In this weeks sermon, Pastor David Boone of New Covenant Fellowship focuses in on our thought-life. Do we rejoice in all situations? Or, do we look at the glass half-full? Although this message includes precepts that are all-inclusive, the central aspect of having a solid thought-life is focusing on the goodness of God and his Christ.
Part 5 – you are what you think
When I woke up yesterday morning my wife told me that it would honor her greatly if I would go to IKEA with her. She told me that we can’t afford it right now so we weren’t going to purchase anything but she would like it and it would honor her if I would go with her and take a look at some kitchen tables. Have you ever been to IKEA? That place can be a real battlefield of the mind.
There is probably a broad spectrum of approaches to IKEA when it comes to our frame of mind, but I’m going to simplify and just touch on the two ends of the spectrum. On one end of the spectrum you have the Eeyore approach, with very negative thinking and on the other end you have the Tigger approach with a very positive thought process. And our mood will be a direct result of the thought process we choose.
On one hand we can have the following thought pattern: we pull into the parking lot and realize wow there’s absolutely no where to park we are going to drive around for 15 or 20 minutes just looking for parking place it is no wonder that the constructed a parking garage because on Saturday they have to accommodate the entire population of Williamson County. Then I go inside and see one of our coworkers who lives in Temple so scratch that; we got people coming here from Bell County as well and no doubt Travis County. And they’ve got child care but the child care is limited to those who are between 37 and 50 something inches so our younger children don’t make the cut; they have to stay with us and they give us one hour. One hour to do our shopping at IKEA? Can you even power walk at a brisk pace through IKEA in one hour? So we start making our way through the maze and our children are complaining and whining this is boring. I can think to myself “why am I even here if I am NOT going to make a purchase this feels like a waste of time.” I have to go through this entire maze with slow people who have no consideration of others. Now what kind of a mood would be generated by such negative thoughts? Probably not the best mood.
Now on the other end of the spectrum we can have a thought pattern along the lines of Wow it is the weekend I’m not at work right now I am here with my best friend and lifelong companion; it is an opportunity to spend quality time with her, an opportunity to serve her to do an act of service which is her love language. I am here with my beautiful kids God has given me beautiful children what a blessing. Yes they may be complaining but wow God gave them vocal cords with which they can express their desires and needs to me it’s a signal to me to let me know that I need to pay attention to them; what an opportunity to spend quality time with them. And furthermore my wife clearly communicated to me that we don’t have to purchase anything. She does not expect us to purchase anything what a blessing. Furthermore she went ahead and thought through this whole thing and she brought a stroller and she brought snacks because she is that good. I’m blessed. And this basket I’m pushing it’s the sweetest swivel basket ever these are the best shopping baskets ever invented a swivel in every which direction. And there is child care so my children that do meet the requirements don’t have to be with that means that I only have to have two of my four children with me what a blessing; that would have been a challenge. Furthermore I have a map of the store and on that map they have disclosed the secret passageways the shortcuts so yes I can make it back within an hour to pick up my child who is in their care. And yes there may be some discourteous people here right now but it is a beautiful opportunity for me to show consideration for me to show courtesy for me to show love to others and loving others is one of my great purposes in life as a follower of Jesus.
What kind of a mood would that second thought pattern generate?
You can see that the same set of circumstances approached with a different thought pattern will generate a completely different mood, a radically different emotional state because our mood is directly affected by our thoughts.
For the past month we have been discussing biblical and practical ways of defeating depression. Depression is often more emotional than rational.
While I cannot change reality I can change my thinking which affects my mood, my emotional state. A sour mood unchecked overtime can lead to sorrow, sadness, depression. But I can defeat depression if I continually cultivate positive thinking which in turn generates a positive mood.
The essence of this morning’s message is simply this: you are what you think. Happy thoughts lead to happiness. Conversely, depressing thoughts lead to depression.
I’d like to share with you some famous quotes on thoughts – on thinking.
James Allen (British-born American essayist) said, “You are today where are your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.”
Henry David Thoreau (poet and philosopher) said, “Thought is the sculptor who can create the person you want to be.”
Soren Kierkegaard (Danish philosopher) said, “Our life always express is the result of our dominant thoughts.”
Ralph Waldo Emmerson (essayist, lecturer and poet) declared, “A man is what he thinks about all day long.”
Lord Byron (British poet) said, “The power of thought, the magic of the mind.”
Benjamin Disraeli (British politician and author) said, “Nurture your mind with great thoughts, for you will never go any higher than you think.”
William James (imminent philosopher and psychologist) said, “Why should we think upon things that are lovely? Because thinking determines life. It is a common habit to blame life upon the environment. Environment modifies life but does not govern life. The soul is stronger than its surroundings.”
An unknown author said, “Every thought is a seed if you plant crab apples don’t count on harvesting golden delicious.”
I believe these quotes express profound truths about the power of thought. As we think, so we are. Are we depressed today? Many factors may have contributed to that emotional state. We have discussed a handful of causes of depression, noting that our own transgressions can lead us to a state of depression; when others sin against us that can certainly cause depression, when our relationships are violated; sour circumstances can lead to depression, namely loss of that which we value. One very powerful source of depression lies in the battlefield of the mind. If we are depressed today, it could very well be that our past thoughts have brought us here. If we are depressed next month or next week, it could very well be that our thoughts today will be the train that takes us there. But on the other hand, if we are happy today, the happy thoughts, holy thoughts, healthy thoughts of yesterday have likely contributed to that emotional state. Happy, holy and healthy thoughts today are likely to take us to a happy place next week. As James Allen said, “You are today where are your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.”
When it comes to our thoughts, we certainly do reap what we sow. If we sow seeds of depressing thoughts, we will reap depression, but if we sow happy thoughts, we will reap happiness. While we cannot change our circumstances, we cannot change reality, we can change our thought patterns, and thus our moods, our emotional state; with proper thinking, we have the power to defeat depression.
Dr Norman Vincent Peale shares in his work The Power of Positive Thinking: “I once met an old man who absolutely bubbled over with radiant happiness. When I asked him his secret he said, “Why it’s just as plain as the nose on your face. When I get up in the morning I realize I have two choices: either to be happy or unhappy and what do you think I do? I’m not dumb. I just choose to be happy and that’s all there is to it.” Now that may be a superficial response, but I recall that Abraham Lincoln who nobody could accuse of being superficial said that “people were just about as happy as they made up their minds to be.”
Every morning, we have the ability to say with Eeyore, woe is me. Everything is gloomy, behold the dark clouds. But on the other hand, we have the ability to see the silver lining on those dark clouds and say with the Psalmist This is the day that the LORD has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.
ON A RELATED NOTE
Now consider some factors that affect your thinking. I’m not going to elaborate on this, but I’ll throw it out there as food for thought since this is about thought. Consider how the following factors may influence your thinking. How might our thinking be affected by who we spend our time with? Hang out with Debbie Downer, Sad Sally, and Negative Nancy and how will that affect your thought life? How might the movies or shows we watch and the music we listen to affect our thought life? How will our thoughts be affected by the type of blogs we read by the type of audio books we listen to? Now I’m not going legalistic here; there is no thou shalt nots; this is simply a word of encouragement to be mindful of how those things can give you a mind full. This is simply a reminder to be a good steward in management of our minds.
What this message is NOT…
Before we go any further, I want to clarify in case you are seeing a red flag or two.
If I were to put myself in your position, at this point I may have a few concerns. Namely, this is starting to sound like a new age-y, “Name it and claim it, word of faith movement” type message. And this is sounding very philosophical and not very Biblical.
Let me assure you that this is NOT a new age-y message. I’m not suggesting by any stretch of the imagination that we can create our reality or alter reality by the power of our thoughts. Nor is this a “name it and claim it or word of faith” message. I am not suggesting that we can use the “power of faith” to create our own reality or get what we want. In that type of theology, faith is redefined from trusting in a holy and sovereign God despite our circumstances to a way of controlling God to give us what we want. Faith becomes a force whereby we can get what we want rather than an abiding trust in God even during times of trials and suffering.
And, yes, there is a philosophical element here, but much, if not most of what we discuss, has a philosophical element. This is no different and I can assure you that this isn’t a philosophy that is divorced from the Scriptures, as you will see by the time we are done this morning.
But the beauty of what we are discussing this morning is that these precepts are so universal that they apply and are accepted by believers and non-believers alike. If you are a Christian, your thoughts affect your mood and depressing thoughts can lead you into a deep depression. If you are not a Christian, your thoughts affect your mood and depressing thoughts can lead you into a deep depression.
The difference is that in addition to these universal precepts we also have some Biblical precedence and some explicit exhortations from the inspired authors.
So hopefully I have put you at ease. Not new age. Not word of faith. Not philosophy divorced from the Bible. We can’t alter reality; we can’t control all of our circumstances. Yahweh is sovereign over our circumstances. But we do have the ability and the responsibility to manage our minds. We are what we think. We have the ability with our thinking to affect our lives in a positive or negative way, and with happy, healthy, and holy thoughts we ultimately the ability to defeat depression.
PRACTICAL & BIBLICAL
This concept is very practical and has a broad application for all people whether they are believers or not. However, it remains for us as believers and we even have some Biblical precedence and exhortations from the Scriptures to help us in this.
CONNECTION TO JOB
We touched on this last week. Last week we looked at the story of Job and the way that sour circumstances can lead to depression.
Job was upright, blameless, feared God, shunned evil. He had Holy habits. Godly preactions led to godly reactions. When Job suffered a great loss, when circumstances got sour, had a godly reaction, immediately.
Job 1:20 Then he fell to the ground in worship21 and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”
22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
Then his wife said to him in Job 2:9 Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!
10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
After these declarations, Job sat in silence for seven days. Then beginning in chapter 3 and following Job cursed the day of his birth, wishing he was never born. His sorrowful remarks perpetuate signifying the fact that Job had made the decent down a spiral staircase to a state of sadness, despair, a pit of depression.
What changed between his God-centered perspective in chapters 1 & 2 and his self centered sorrow a week later? As I pointed out last week, I believe it was in Job’s head. It seems that the only possibility is that his thinking changed. His circumstances didn’t change; his thoughts changed.
Worshipful, God honoring, biblical true thoughts, lead to a state of worship. Self centered thoughts of unhappiness, lead to an emotional state of self centered unhappiness.
You are what you think.
One of the most frequently cited verses with respect to this precept is Proverbs 23:7 As he thinks in his heart/soul so is he.
While the context of that proverb pertains to sitting down with a man who says eat your fill but in his heart he is actually thinking about the cost, he isn’t truly being generous. In his heart he is being stingy. As we have stated, the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. You can say one thing with your mouth, but all the while be one who draws near to god with his lips but in his heart is far from him. What matters is what is going on in the heart. For the Hebrew, the mind and the heart were connected. So the precept rings true here in this proverb. You aren’t defined simply by what you say with your lips but what you say in your heart, what you are thinking about. You are what you think. If you think sad, sorrowful thoughts, you will likely end up in a sad and sorrowful state.
We find another encouraging example in 2 Cor 10:5 where Paul speaks of taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ.
Now here, Paul is speaking of demolishing strongholds, demolishing arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. He is speaking of conforming one’s thoughts so that they are in line with the truth in obedience to Christ. Once again, this precept emerges, this idea is reinforced, this idea of managing your mind, controlling your thoughts. We may not be able to control our circumstances but we should be in control of our minds; we should take our thoughts captive and make them obedient to think rightly, doctrinally accurate, but also practically accurate. When our emotions grab hold of us and attempt to lead our thinking astray let us take hold of our thinking that we might keep our emotions in check, defeating depression.
Phil 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
What a wonderful exhortation. It may be tempting to think, well, Paul, that’s easy for you to say, Mr. Apostle of Jesus Christ. But really, consider the book of Philippians and the context in which Paul wrote this letter. He was in prison. Why? Not because he was caught stealing or doing harm to someone; it wasn’t because he had done anything wrong, but because he did everything right. In fact, he did the most right thing he could possibly do in being obedient to Jesus, carrying out his God-ordained mission to preach the gospel the good news of Jesus Christ, inviting people into the kingdom of God. Paul is the one person who would be justified in being depressed. He is one person who in all reality should be depressed at least from my perspective; he had every reason to be. Yet if you read the book of Philippians, it will not escape your notice that the nature of this book is so full of joy. It is in this book of joy that Paul writes brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
I know if anybody knows the power of the thought in light of stinky circumstances, if anyone knows that we are what we think, if anyone knows how to defeat depression with the power of holy, happy, healthy thinking, Paul knows.
This exhortation is profound, powerful and practical. To combat negative thinking, it is important to understand it. At times we find that our mind is convinced of untruths, what are technically known as cognitive distortions.
These distortions usually reinforce negative thinking and therefore, negative emotions. It is necessary, therefore to repeatedly refute these distortions with the truth. Take our thoughts captive and rather than allowing negative untruths to penetrate our souls, we should dwell upon the things that Paul lists – things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.
Filtering: You come home and find that your husband did the dishes but he put a Rubbermaid dish on the wrong rack so you hone in on the one little thing he did wrong instead of the multitude of things he did right (not lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy – that would be focusing on the wonderful things he did to serve you)
Polarized thinking: If you’re not perfect, you’re a failure. People are either wonderful or awful. Is that right? Is that true? Take your thoughts captive, correct your thinking, lest it lead you to a dark despondency. Think on things that are right and true. Nobody is perfect. Lack of perfection does not make you a failure.
Gloom and doom: Disaster is inevitable. You’re obsessed with “What if? What if? What if?” (is that admirable, excellent and praiseworthy?). No..
Personalization: Everything that happens is about you. She’s wearing that perfume because she knows it gives me a headache. He brought his dog because he knows I’m allergic. She sat by him just to make me jealous. If that’s you, you’re so vain, you probably think this sermon is about you. (are those thoughts noble, admirable? Are they right or true?) Probably not. Take your thoughts captive, correct your thinking, lest it lead you to a dark despondency. Think on things that are right and true.
Blame game: You blame others for your pain. Or, you blame yourself for everything. (Is that noble, is it right, is it admirable?)
Legalism: There are rules that must be obeyed by everyone. If you violate the rules, you feel guilty. If others break the rules, you feel angry. (is that excellent or praiseworthy?)
Jumping to Conclusions: Your friend hasn’t called for a while, therefore she hates you (is that true, noble, right?) Take your thoughts captive, correct your thinking, lest they lead you to a dark despondency. Think on things that are right and true. Your friend has probably been busy.
Emotional Reasoning: My emotions define the truth. I feel ugly, therefore I am ugly. (is that true or right?)
Rewards based reasoning: You work hard and sacrifice, you’re a good person, so you should always be rewarded. If that reward doesn’t come when you want it, you become angry and bitter. (is that true? Does God owe us anything for doing right?)
When these cognitive distortions surface in the battlefield of our minds, we must take these untrue, incorrect, ignoble, impure, unlovely, not so excellent, not so admirable thoughts captive and be transformed in our thinking by the renewing of our minds.
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Much of our own unhappiness is the result of our own thinking. It can be said that one is what he thinks. Happy thoughts lead to happiness, while depressing thoughts lead to depression. While we cannot necessarily control all of our circumstances, we can control our thinking which, in turn, affects our mood. If our mood goes sour and unchecked overtime, that can lead to sorrow, sadness, depression. But we can defeat depression if we cultivate positive thinking which generates a positive mood.
Happy, healthy, holy thoughts, positive thoughts are a powerful antidepressant, which can catapult us out of a pit of sorrow and give us victory over depression.