Ephesians 4: 17-18; 22-24
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts….
… You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Researchers have discovered that we humans have anywhere from 50,000 to 60,000 thoughts every day. But according to some findings, as many as 98 percent of them are exactly the same as we had the day before. We are creatures of habit! Even more significant is that up to 80 percent of our thoughts are negative and are draining energy from our lives. These include thoughts containing words like “never," “should,” and “can’t,” complaints, whining or thoughts that diminish our own or another’s sense of self-worth. They deplete the body by producing corresponding chemicals that weaken the physiology.
The Apostle Paul might not have known all the science, but he was emphatic in making clear that what we think determines the course and direction of our lives. Here in Ephesians 4 he says two things: (i) Don’t live in the futility of your mind and, (ii) Be renewed in the attitude of your mind. Paul is convinced that the attitude of our mind determines the atmosphere of our lives. Or as Proverbs 23: 7 puts it: “For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”
We can listen to weekly sermons, attend every conference, fast for weeks and pray every day but if our thoughts aren’t changed then nothing in our life changes. What you’re cultivating on the inside today is where your life is going to end up. That’s why we call it ‘a train of thought’. Our thoughts are taking us somewhere. They’re moving us in a particular direction towards a destination in our lives.
So we should probably ask ourselves: ‘Are my thoughts taking me where I want to go? Are they leading me to become the person I always wanted to be or are they leading me away from my destiny? Are they fruitful thoughts or futile thoughts?’
Pastor Will Bowen who leads a church in Kansas City understands the power of changing how we think. In an effort to help his congregation find a concrete way to focus on what they do want rather than what they don’t want, he created a purple bracelet and gave one to everyone at church one Sunday. Because it takes 21 days to create a new habit, the idea was for people to switch the bracelet to the other wrist if they found themselves complaining (one of the most common forms of negative thinking) - and keep switching it until they’d gone the full 21 days without a single complaint.
Incredibly, the “Complaint-Free World” project exploded from 250 bracelets to five million in nine months. Pastor Will has received letters from schools, prisons, hospitals, churches, businesses, even the Pentagon, telling him what a powerful and positive impact the bracelets have had. Families have become closer. People’s health has improved. People have turned their lives around.
Perhaps we need to spend some time this week thinking about what we think about. Our current reality and life experience is largely based on the cumulative effect of our thoughts up until this point in our lives. Frank Outlaw puts it like this:
Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.