You are what you think
Mary Slessor, the courageous red-haired missionary who became known as the ‘White Queen of the Cannibals’, wrote home to friends in Scotland about the victorious life of a certain woman believer in Africa.
She is so poor that she has not one farthing in this world but what she gets from us, not a creature to do a thing for her, her house all open to rain and ruin, and into which the cows rush at times. But blind Mary is our living, bright, clear light. Her voice is set to music, a miracle to the people here who know only how to groan and grumble. She is ever praising the Lord and her testimony to the Saviour is not a shabby one’.
Although this African woman had none of the conveniences and blessings that many of us take for granted, she had more joy in her heart and life than most of us.
How sad it is that many who profess to be Christians do not have in their lives the joy that Jesus Christ promised to his followers! (John 16:24). Instead of experiencing a healthy, happy life, they become physically, psychologically or spiritually ill because their mental attitudes do not harmonise with the teachings of God’s Word.
The Bible sets forth some clear instructions for the way of the good life. Even though blind Mary couldn’t read, she followed that way because she lived so close to the Lord. The Holy Spirit was her teacher.
One clear-cut biblical principle that gives promise of good health to those who fulfil its requirements is found in Proverbs 3:5-8: ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones’.
As a person thinks in his heart, says Proverbs 23:7 so he is. A thousand years after King Solomon wrote that, our Lord Jesus Christ taught that our behaviour and speech are governed by our hearts and minds (Luke 6:45). Our whole lives are affected by the way we think.
Doctors, psychiatrists, hospitals, and mental institutions today have more patients than they can handle. Even professing Christians may be in such physical, mental, or emotional states that life with them and in them is a constant turmoil.
Their hearts are full of anxiety, worries, fears, pride, hatred, bitterness, and resentment – all evidences of self-centred thinking that wreak havoc in their unhappy lives as well as in those who have to live with them.
Two women I knew had a disagreement. Angry words were spoken. One woman would not forgive the other and nourished a grudge. Before long her ulcers were acting up and other physical ailments asserted themselves.
How much better it would have been for her if she had only set aside her pride, bitterness and resentment and asked the Lord to help her to be truly forgiving and loving!
So often it’s in our heart (or mind) where trouble begins. That’s where pride and other harmful attitudes originate, according to Jesus Christ (Mark 7:21-22). Your heart is the real you – your inmost being, encompassing your will, your intellect and your sensibilities.
What is the real ‘you’ like? It shows itself in your attitudes, your words, and your actions. It affects your life in every way.
When we trust Jesus Christ as our Saviour, we become new persons (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are given new hearts (Ezekiel 18:31). We are filled with love, peace, joy and faith. Negative attitudes are gone.
As time goes on, however, we may drift away from the Lord. We may allow some things or thoughts to come between us and God. Self moves in and crowds out God’s Spirit. With self comes a whole Pandora’s box of negative attitudes that can cripple our lives.
Our mental environment
What do we daily take into our minds? Dr G. Campbell Morgan wrote as follows in his booklet, Life’s problems: ‘It is impossible for any man, whatever his position in the realm of thought may be, to deny that men bequeath to their children their dispositions, their tendencies, their characters. Remember, you never touch a man without influencing him’.
We are constantly influenced in our thinking by what we see, hear, and experience. That’s why God taught his people that their whole beings were to be permeated with love for God (see Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
This way of life protects us from unwholesome, destructive and ungodly thoughts that lead to wrong actions. If the Israelites had followed God’s instructions, they would have avoided wars, famines, plagues and much grief. The apostle Paul wrote, ‘These things happened to them as examples, and were written down as warnings for us’ (1 Corinthians 10:11).
Love versus hate
Compare harmful attitudes with the healthy ones God urges us to have. The most important positive attitude God wants us to have is love. Jesus said the two great commandments were to love the Lord with all our hearts, souls and minds, and to love our neighbours as ourselves (Matthew 37, 39).
John 4:8 says, ‘God is love’. God’s love – ‘shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us’ (Romans 5:5) – will banish hatred and its ugly offspring of hostility, bitterness, wrath, envy and resentment. Love is patient and kind (1 Corinthians 13:4).
Humility versus pride
Pride caused the Satan’s downfall (Isaiah 14:13). Pride led to man’s first sin. Pride probably keeps more people out of heaven than anything else, because they will not humble themselves and become as little children (Matthew 18:3).
Pride causes people to be egotistical, self-righteous, embittered, resentful and sarcastic. Prideful people ‘build mountains out of molehills’. They are often argumentative, uncompromising and aggressive. They find fault with others and are chronically hostile. Think of the arguments and unpleasantness we would avoid, the tranquilizers we could throw out, if we were humble like Jesus!
Faith versus fear
A great enemy to our physical, mental and spiritual health is fear, with its depressing side effects of worry and anxiety. ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:6-7).
If we believe God works all things for our good (Romans 8:28), let us trust in him and accept the peace he has for us.
The more time we spend with our Lord – talking to him, praising him, listening to him through his Word – the more we will be like him and know his love, peace and joy. The more also will others see Christ in us.
The Bible says, ‘For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline’ (2 Timothy 1:7).
Adapted from Dr Muriel Larson’s book, You are what you think, Bible Voice (1974). ISBN: 0891290249.