The Christian’s Thought Life
David Taylor, Kirknewton
By way of introduction, let us press the importance of this subject. Proverbs 23. 7, tells us that, 'as he thinketh in his heart, so is he'. A man may not be what he thinks he is, but as he thinks - he is. By thoughts character is formed. Proud thoughts make a proud man, carnal thoughts make a carnal man, and spiritual thoughts make a spiritual man. The character of our Christian living depends on the quality of our Christian thinking. Proverbs 4. 23 says, 'Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues (or actions) of life'. Psalm 39. 3 says, 'My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned'. Jeremiah 20. 9 says, 'His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones'. Deep pondering can set the heart on fire. In meditation the mind can picture scenes of kindness and be aroused to tender feeling, or picture scenes of cruelty and be stirred to indignation. In Psalm 45. 1 the writer says, 'My heart is inditing a good matter', as he pictured the greatness and beauty of the King. In Luke 12. 17 the rich farmer thought he had a long and prosperous life, and planned without God. The picture we have before our minds is very important, and should be a matter of prayer.
We want now to look at various aspects of our subject.
1 Anxious Thoughts
We speak about the ravages of war, but it is well known that worry kills more people than war. Anxiety, fear, frustration and anger are very harmful physically as well as dishonouring to God. In 1 Samuel 25 we have the story of a man called Nabal, who was a rich farmer. When he was shearing sheep, David sent his men to ask for a present. Nabal who is described as churlish and evil in his doings, sent David's men away empty. When David heard this, he got ready to slay Nabal. Abigail, Nabal's wife who was of a kinder disposition, sent David a present. When Nabal was sober Abigail told him how near he had been to real trouble, and his heart died within him, and he became as a stone, v. 37. Ten days later he was dead. Young's Concordance says of him: 'Nabal, a rich man who insulted David and died of fright'. We live in a welfare society, no one needs to be without food or raiment in these days, but it is also true we know more of the world's troubles and dangers than ever before, and the possibility of nuclear warfare troubles many. Fear is a fundamental human instinct known to all. It has often been said, 'Fear is more pain than is the pain we fear'.
Someone has put it in this way,
'Some of your griefs you have cured,
And the sharpest you still have survived,
But what torment and pain you endured,
From the evils that never arrived'.
Let us remember Cowper's words,
'Say not from whence shall God relieve thy care,
Remember that omnipotence has servants everywhere'.
2 Wandering Thoughts
We kneel down to pray and in a few minutes our thoughts have wandered. We open our Bibles to read and soon we lose the place, our thoughts have wandered. We ask why? Basically it is lack of interest. We listen to a speaker and again our thoughts wander. Not all speakers are interesting, and none can interest all the audience all the time. Reading a sensational story is different, the story keeps our interest. So when our interest is insufficient our thoughts wander to what we are interested in. In private reading and prayer we will find it helpful (where this is possible) to read and pray audibly.
3 Evil Thoughts
We will find, perhaps to our surprise, that evil thoughts will pass through our minds. These may be caused by circumstances, or the condition of out-bodies, or by temptation or frustration. No one escapes temptation, but it is yielding that is sin. It has often been said that while we can't keep the crows from flying over our heads, we can keep them from building their nests in our hair. In Psalm 119. 113, the writer says, 'I hate vain thoughts'. He does not say he escapes them, and if we hate them we will not invite them to stay with us, but will bid them a hasty goodbye. Such passing thoughts will leave no stain behind. The writer of Psalm 119. 113 not only said, 'I hate vain thoughts', but also said, 'thy law do I love', and the best way to keep evil thoughts out, is to think of things that are honest and good.
4 Despairing Thoughts
At times when things go wrong we get downhearted and feel like giving up. Perhaps we suffer from the result of fruitless toil, or nothing to encourage our hearts, or sometimes even receiving evil for good. On the other hand we may see Christian work being done, but feel inadequate and shrink from the task, and like Peter walking on the water, we become obsessed with our difficulties and get our eyes off the Lord.
In Philippians 4. 12-14, as Paul tells us how he faced life, he said, 'I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound', and then in verse 13 he adds, 'I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me'. An old preacher when he read these words stopped and said something like this, 'What is that you say Paul? You can do all things? I must profoundly disagree with you, for you cannot possibly do everything!' Then he continued, 'Now Paul what have you to say for yourself?' Then he read, 'I can do all things through Christ'. 'Ah', said he, 'that alters the situation completely and I heartily agree'. This was a rather unique way of showing that Paul had complete confidence in the Lord, but not the self-confidence so much commended in the world today. Paul had no despairing thoughts, he knew that whatever he was called upon to bear or asked to do, the Lord was able to sustain him. 2 Timothy 1. 7 says, 'God hath not given us the spirit of fear (cowardice); but of power (enabling us to do all things), and love (making all things easy), and a sound mind (making obedience wise)'.
It has been said, 'Where courage is not, no other virtue can survive except by accident'.