Small Things Big Difference: Week Two - "Fix Your Thoughts"
This week we we are continuing the sermon series, "Small Things Big Difference," and we're focusing on a very simple yet very important truth: It's often the small things that no one sees that result in the big things that everyone wants.
Sometimes is might feel like it's going to take far too much energy, talent, time, effort to change the things in our lives that we know need changing.
You might feel overwhelmed by a dead-end career, a marriage that isn't going well, poor health, struggles with faith... However, what we learned last week is that it doesn't take much to begin the transformations that we long for in life--especially when we feel stuck.
I challenged everyone last week to find their one word--the one word that might be speaking into their life. How many of you did that? How many of you by show of hands found your one word this week? For those of you who didn't raise your hand, I have your one word for you: Procrastination!
Seriously, I have had several of you let me know the word that you were given this past week. I shared mine with you. It was "peace." When I asked God at the beginning of the year to give me a word that would help me shape my year in a positive direction, "peace" was the word that I received. I didn't want that word, honestly. But I discovered that even though it wasn't the word I wanted, it was the word I needed.
Along with your one word, I also asked you all to find your one verse that would help to illuminate your one word and then cement it into your heart and soul. My verse was Isaiah 26:3: "The Lord will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, who put their trust in Him." After I shared that verse last week, I had one of our traditional worshippers share with me as he was walking out the door that my verse had been important to him, too. "That verse got me through World War II," he told me. I felt kind of lowly at that point. My verse just got me through a landscaping project last month. Perspective.
Still, it's my verse for my one word. Hopefully you were able to find yours.
These small beginnings are important because our thoughts can become words, our words can become actions, our actions can become habits and our habits can shape our destiny. So yeah... these little things can become big things quickly.
It's the small things no one sees that result in the big things everyone wants.
Today we are going to be thinking about how our thoughts can help shape the things we say and do--and even the very course of our lives. Thoughts are important.
Did you know that life will always move in the direction of your strongest thoughts? It's true. Thousands of years ago one of the wisest men in the Bible wrote this: "For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he." That man was Solomon and he wrote that in Proverbs 23:7.
Don't miss the power of this... Your life will move in the direction of your strongest thoughts. The way you think, the things you think, the shape of your thoughts---are powerful.
If you walk around all of the time thinking that you can't--you probably won't. On the other hand, if your thoughts lean toward the idea that you can--you probably will.
If you live your life dwelling on your problems then they will probably overwhelm you. But if you live your life looking for opportunities, you will likely see some.
If your personal narrative is one in which you are always the victim--you will become one. But if you believe that your are an overcomer, you will soon discover that you can--overcome.
Your life will always move in the direction of your strongest thoughts.
I want us to do a little thought audit.
Take a look at the little continuum below... I want you to circle where you find yourself on a scale of 1-10, 1 being Worried and 10 being Peaceful. If you are the kind of person that walks around wringing their hands all of the time, expecting that the world is going to end at any moment, hackers are constantly stealing your identity, people are stealing your belongings every day while you are at work and replacing them with the exact duplicates... you might be a "1." But on the other hand if you don't ever worry about a single thing in life the universe and everything--you need to circle "10" If you find yourself somewhere in between, then circle a number there, of course.
Worried 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Peaceful
Okay, next we have a continuum with Negative and Positive. If you are blessed with the gift of negativity--you always find a hundred things wrong with an idea before considering something right, your glass isn't just half full, it's almost completely empty--then you probably need to circle "1" If you never say anything or think anything negative at all, at any time, about anything, or anyone then circle "10"
Negative 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Positive
Finally, we have Worldly and Eternal. If you never really think about spiritual matters, or things that have to do with God, church, faith, Jesus, etc. If you are completely consumed with this life, material possessions, being liked, having people share your latest selfie on Instagram... then you probably need to circle "1" If you walk around with a halo balanced above your head and angels sing wherever you go and your body sort of glows with a holy glow, if you only focus on giving, caring, selflessness then circle a "10"
Worldly 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Eternal
Unless you circled all "10's" this message is for you. Seriously. This message lands on every single one of us. We all have issues with our thoughts. We all need to have our thoughts directed better so that our life can move in the right direction. Because your life will always move in the direction of your strongest thoughts.
But how do we figure out how to shape our thoughts in such a way that we can accomplish this? How can we become the people that we long to be--change the things we need to change in order to fulfill our God-given destiny? The truth is, we can't do this alone. The Apostle Paul wrote almost two thousand years ago about this very thing in a letter he wrote to Roman Christians in the first century. He told them,
Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God
transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then
you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing
and perfect. Rom 12:2 NLT
So how can change the way we think so that God can transform us into the people we long to be? We capture our destructive thoughts. Again, the Apostle Paul is very helpful. In another of his letters to the early church, Paul wrote this:
3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world
does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.
On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up
against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to
make it obedient to Christ. - 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
There are two incredible words in this passage of Scripture that you need to underline in your Bible or write down in your notes. They are both in verse four. The first word is the word "power," which in Greek is dunamis--where we get the word dynamite. The next word is strongholds, which in Greek is ochuroma.
You will not want to miss this, so listen carefully. The word ochuroma is only used this once in the New Testament. It's a word that means fortress, but it also has the connotation of being a prison as well. In Paul's native Cilicia where he was raised, the Romans famously defeated pirates on the coast and then tore down their ochuromas or strongholds. But the word is also used in ancient Greek to describe a place inside someone's head where they go to escape reality.
So when you walk around saying, "I can't." "I won't." "I'm not good enough." "I can't change." "I will never be happy." "I will never be healthy." You are simply reinforcing the stronghold, the ochuroma in your head--a prison that keeps you from living into the new reality of the expansive life God wants for you.
There is a very cool app for kids on the iPhone called "Truth or Trash." When you open it, the app will provide you with a statement like: "I am set free by the Truth." and then you get to choose whether it's "truth" or "trash." It's obviously true, right? So you touch "true" on the screen. But then it will give you something like, "It is impossible to change my bad habits." and you need to choose "truth" or "trash." At this point, you can totally pound that "trash" button and give it some attitude--"Yo baby, that's TRASH!"
Every single day you have the potential to tap into the power--the dynamite power--of the Holy Spirit to decide what is truth or trash. You capture those destructive thoughts and make it obedient to Christ's love inside of you.
You might be sitting here thinking, "I can't make a difference---I can't change---I can't be better---all because of what I've done, because of who I am, because of what's been done to me..."
That's trash, brothers and sisters! You need to choose the truth about you...
"It's not what I did, it's what God has done. It doesn't matter who others say I am--it only matters who God says I am. I am not stuck in life I am an overcomer by the blood of the Lamb. I have not blown it by my mistakes or wrong choices--God works in all things for good!"
The second way we can change the way we think is by fixing our thoughts on spiritual things. In another letter Paul wrote to the early church he said,
8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your
thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and
lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and
worthy of praise… 9 Then the God of peace will be with you. - Philippians 4:8-9
The thought that shaped the course of my life for years was one that was actually voiced by my wife first. We were driving home from church during the first year of our marriage and she suddenly said to me, "You would make a great minister." I laughed at her pretty hard then because becoming a minster was the last thing I ever wanted to do--ever. And I also thought I was perhaps the worst person on the face of the earth to fulfill such a destiny. But this woman whom I loved, and respected believed this. And that thought hung with me for years.
Ten years after that thought entered my life---I was driving to Chicago to attend seminary to become a minister. All those years that thought shaped me. It was a strong thought, despite my efforts sometimes to silence it.
When you have a good, strong, life-giving thought it can change your life. "I would make a good minister," was mine. When I heard that thought, I always thought of my wife speaking it in to my life. It changed me. My life moved in the direction of that strong thought.
At this point, you are saying, "But Leon you are a preacher. That kind of thing is supposed to happen to you! You glow with a holy glow!" Ha! That was my derisive laugh. You obviously don't know me.
The thing is, when you have a strong thought you not only move in the direction of that strong thought--you often find what you are looking for. A vulture always finds what it's looking for, right? A vulture circles and then exclaims "Dead possum!"
We have a whole bunch of vultures that roost on the tower of our historic sanctuary every morning. They glare at me when I show up early on Sundays. Here's some advice: don't fall down in the courtyard. Vultures find dead things because that's what they are looking for. But a hummingbird flies around seeking nectar--and those little birds always find flowers to sip that nectar from, don't they?
You will find what you're looking for---dead things or sweet things---truth or trash. Your choice.
If you fix your thoughts on what is true, what is honorable, right and pure---you will begin to see them everywhere. If you begin your day with prayer, with joy, with thanksgiving, you will begin to find nectar, you will see truth. If you replace negative talk radio on your morning commute with great music or your favorite sermon--you will discover that you will start to see sweetness and truth all around you.
You will see God everywhere, opportunities to be Jesus everywhere, chances to show the love of Christ, to express joy, to experience happiness and fullness in life all over the place!
And all of this can begin with a single strong thought.
After I figured out my one word, and found my one verse--I started praying and thinking about my one thought. I wanted to discover something that would help cement my one word and verse even further into my soul. I began thinking the same thing over and over again through this whole process. "Greater is the One in me than the one who is in the world." In other words, "Christ in me is more powerful, more loving, more giving, more everything than anything I can find in the culture around me." "Greater is the One in me than the one who is in the world."
I don't know what you one thought might be. Maybe it's "Not by my strength or power but by God's Spirit I will be different." or "I am a giver, I truly believe it is more blessed to give than receive." or "I am a new person the old person I used to be is gone!"
Your assignment this week is to find that one thought---that one good strong thought that will guide your life. Because your life will always move in the direction of your strongest thoughts.
Your thoughts can help shape your words, your words can help change your habits and when you change your habits, you can change your very destiny. You are not stuck. You can do all things through Christ. You can trust God with everything you can't control. With God's help, you will find the courage to become the person you have always longed to become.
And it starts small. It's the small things no one sees that result in the big things everyone wants.