We’re in Week 5 of “In Hot Pursuit” (a 6-week study), and we’ve looked at various aspects of running this race with endurance for Christ. Throughout, we have touched on ways in which our thoughts affect our race, but it’s so important that that will be our full focus this week.
The daily race we run is mostly mental. I don’t think that’s overstated. We are with ourselves more than a spouse, child, parent, co-worker, or friend. We live in our minds—thinking, processing, planning, dreaming . . . worrying, wrestling, doubting, fearing. And wherever we are in our heart and mind, from there our actions follow. That’s why this Proverb tells us, and I love the Amplified version:
“Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23
Jesus also made clear that actions follow that which is within:
“For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” Matthew 12:34
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” Matthew 15:19
Stop and think: Have you ever taken an action that you didn’t first contemplate? Ever found your feet heading down a path that your mind never considered? Ever told a lie you didn’t first hatch in your brain?
If the issues of our lives—of this race—come from the heart, we have to make sure that what goes into the heart and mind is the right stuff.
We are not bystanders in our thought life. Much of what goes into our hearts and minds is under our control. The mistake we make is in thinking it won’t matter. We have to stand guard.
Here are some ways in which we can stand guard and take control of our thought life:
Guard what you watch and listen to. This is not about laying down rules. It’s about being real as we run this race. It matters what you watch and what you listen to. Some of our single sisters have said they don’t listen to certain love songs because of the thoughts that come to mind. That’s wisdom. That’s standing guard. Some married sisters don’t listen to certain songs because it reminds them of an old boyfriend . . . a road they don’t need to venture down in this race. Same with television and movies. If you know there will be a lot of sensual or other action that will cause you to stumble rather than run with endurance, why give it entry into your mind? Those are thoughts you will only end up wrestling with and trying to kick out later. Better to keep them out from the beginning.
Guard what you read. A couple of weeks ago, a fellow Christian author posted a top ten list of African-American books for 2011. I don’t consider myself naïve, but I was shocked when I saw that two or three of them were erotica. These “bestsellers” are guaranteed to fill your thoughts with what is perverse and unholy, and they are guaranteed to negatively affect your race. If you are trying to run in hot pursuit and dabble in these books, throw them out or delete them from your e-reader. Now.
But it doesn’t have to be that extreme. We need to make wise choices in all that we read, even the political stuff. This is the season when Facebook and Twitter explode with political posts. But if filling up on politics causes you to rant and otherwise act ugly toward people on the other end of your politics, how will you walk in love with them as you run your race? In this race, we are more Christian than Democrat or Republican. Guard your heart against anything that will take you off course.
Guard your interactions. If you have a friend who always questions what God calls you to do—which leaves you doubting God by the end of the conversation—refrain from sharing such things with that friend. If Facebook and Twitter fill your mind with distractions when you need to focus on your race, stand guard with respect to your time there. And if you know you have no business chatting with that guy on Facebook, turn off the chat feature. Otherwise, he’ll be turning over and over in your thoughts . . . a distraction at best, which could lead to worse.
Guard against intruders. Some thoughts come courtesy of the enemy, as he fires his darts into our minds. We need to be ever alert, ready to take captive those “intruders” . . . even the feel-good tempting ones. The minute we recognize that we are dwelling on something that’s not of God, we need to cast it out and replace it with what is of God.
God has given us the thought-path for this race. He says, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8
Do you tend to be a bystander in your thought life? Or do you actively guard the input and activity of your heart and mind?