When your mind is not focused on anything in particular, where does it go? What do you find yourself thinking? Because God is renewing our minds, which in turn enlarges our hearts and ultimately bends our will to align with His, we should be able to say that our minds turn (more often than not) to God. To be sure, from time to time our minds drift on to the mudflats of life and we think what we ought not to be thinking. But as the Gospel becomes more real in our lives, our minds begin to migrate more and more frequently into Gospel gardens.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9 NIV)
The great musician Franz Joseph Haydn of the classical period understood this exhortation and lived it out because of his faith in Christ. When asked why his church music was so cheerful, Haydn replied, “When I think upon God, my heart is so full of joy that the notes dance and leap, as it were, from my pen, and since God has given me a cheerful heart I will serve Him with a cheerful spirit.” Haydn’s joy was rooted in God; the more he thought about God, the more joyful was his experience in life. Haydn knew what to think about . . . and His name is Jesus Christ.
How often we should be able to say to others, “When I think upon God, my heart overflows with thanksgiving for all He has done for me.” The challenge for all of us is we let ourselves get caught up in what I call “stinking thinking”—we do just the opposite of what Paul instructs us to do. We think about whatever is wrong, what is defiled and unlovely. We reflect on what we don’t have rather than what we do have. We focus on what we have done wrong rather than what He has done right. This is precisely where the devil wants to direct our thoughts—toward that which is false and fleshly, rather than toward Him who is true and triune.
But this is not for you! And Paul confirms it with another inspired instruction:
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)
When we set our minds on things above, we won’t be pulled down by things below. Regardless of how strong the storm winds blow, we remain upright and on course. Regardless of how hot the fiery furnace of affliction flares, we are unharmed. Regardless of how deep the current of corruption surges, we are unmoved. When we think about the things of God, we are strengthening our minds to rise above the challenges of daily living. Sure, the fight is fierce and the battle rages. But we already have the strength we need to become more than conquerors (Romans 8:37) . . . we have that strength in Jesus. We need only to focus our attention more and more on Him, and we will be less and less affected by whatever is going on around us.
The next time you catch yourself engaging in “stinking thinking,” pause and reflect on the finished work of Christ. He has already won the victory over whatever trial or temptation you are facing. Paul said, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). The more time we spend thinking about the victory Jesus has already won for us on the cross, the more we will live like victors rather than victims. Think about these things . . . won’t you?
Oh, Victory in Jesus, my Savior forever
He sought me and he bought me with His redeeming blood
He loved me ere I knew Him, and all my love is due Him
He plunged me to Victory, beneath the cleansing flood.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!