The power of our thoughts cannot be overestimated. The mind is our headquarters, our war room, our Oval Office. Our mental processes drive our attitudes, guide our decisions, and shape our community. Here thoughts coalesce into worldviews, seeds of selfishness or service incubate and blossom into sin or righteousness, and plans are hatched whether for good or evil.
In Part 1, I shared the need to tie up the loose ends of our minds (1 Peter 1:13) due to the worldview-creating power of our thoughts. Then in Parts 2-3, I shared some dynamics of the mind that help us form a blueprint of the battlefield.
1. The mind is a spiritual battlefield.
2. Human thoughts are incomplete, misshapen, and distorted.
3. Your thoughts reflect your identity.
4. Your thoughts reflect your values.
5. Your thoughts shape your relationships.
In this final installment, I want to share a few more dynamics of the mind.
6. Your thoughts affect your affections (Phil 4:6; Col 3:1-5). Our loves and hates, hopes and fears, trusts and suspicions are all affected by our thoughts. It’s easy to think that our affections are natural, spontaneous, and immutable. But the truth is that our affections are radically shaped by our thoughts. We do not only fall into love or react in hatred. We evaluate people and situations, and our developing thoughts shape our affections. Have you ever watched a movie whose plot is designed to draw the audience to side with the man who’s wrongfully divorcing his wife or the woman who’s recklessly embittered over circumstances of her own making? You’re forced to fight your misguided affections by reminding yourself of reality. You must reset your mind so that it reinforms your affections.
7. Your thoughts color your trials (Rom 8:28; James 1:2-4). How we think about a situation changes nothing and changes everything at the same time. Meditating on the promise of Rom 8:28 does not cancel your trial, but it does color your trial. And this is not a bait-and-switch or a hall of mirrors. It simply depends on which view of reality you’re taking—the temporal and earthly or the eternal and heavenly (2 Cor 4:16-18). James is not saying something outlandish or impossible when he urges us to “count it all joy . . . when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2-3).
8. Your thoughts fuel your attitude (Eph 4:32). Thoughts are high-octane entities. They are powerful stimulants for your attitude. Like protein for muscle, thoughts feed attitude. The more you think envious thoughts, the more jealousy will cloud your attitude and hijack your actions. The more you yield control to anxious thoughts, the more jittery and scattered and disillusioned will be your attitude. The more selfish your thoughts, the more you’ll take a stance that’s entitled, rights-oriented, demanding, and quick to take offense. But when you dwell on Christ’s forgiveness, you open a fuel line to gospel qualities: “kind,” “tenderhearted,” and “forgiving” (Eph 4:32).
9. Your thoughts are known and tested by God (Ps 139:1-2; 23-24). This reality is meant to encourage and frighten us all at the same time. God evaluates our thoughts and ambitions and motives and affections. He is not deceived by externals and outward actions and behavior modification. He knows what we think and why we think what we think. This should move us to gratitude, and motivate us to fear.