“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
― Albert Einstein
It is impossible to change your life unless you change the way you think.
Calm. Easy-going. Unfazed.
These were all words that people commonly used to describe my personality. I’m not entirely sure whether they were meant to be complements, judgments, or mere observations. In any case, these descriptions were regularly tossed my way. People may have been envious of my somewhat laid-back attitude.
“Doesn’t he get bothered by anything?”
“You just seem so chill all the time”
It would be nice to say that these statements were accurate. Yet, I have to confess that that they were simply a facade. The truth is that while much of my personality is rather laid-back.. I was holding in a deep, dark secret.
It was something that I despised even to think about. That fear was the paralysis of public speaking. I told myself I’d rather do anything than speak publicly. This fear was rooted in thoughts such as, “what if people are silently judging me?”, “What if I mess up and everyone laughs?”, “What if I lock my knees and faint?”
The “what if’s” were endless.
Because of my commitment to serving the Lord, I was regularly given opportunities to speak publicly… and I always turned them down. I just couldn’t bring myself to get in front of the podium and publicly display myself…whether good or bad.
And yet I was limited. I knew that deep down, I would never be able to live the confident life that God was asking me to live. I would never be able to articulate myself to the extent that I knew God wanted me to. I would alway be left wondering, “what would happen if I stepped out in obedience.”
The Turning Point
After years of sidestepping these opportunities, God, in his patience, finally began to change my thinking patterns. As the possibility of becoming a pastor or key ministry leader loomed on the horizon, I had to confront the thought of preaching on a regular basis. I knew that things needed to change.
I made a decision right then and there. I was going to allow God to reform my thinking patterns, however difficult, however painful the experience might be.
We all have crippling thought patterns that limit our potential to be used by God. We all have things that we simply cannot get over that leave us wondering, what if I just surrendered fully to God? The sad fact is that many Christians find themselves growing stagnant and wondering, shouldn’t there be more? Shouldn’t Jesus be more real to me?
Yet, if we examined closely our own spiritual life, we would begin to realize our patterns of thought and contemplation have gone awry.
Since the decision I made to surrender those fears to God, he has begun to work. I cannot honestly tell you that the butterflies have forever left my stomach, but there is a night and day difference between what I used to be and what I am today.
2016 could be the year of breakthrough
I want to invite you to join me and our church as we journey this year on an adventure of faith. We are declaring this year’s slogan: believing God for big things.
I want to challenge each one of us to begin to believe that God can truly bring lasting change to our lives.
I believe that this change begins with the area of our thoughts.
How many Christians have grown stagnant because of poor thinking patterns?
How many people in general have lived as prisoners of their own minds?
How much mental anguish would have been alleviated if the person had confidently surrendered their thought life before the Great Redeemer?
I believe that all of us, deep down acknowledge a desire to change, yet also secretly agree with St. Augustine, “Lord change me, just not yet..”
And yet to hold a truly Biblical perspective one cannot really, over the course of a lifetime, reject change. For God’s plan has always been to change us in conformity to his Son.
Paul clearly articulates this process in his letter to the Ephesians
You were taught to leave your old self. This means that you must stop living the evil way you lived before. That old self gets worse and worse, because people are fooled by the evil they want to do. You must be made new in your hearts and in your thinking. Be that new person who was made to be like God, truly good and pleasing to him.
Ephesians 4:22-24 ERV
There are two primary steps, then, in developing a positive thinking pattern.
First we must begin by recognizing it.
The first step in solving a problem is to define it.That is, what we must do in order to experience the transforming power of the Gospel.
Once you have isolated the root thinking pattern, you are well on your way to removing it. In fact, recognizing a poor thinking strategy in real time (while you are currently thinking it), is a huge step of victory.
But that isn’t enough, once you have determined it, you must secondly replace it with God’s word.
It is not enough to simply STOP thinking poorly, the vacuum must be filled with something. If it is not replaced, then it will be no more effective than if I tell you to stop thinking about Pink Elephants. you can’t do it right? If you are told to stop thinking about something, your natural response is to think about it. The only solution is to replace it with something else.
This is how bad thinking strategies are overcome.
The process of meditating on God’s word has profound implications for the thought life of God’s children. In today’s media-consuming culture, where the average person has an attention span of a goldfish, we need to cultivate the discipline of meditation like never before.
By training your mind, to digest and process the implications and applications of God’s word, you can begin to develop mental fitness. Most of us have pretty fatigued minds and are due for a workout, and the best part is you won’t need a gym membership, it’s entirely free!
Creating the right environment
All you need is a quiet space, a short scripture, and a journal for note taking.
As you begin to calm the mind and intentionally focus on God’s word, you’ll experience mind wandering; thoughts slowly drifting to something else. It is very important to notice the kind of wandering that is taking place.
Instead of resisting this mind wandering, begin to note any patterns that emerge. Am I worried about something? Is there something urgent that I need to take care of? Am I currently angry at someone? Do I have feelings of being far away from God? If any of these situations are true for you, you are close to a spiritual breakthrough.
Once you have determined a strong negative thinking pattern, begin to commit that stronghold to God. Ask him for wisdom and then search his word for a promise that can begin to take the place of the negative thinking.
It may feel awkward at first. It may produce slow results as you accustom yourself. But hang in there. As you begin to discipline your mind to meditate regularly on God’s word, you’ll see long term changes.
As I committed myself to obey God and not fear speaking in front of others, I chose instead to believe that God would give me the necessary strength to overcome this paralysis.
It didn’t happen immediately, but as I stretched myself and obeyed God, I experienced victory. I can still remember the exact moment where the fear left. I remember standing on a stage, giving some announcements and all of sudden I realized that I could do this. It clicked, and I’ve grown in confidence in my delivery ever since.
You can experience God’s power as you begin to meditate on his word. You can grow and change when you ask his Spirit to help you become more like Christ.
In the end, God’s promises are not self-help. God never promises to make you a better version of yourself. He only promises to give you a new nature. When you quit trying to do it on your own, when you quit trying to overcome your challenges using your sinful strategies, than God can begin to move. He wants to give you something better than what you have currently. He wants to mould you into the image of Jesus, and that begins by transforming your thinking patterns.
Think of how satisfying and worry-free your life would be if you had complete mastery over those thought patterns that are crippling your spiritual life. Think of the confidence that a life of victory would bring?
Wouldn’t it be worth it to devote time and energy this year toward having a fresh start in your thinking?