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3 “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
Colossians 3:1-4 (NKJV).
It’s important to honor God even in our thought processes. Occasionally it might be tempting to think that as long as our actions are in line with God’s Word that it matters little what we think. The truth is that we could be double-minded when we think in contrast with God’s ways and still serve Him externally. Of course, part of being human is to have negative or even sinful thoughts from time to time. We need to take these thoughts captive in obedience to Jesus Christ, and make it a habit to set our minds on the things above instead.
3 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.”
2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (NKJV).
What are the things above?
8 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
Philippians 4:8 (NKJV).
The verses referenced here should encourage us to think on the things above. Namely specific categories of the things that are worthy to consist of our thought life. Things that are excellent, praiseworthy, of good report, and noble are a few examples specifically referenced. We might not be able to imagine what Heaven looks like, feels like, or will be like in vivid detail – but we can be sure to find some things on earth that can help us accomplish God’s will in this. Don’t focus on the one aspect of negativity you observed in someone that you saw at the grocery store. They may have skipped you in line unapologetically, but perhaps they didn’t catch you in their line of sight. Even if they did, maybe they have a critical appointment to reach after they buy a hand full of products. They could be rushing to feed their children back at home or have any number of major problems in their lives that require their attention.
Granted some of these excuses don’t really make it justifiable. After all you may be the one who has somewhere to go and it could be difficult to refrain from taking action. Instead of confronting you decide it’s prudent to avoid unhealthy confrontations, and instead choose to let it go. After this is done you have two options:
#1 You can dwell on the fact that you were wronged and allow that bitterness to interrupt a flow of good, positive thoughts.
#2 You can think rationally and remind yourself how trivial this is in the grand scheme of things. The small scenario doesn’t overtake your thought life and you free yourself to continue to think about more meaningful thoughts.
Clearly the less we clutter our thought life with meaningless thoughts, or allow circumstances to ruin an otherwise great day, the better off we are. Granted this is a simple example, but you can imagine both finding more trivial and slightly more difficult encounters where this logic is applicable. There are also times where no such situation has come about but a series of smaller obstacles over time has caused us to start building up a habit of dwelling on the negative. We can become experts at complaining or thinking about what’s going wrong with our lives instead of what is going well. Additionally, this takes up our time that can be better invested improving our lives on a practical level. Finally, we aren’t focusing on the things above when we do this.
Instead of finding someone or something to see things that are excellent or praiseworthy we find the microscopic faults in them and complain instead. Even if this just occurs in your mind, and is not explicitly stated or otherwise vocalized, we are only doing our mental state a disservice to dwell on them.
What is the solution?
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
Try to honor, glorify, and acknowledge God even in your thought process. You will find that more of your actions will follow suit in doing the same. God likes it when we work diligently and take action. He also likes it when we are patient in our journey and confidently wait for His timing on things. Be lenient with yourself if you’re not used to letting go of the negative thoughts and replacing them with more of what God wants us to focus on. Heavenly treasures, matters of eternal significance, winning souls for Jesus Christ, looking for the best in people, loving unlovable people, and being thankful for what we have are a few solid focal points for us.
When you dwell on what you are grateful for it is unlikely for you to become envious or jealous of your neighbor. Loving unlovable people gets easier as you continue to build up your ability to empathize with someone perhaps from a different walk of life than you. Only God truly knows the total reasoning regarding why they are bitter, angry, or calloused. These people especially need to see the unconditional love of God, and you might be the way God wants to reflect that love.
If you’re thinking of eternal significance or heavenly treasures, there’s a good chance that the day-to-day ups and downs of living will neither make or break you. You know that all the gifts, talents, and resources come from God and are due back to Him. Likewise you also know that any losses, whether physical items or health for example, are things that God may have wanted to remove from your life for a good reason. He can easily return either at His discretion, and for what He won’t return, He operates on a level beyond our comprehension. As painful as it might be to acknowledge, depending on what is taken away from us, we need to rest in God’s sovereign plans.
I hope you take a step back and evaluate your thinking from time to time. Don’t let the culture negatively impact your way of life. Open your eyes to the beauty you behold every day, as every breath and heartbeat is a new gift from God, and we should appreciate the opportunities He consistently opens the door to. Don’t be afraid to break those decade long or older habits of sub-optimal thinking. Ask God to bring a breakthrough in your thought life, and watch as your perspective shifts in ways you never thought possible.