Dr. Jack Haskins, a professor at the University of Tennessee, conducted a 12-year study on media’s effect on how people think. In the study, a group of radio listeners were exposed to five minutes of negative news daily. The effects were startling. The listeners reported being more depressed than ever before, they believed the world was a negative place, they were less likely to help others, and they began to believe what they heard would soon happen to them.
Now you might be shaking your head in disbelief and wondering… “How could five minutes of negative thinking a day have that much of an influence?”
Whether we like it or not, the thoughts we entertain in our minds become the thoughts that guide our lives – influencing what we do and what we believe.
Turns out the old axiom, “You are what you eat,” is not only true about us physically but also psychologically and spiritually. We are what we think as well. If we feed our minds on a diet of mental junk food, your spiritual health will reflect it.
So it shouldn’t surprise us that our thoughts also matter to God. As our loving Father, God wants us as His children to aspire to greatness – to live influential and fruitful lives. But to do this, we first need be intentional about filling our minds with great thoughts.
In his letter to the church at Philippi, the Apostle Paul emphasizes the importance of positive thoughts. Paul offers the Philippians a proactive approach to battling the inevitable negative thoughts that so often surround difficulties in this life: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:8-9)
Paul is basically saying that if we get our thoughts right then the emotions, behaviors, and the peace of God will follow. Doing right thinking, though, takes practice. But for many people, the practice of meditating on Scripture and spiritual insights seems difficult, even daunting.
So how do we begin thinking great thoughts? I’d like to offer a few ways to help us get started:
- Start with Scripture. This doesn’t necessarily mean doing a Bible-reading program – although it can be very helpful. It mostly means absorbing the Word of God and thinking it over everyday when you lie down and get up, and lingering in the depths of God’s revelation. Thinking great thoughts about God will help us think great thoughts about ourselves.
- Dwell on great truths. Besides Scripture, we can learn valuable truth from our experiences in life. Another great way to fill our minds with great thoughts could include reading inspiring stores and quotes from other people. A few of my favorite inspirational people include A.W. Tozer and St. Francis of Assisi.
- Take time to notice beauty. For me, this means going for a walk outside and enjoying a scenic place like the ocean. I find that when I dwell on the beauty of creation I can’t help but grasp the enormity and goodness of God. This, in turn, affects the way I think and shifts my focus from being primarily on myself and instead on God and His bigger plan.
- Meditate on spiritual insights. Great thoughts can also come from personal insights God has given us in specific situations in our life. The Holy Spirit has a way of working life lessons in our heart and they become more and more a part of us as we meditate on them and let them sink in.
Keep Pressin’ Ahead,
Chip IngramTeaching Pastor, Living on the Edge