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Greetings again, and the Lord bless you. We do delight in the letters that you send. Sometimes we comment about these letters because they’re so typical, and tonight one or two sentences from one, I want to talk just a little bit about. This one wrote:
“I just cannot get victory in my thoughts. You remember that I wrote to you some time ago about someone I was living with that was very hateful and sensitive and says such unkind things, and I wrote that I had victory over saying anything back again. I was able to control my tongue and not answer back at all. But I haven’t changed my thinking any. I may have self-control so far as it’s concerned outwardly, but I’m just seething and boiling on the inside.”
I won’t read the rest of this, but it reminded me of the story—perhaps I’ve told you one time—about the little boy that was punished for something that his mother had told him again and again not to do, and finally she said, “You sit there and sit there until I tell you to get up.” And he sat there and he was very angry about it and hurt and so willful about the whole thing. At last the mother said, “Now, Jimmy, do you feel better about it and are you ready now to obey?” He said, “Well, I’m sitting down, but I’m still standing up so far as the inside is concerned!” She had wanted him to sit down and not stand up anymore, but he was still standing up on the inside.
So many times it’s that inward struggle of the mind. That’s why God’s Word makes it so plain in Romans 7:25 and Philippians 4:8. I was listening to John Brown the other morning, and he said one of the greatest gifts God has made to His children was the power to think. Our thoughts are a vital part of our earthly life; our thoughts are things. Oh, how true it is.
So many people don’t realize that thoughts are really things that accompany us wherever we go. We can no more get away from our thoughts than we can get away from our shadow. If our thoughts are pure and holy, they come to be the best and dearest of our traveling companions. But when they’re evil and degrading, they’ll dog our footsteps and they’ll haunt you when you try to go to sleep at night. It’s the old foundation fact that our desires are the direct outflow of our thinking.
I read a book some time ago, I wish I knew where it was or could find amongst my things again, and it was called Thinking White. Thoughts are things, and we exhaust our energies dealing with the facts and we fail to deal with the source, which is in the mind, to keep it pure, to think loveliness and godliness, to “think on these things,” God’s Word says.—The persistently, fixedly, intelligently setting your mind on that which is lovely and pure. “Whatsoever things are lovely,” God’s Word says, “think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
You know that scripture so well, but let’s meditate on it again for just a little bit. “Whatsoever things are lovely, think on these things.” All high and holy aspirations really come from high and holy thinking. We’re just heads about with so much that’s lovely and beautiful and so wonderful, that it’s a shame when the thoughts go wandering amongst tares and brambles and on the vicious and upon ugly things.
That’s an awful thing when you think how beautiful God has made the world and how He has given us so many lovely things to think about, so many lovely things to see. You know that we’re too busy today to do any thinking properly, to meditate. Like the mother that went to visit her son living in a Chicago apartment. He rushed here and there and he was so busy, and it was, “How do you do, Mother” and “Good-bye, Mother.” Oh, he was so terribly busy. And one day she said to him, “Son, when do you do your thinking?”
Well, many of us today as I fear are just too busy to stop to really think, and whoever wrote that book on the “Lost Art of Thinking” certainly wrote a truth. We’re just so busy that we can’t sit down and really meditate on the Word of God and think Godward and “set our affection on things above,” as God’s Word says, and “not on the things that are upon the earth.” For God’s Word says, “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. Set not your affection on the things that are below but on the things that are above” (Colossians 3:2–3). Your mind has to be centered on the things that are above.
The battles of life are first fought on the battleground of the thoughts, and the issues of life are determined in the mind. I really believe that that’s true. Murder is committed within the precincts of the mind first of all. That shot that assassinated our President recently, that man meditated upon that and that was all fixed in his mind before he ever fired the shot.31 The unseen thief puts out his hand and steals the watch, but first he has stolen it somewhere there within the precincts of his mind.
We teach our children they mustn’t do this and they mustn’t do that because it’s Lord-defiling. But I wonder why we don’t talk to them about the thinking that their thoughts have to be pure, that their thoughts have to be centered upon the things that are of God. It was a charge of God made in the old times that His people would not think. He said, “My people will not consider” (Isaiah 1:3).
Thinking just seems to be such a lost art, and people don’t think as they should these days, don’t take the time just to sit down and think the thing out. God would show you a plan. He would show you how the thing is to be done or He would unravel the whole situation for you if you would just look to Him and sit down in His presence, or kneel down before Him would be better, and give Him a chance.
These thoughts of hate and revenge and criticism, and like this woman said in this letter, that she still has those awful feelings of resentment and that feeling of hate in her heart. It seems to me that it’s almost unpardonable that we should allow our minds to linger, even for the briefest space of time, on that which is so hateful and defiling.
The battles that are fought in the mind: How can we overcome? What is the secret of the overcoming? Well, of course, the only way to get rid of impure thoughts is to throw over against them thoughts of purity and loveliness, transplanting. The way to get rid of lying thoughts is to throw over against them thoughts of honesty.
Someone has said the only way to reap a proper harvest from these fertile gardens of the mind is to carefully sow the seed and carefully tend the crop. I remember my father made me learn as a little girl, and perhaps you learned the same:
Sow a thought, and you reap an action;
Sow an action, and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.
God’s Word says that “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). Thoughts may be the most insignificant of things known only to your own self. Yet thinkers today and great psychologists tell us that each thought influences the sum total of the brain.
I read the story the other day of a man who had been so long a stagecoach driver that his fingers had fixed in such a way that they were stiff. He had held the lines for so many years, and so as his hands grew old, they were crooked and hooked, and they wouldn’t straighten. Well, there’s a similar process that goes on in man’s mind when they continue to think the same things over and over.
If one’s trained from childhood to be gentle, kindly, patient, to control the temper, to speak softly, to be loving and charitable, of course they’ll grow into a radiant, beautiful, lovely one. But one who accustoms himself to think habitually of that which is low and vile and to think downward, and ugly tempers and resentful feelings and bitterness and anger, the life will shape itself into that which is not beautiful, but debasing, unholy, and unclean. They’ll find their whole soul bending and growing toward the earth in a sort of a permanent moral curvature, we might call it, while the other is growing into that which is noble and worthy. It’s that he “set his affection on the things above and not on the things of the earth.” “Whatsoever things are true,” God’s Word says, “whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, think on these things.”
What is the secret of it all? The secret of it all is to forsake your thoughts and put your thoughts in God’s Word and upon the Lord Jesus Christ. There is the whole secret. As you think upon Him, as you lift your mind to the lovely Christ and set your affection on the things above, He’ll give you a new mind, one that’s wholly opposite from the old mind. Just as long as you get rid of that old earthly mind, then God can transform you. As you look at the Lord Jesus Christ and all His sweetness and purity and holiness, you yourself will grow to be like the Lord Jesus. That’s the way to get the victory and the only sure way.
God bless you and keep you prayerful, reading His Word, that you might grow like Him. He’s still on the throne. Prayer does change things.