit from having Stuart Smalley moments of audibly repeating, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me,” into a mirror, then so be it. (If you aren’t familiar with that Saturday Night Live reference, sorry. 🙂 Check YouTube!) God created you, and God is good at what He does. Therefore, your thoughts about yourself should be limited to truth. What God says about you is truth. What your emotions and feelings say about you? Not so much.
2. Thoughts concerning temptation and sin. Sin doesn’t begin with an action. It doesn’t begin with fleeting thoughts. It begins when we choose to let thoughts park in our minds, rather than just pass through. We are all aware of the latest Ashley Madison website scandal in the news. Well, I have a difficult time imagining that cheating on one’s spouse happens without fixing one’s mind on thoughts that God does not endorse. What if instead of thinking about what we see as inadequacies of our spouse, and the imagined potential of someone that we haven’t made vows to being able to fulfill us where we feel a void, we fixed our thoughts on praying for our marriage, our spouse, and for ways to contribute to the marriage in a way that would help insure its longevity and health? What if? What if we would begin to realize that the voids we feel in our lives can only be filled by Jesus? Not by another person in the case of an affair, or by merchandise in the case of stealing, or by status in the case of lying. Don’t all sins begin with thoughts not endorsed by God? We allow ourselves to lose control of our thoughts and sooner or later we are convinced that those thoughts are more important than our relationship with Jesus Christ and worth putting into action. Worth stepping out of God’s will for. How many heartaches could be prevented if we refused to dwell on sinful thoughts?
3. Thoughts about regrets of the past. Can we change the past? No. Can we change our perspective on it? Yes. Can we choose not to obsess about unfortunate decisions we’ve made or awful situations we’ve been put in by others? Absolutely! It may start with forgiving ourselves for something that God has already forgiven us for or by releasing a person that has hurt us to God. Whatever the starting point is, we just have to continue to continue to continue to think ‘excellent and praiseworthy’ thoughts. Leaving the past in the past is a gigantic step toward living a life of freedom that Christ desires for us.
4. Fretting about possible future situations. I have seen people become consumed with the ‘what ifs’ of life; the future that is definitely out of our control. However, our thoughts should be completely taken over by the present and what we have control over! ‘Seize the Day’, ‘This is Your Moment’, This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it’, whichever motto you want to embrace, it starts with what we choose to think about! Matthew 6:34 says, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” It’s truly a trust issue. When your thoughts are overcome by wondering what is going to happen and worry becomes overwhelming, think back to the numerous times that God has been faithful, and trust Him to work out your situation once again!
One more thing…in the very next verse; Philippians 4:9, the Bible says, “Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me–everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” To be honest, I am often that gal that’s seeking peace, because I sometimes allow myself to become overwhelmed with, well, life. And here right in front of me in this verse is a way that I can be assured of having God’s peace and presence! “…Then the God of peace will be with you.” If we fix our minds on God-authored positive thoughts, and strive to put into practice what we’ve learned about God, He shows up in a very amazing way: by granting us peace. Two verses earlier in Philippians 4:7, His peace is said to “exceed anything we understand.” Now that’s a passage worth memorizing about a peace worth seeking from God, Who is oh-so-worth serving. God, may we fix our thoughts on You and all that is worthy of praise.