Every day we are confronted with two things we cannot control:
- Things we cannot control which frustrate our plans e.g. others sin against us
- Things we cannot control which help bring us peace e.g. others do good things to us
Every day we are confronted with two things we can control:
- Things we can control which frustrate our plans e.g. our own sin
- Things we can control which bring us peace e.g. our own thoughts and actions
A slave is a person who is controlled by others.
If you cease to be under their control, then you cease to be a slave.
Too often, we make the mistake of enslaving our emotions to the actions of other people. If other people behave in the way we want, then we have a good day. If other people behave in a way that is upsetting, then we have a bad day. We know that we cannot control what other people do. Yet we allow our happiness and sadness to depend on them. By doing this, we act like slaves.
If you act like an emotional slave, then every day of your life is a roll of the dice. Did your spouse wake up in a grouchy mood? Congratulations, you are going to have a bad day. Did your kids misbehave? Guess what . . . you’re going to have a bad day. Did your boss or your coworker give you some trouble? Surprise, surprise, surprise . . . you’re going to have a bad day.
When we choose to live this way, basing our emotions on the actions of other people, it is a wonder that we ever have any good days. Every person is a sinner, so the chances are very high that someone will sin against you today. And tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that. So if another person treating you badly is a good reason to have a bad day, then you might as well prepare yourself for a life of unending depression. In this present life, it is unlikely that you will ever experience a 24-hour period during which everybody treats you right. Unfortunately, that is just not how things work down here.
Thankfully, there is a better way. Instead of basing our emotions on things which we cannot control, what if we were to base our emotions on those things which we can control?
- We can control our own thoughts
- We can control our own actions
And believe it or not, it is a full time job just to take care of these two things! If you give proper attention to the things you think about, and proper attention to the things you do, you will not have time available to concern yourself with the thoughts and behaviors of your family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.
And that is precisely why the devil wants you to spend so much of your time fretting over the things that they are doing wrong. Not only can he ruin your day by getting you to focus on things you cannot control, he also saps your time, energy, and strength so that you pay very little attention to the things that you can control.
By keeping your focus entirely on things that you cannot control, he keeps you helpless. He keeps you a slave.
You only have a limited amount of time. You only have a limited amount of energy.
Imagine what it would be like if you were to focus 100% of your time and energy on the things which are entirely under your own control:
- Is there something you do which is godly, bringing joy to yourself and to others? You have control over that. Do it again!
- Is there something you do which is sinful, bringing suffering and anxiety and frustration to your own plans, and to the plans of others? You have control over that. Repent!
- Is there something you think about which is sinful, bringing down your emotional state, and eventually driving you into sinful activities? You have control over that. Repent!
- Is there something you think about which is pure, good, holy, and uplifting, bringing joy to your heart and a smile to your face? You have control over that. Think more of those same thoughts!
In 2007, the Scientific American journal published the results of a study which showed that the average adult, whether male or female, speaks approximately 16,000 words daily. That’s 16,000 words every single day. If you are in bed for 8 hours sleeping (or at least trying to sleep), that means you speak about 1,000 words every waking hour. On average, another word comes out of your mouth every 3 ½ seconds, throughout the entire day, every day of your life.
Consider the words of Jesus:
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37)
Think about what Jesus says here, regarding your words. If you speak an average of 16,000 words every day, that means you have 16,000 occasions for judgment on a daily basis.
Not only does God judge our every word, He also judges our every thought:
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12-13)
Also, in Romans 2:16, St. Paul speaks of the “day when God will judge the secrets of men”.
If you speak 16,000 words every day . . . how many thoughts do you suppose you have?
Many times I catch myself thinking multiple thoughts before I open my mouth and say a single word. So if I am speaking 16,000 words a day, how many tens of thousands of thoughts do I have on a daily basis?
My thoughts and my words are under my control. According to Scripture, my thoughts and my words are very important, and are judged by God. Also, my thoughts and my words affect my mood, my actions, and the lives of the people around me.
Therefore, even if our number of thoughts is no higher than our number of words, that means that we still have over 30,000 opportunities—every day—to change our lives, and to change the world. We have 30,000 opportunities to either serve God, or to serve the devil. 30,000 opportunities daily, to actually exercise control over our emotions, our spiritual health, and our destiny.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21)
If you obey God, and if you pay close attention to those 30,000 thoughts and words on a daily basis, that means that every 2 seconds you make a new decision either to follow Christ or Satan, either to choose life or to choose death. And if you are careful about these decisions, if you carefully pay attention to your every thought, and to your every word, how much time will you have left to even think about how your brother has sinned, how your sister has stumbled, or how your spouse has wronged you? If you make 30,000 decisions daily to serve Christ, to think thoughts that are thankful, and to speak words that are edifying, what sort of a positive impact do you think that will have on your emotions, every day of your life?
We have heard the cliché about “the power of positive thinking”. We often dismiss this cliché, not because we haven’t heard it before, but because we simply do not believe it. First, we recognize that many of the people who use this phrase are actually not talking about “positive thinking”, but are instead talking about “selfish thinking”. Unfortunately, most motivational speakers are more excited in telling you how you can get a fat bank account and nice cars, and are less excited about serving Jesus Christ. Second, even if we have heard about the “power of positive thinking”, and even if we have rejected the selfish version of it, we still do not believe it. We do not believe it, because we do not believe that our thoughts and our words really have that much power.
But what does Scripture say?
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 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” (2 Cor 10:4-5)
And we already read Proverbs 18:21, where God says that “death and life are in the power of the tongue”. What greater power is there than the power of life and death?
Therefore, what greater power is there than the power of our thoughts, and the power of our tongues?
Let us not be slaves any longer. Let us never again allow our emotions to be dependent upon how our spouse, our children, our family, our friends, or our coworkers behave. Instead, let us make 30,000 godly decisions on a daily basis to take every thought captive to Christ, and to only speak words which are pleasing to Christ. God says that this sort of spiritual warfare is mighty. God says that this sort of spiritual warfare carries the very power of life and death.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
Positive thinking. It’s not just a good idea. It’s a command.