I was fussing in my television's general direction as my "instructor" proceeded to talk away. He aggravates me, to say the least. Does this happen to you, too? Maybe it's not because of a guy on an exercise video, but we all have those folks who just get under our skin a little for one reason or another. And then later, we find ourselves getting aggravated all over again as we replay it in our minds.. even if we don't admit it.
My husband said something very interesting as he listened to my fussing. He pointed out that I need to give some forgiveness to the poor guy. What?... What do you mean? He can't hear me. I'm only griping at a screen, technically. Forgiveness?? But it only took a second for the Holy Spirit to nod his head in agreement and help me realize that seemingly crazy notion was right. I needed to forgive a man I'd never met for something he never even did to me personally. I think my face is a little red.
How about that family member that really pushes your buttons? What about that co-worker whose voice just feels like nails on a chalkboard? Or maybe, let's hope not, the fellow church member your eyes seem to follow while your mind makes assumptions and, let's be honest, judgements!
Isn't that what we're doing? Be honest, now. When we boil off all the excuses, the reasons, the sugar-coated-oh-it's-not-as-bad-as-all-that nonsense, that's exactly what we are doing. We are noting (in likely too detailed an account) wrongs and mistakes. We are inferring a pattern of said no-no's. We are judging their hearts according to those perceived realities, and I do stressed perceived. And we are laying down the verdicts. (If I'm not mistaken, that's God's job!) Wow. We sure do a lot in a VERY little time. In a matter of a nano-second, we've done all this AND copped an attitude. An attitude that then sets the course for how we love, or don't love, them.. how we treat them.. how we do or don't pray for them. Would it surprise you to know that all of this could be different if we would just guard our minds and pray over what we find there?
We don't realize how often this occurs, unfortunately. We neglect the previewing, or scanning of our thoughts before we allow them to take root. We don't guard our minds! This is what we did before the Holy Spirit changed our hearts and made us new creatures. The second chapter of Ephesians tells us as much. This is a slavery from which we've been set free. Being set free means we don't have to go back to that kind of thought life. Our hands are not tied. We CAN change these sinful thought patterns. All glory to God for it!
Romans 12 is one chapter that addresses this so thoroughly, and it all starts with our minds. Renew.Your.Minds. (Romans 12:2) That is exactly what the Word tells us will transform us. Read on in the same chapter and you'll see that not only are we to change the way we think by striving to align our thinking with that of God's, but we are also to love others - outwardly! That's right.. even those others mentioned earlier.. the ones about which we are a little embarrassed to admit our thoughts. We are to love with a love that outwardly shows the kindness of Christ, our Saviour.
But all of this starts with guarding our minds. That is where sin begins - first as a thought that, left unchecked, takes root in our heart and flows out in our actions. Through prayer and careful examination, not to mention a little bit of quick-slow-slow (James 1:19-20), we are called to fight against these evil thoughts toward one another.
"But," you rebuttal, "you don't know this person! You don't know how bad she is, what she's done. I just don't know what I can do to change the way I feel about her." Maybe you can't, but we know God always can! Here are a few of my most trusted passages when I think of excuses just like yours:
- Galations 5:22-23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (ESV)
- Philippians 2:13 ...for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (ESV)
- Philippians 4:8-9 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (ESV)
1) Anything good in us, anything we need to please God, will be a fruit of the Spirit and God himself works in us. Conclusion: Submit! Pray! Have faith then that God will help you change your thought life. Then keep praying, submitting, repenting, rinse and repeat.
2) A good place to start when changing our thought life is to change the specific types of thoughts on which we choose to camp out! We have to push out the ugly as soon as is comes in and instead hunt down and trap the good. "But," you again rebuttal, "that's hard! I tried to tell you there's nothing gooood to find!" Yes, there is. You just have to be willing. God gives me grace, and I am to extend grace to others. My sin was not too great for God to forgive; no sin should be too great for me to forgive. Hard, but true. (See the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew Chapter 18 for more.) Think on the good. Love on purpose.
Another encouragement before I go... I know it's hard sometimes. I feel the way you may many times. One thing my Father has shown me is that it's entirely impossible to harbor ill feelings toward someone that you are praying for with a Godly-jealousy. In other words, when you're choosing to want Christ's love, grace and mercy poured out in another's life... when that is what you're praying for, thinking on, and wanting for them... there becomes no room left for sinful thoughts toward them as well.
Pray for me as God works on conforming my thoughts, mind, and heart regarding these things. Leave me a note below so I can pray for you, too! God Bless.
This post is linked with Women Living Well Link-Up Wednesday!