Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Think right - act right!

Absolutely no one is immune to suffering.  Whether it is physical, mental, or emotional in nature, human nature just lends itself to suffering.  We cannot escape the fact - some suffering is brought on by our own doing!  Other times, it is completely out of our control.  The hardest thing to deal with is the type of suffering brought on by our own doing.  We often associate a sense of guilt and shame to our own failures, compounding the suffering any wrong choice, thought, or emotional attachment we may be going through.

Since Jesus went through everything you're going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you'll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.  (I Peter 4:1-2 The Message)

Peter's instruction to us in the midst of our suffering is to learn to think like Jesus.  In essence, Peter is reminding us of the power of the mind.  We all know how hard it is at times to even admit we need a change of thinking, much less actually accomplishing it!  Yet, Peter gives us a key to our ability to not only "deal" with suffering in our lives, but to walk above it.

To better understand the power of the mind, let's look for a moment at Paul's teaching to the Corinthian church when they were struggling on the rigidity of rule-keeping required by the Law of Moses:

We sometimes tend to think we know all we need to know to answer these kinds of questions—but sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds. We never really know enough until we recognize that God alone knows it all.  (I Corinthians 8:2-3 The Message)

In our suffering, we often gravitate to trying to "figure things out" in our own capacity.  We get into the "fix" mode, trying to "undo", "redo", or just plain "do".  Peter frames the "thinking" part of our suffering well, reminding us no one knows what we are going through like Jesus does.  He "connects" with us in our suffering because he is "connected to us" in his own suffering.  Learning to think as he thought in the midst of his suffering is then something we will do well to latch onto.

But...we cannot change our thinking until there is a change of heart.  The mind remains rigidly fixed on what it focuses on the most.  Sounds a lot like Solomon's reminder in Proverbs 23:7, "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he..."  The heart determines our course.  If we want to learn to "think" differently, we have to allow our "heart" to be changed.  

Our "hearts" want their own way.  Think again of the heart - the mind, will, and emotions.  Now, isn't this where the majority of our suffering begins?  The mind cooks up some scheme, the will engages the body in the mind's contrivance, and soon the emotions are carried away on the winds of foolish thought!

Look at what Paul says - sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds.  Paul says when we begin to determine to destroy the "independence" of our mind, will and emotions, we begin to live with humble hearts.  Did you know this is a definition of humility - to have the independence, power, or will of something destroyed once and for all?  

Now, chew on this one for a while.  When we struggle the most, we find ourselves returning to the place of trying to live independent from God.  In the midst of our struggle, God is working to break our independence.  Peter's word picture says a great deal about our struggle - tyrannized by what we want, we endure much suffering.  

As long as we remain attached to our "independence", we will endure much suffering.  It is in the humbling of our minds, submission of our will, and the focusing of our emotions where we come into a place where God can begin to affect our thinking.  He is changing our "way of thinking" to align with his - as we are developing the mind of Christ, we are being delivered from our place of suffering.  The mind and heart are indeed connected - as a man thinks, so is he!  When I begin to allow my independence to be destroyed, bringing into submission my will, the change in thinking begins to affect a change in action.  Changed actions often do a great deal to alleviate suffering.  Beginning to "think right" really goes a long way toward beginning to "act right"!

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