Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Learn to Control Your Mind

It's important to develop control over our minds. It's a form of self-discipline. The Bible tells us to take every thought captive to bring it into subjection to Christ (II Cor. 10:5). It also tells us to think on things that are noble, pure, and true (Philippians 4:8). Part of loving God with our minds is learning to think about things that are pleasing to Him and not giving a place in our minds to thoughts that would grieve our Savior.

We can control what we think about. It's something we all have to learn. It doesn't come naturally. We naturally just follow our passions and appetites as children do. But as we mature, we must practice controlling ourselves, and that includes what we allow to occupy our thoughts. We can't always help it when a thought enters our minds, but we can choose not to dwell on it.

The best way to combat intrusive thoughts is to replace them with something else that is good. Replace wrong thoughts with truth. Replace hateful thoughts with kind and compassionate ones. Replace fearful thoughts with remembrance of God's faithfulness and provision. Replace bitterness with forgiveness. Replace temptation with meditating on God's word or thanksgiving for our blessings. Replace self-condemnation with praise to God for His forgiveness.

Learning mental self-control is also very important for developing self-control in other areas as well. After all, every sin starts with a tempting thought. Learning to stop temptation in the mental stage makes it far easier to avoid turning it into sinful action.

Controlling our thoughts is also important for controlling our emotions. Emotions follow our thoughts. We should certainly learn to avoid spewing our emotions through our behavior, especially where it would be wrong or inappropriate to do so. But we can often stop the emotion all together by controlling our thoughts. Emotions don't have to control us.

Self-discipline of the mind is also how we obey the commands of God. God commands us to love Him and praise Him, for example. But we must do these things authentically. God doesn't want just empty words. True praise and love come from the heart. We develop these things in our hearts by controlling what we think about. If we want to love God, we must think about the good things He has done - both for us and for others throughout history - and the virtues of God's character. We must meditate on His justice, His mercy, His provision, His patience, and so on. That takes purposeful thinking and developing a habit of this kind of thinking.

Controlling our thoughts and emotions properly is not something we learn overnight. It's a habit we must form by constantly checking our thoughts and choosing to think of something better when harmful or wrong thoughts intrude. We can't let ourselves be passive bystanders of our own thoughts. It might take pushing a thought away hundreds or even thousands of times and purposely making ourselves think of something else instead before we find victory. It takes identifying thoughts that are good to dwell on and putting them in the place of harmful or false thoughts. It can be mentally exhausting at times. But it grows easier with practice. And it's a habit well worth cultivating.

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