Q. Can you give me any suggestions on how can I control my thoughts?
A. A friend of mine related this experience of learning how to control impure thoughts.
After he gave his heart to the Lord, his past sinful experiences still frequently came to mind. He asked a number of ministers for their guidance. Some told him to try harder, others to have more faith in God, or to pray more. But nothing seemed to help.
One day a visiting speaker came to his church. Again he asked for help with his impure thoughts. Wisely, the preacher said, ‘Why don’t you do what at David did?” and then referred him to Psalms 119:111 “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”
When we come to Jesus our minds are like a bucket of muddy water. If we put just a few drops of God’s Word in our mind from time to time, years later our minds will still be filled with muddy water. If we place our bucket of muddy water under a strong tap and turn it on full/ it will soon have clear water in it. Likewise, if we allow the Word of God to flood into our minds, our minds will soon become cleansed. The Word will be a power against the temptations of Satan.
Study God’s Word, morning and evening and, if possible, during the day. Not only study and read the Word, but memorize and share it. This will give you power to turn the tide away from your evil thoughts. In addition, there is a special promise you can claim in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 about controlling your thoughts.
One last word of counsel. Don’t confuse temptation with sin. The wrong thoughts may come, but only if you dwell on them can you be contaminated by them. By submitting your mind to Jesus and replacing impure thoughts with good thoughts, you can have control over impure thoughts.
Q. I’m having a hard time with sinful thoughts. When I try to stop thinking them, they get stronger. Now that I’ve given up my bad habits, people think I’m a “good Christian,” so I feel like a hypocrite. How do I overcome this temptation?
A. Bad thoughts—whether impure, covetous, negative or self-pitying—are the “acceptable” sin of our age. They do not cost anything, inconvenience anyone, or tarnish our reputation, as long as we keep them within the confines of our mind. Sometimes psychotherapists even encourage us to vent our frustrations through our imagination. Yet, the Bible is clear. Sins of the mind are as sinful as the act. Matthew 5:21-23, 27, 28.
Sinful thoughts may not always be without consequence. In Mark 7:21-22, Jesus traces evil acts to evil thoughts: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.”
Here are a few ways to help harness the powers of your mind:
Recognize your weakness and take hold of God’s strength. In our own strength we can do nothing, but “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:13, emphasis added. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God … Casting down imaginations … and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:4, 5. When temptation troubles the mind, pray for victory, and it will be yours.
Banish idleness. It is a breeding ground for temptation. The sin of Sodom was, among others, an “abundance of idleness.” Ezekiel 16:49. Likewise, it was when David left the battlefield, returned to Jerusalem for a few days’ rest, and saw Bath-sheba bathing, that adultery germinated in his mind and brought forth a terrible harvest of sins. 2 Samuel, Chapter 11. So keep occupied. Stay busy with your work, home, family and church duties.
Guard the avenues of the mind. Job confessed, “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?” Job 31:1. Keep away from sources of temptation, whatever they may be—the magazine rack in the supermarket, late night television, or unsanctified conversations among your co-workers.
Immerse yourself in Scripture. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Psalm 119:11. How can the mind dwell on shameful things and at the same time have thoughts of Christ crucified for our sins or thoughts of the lives of God’s people? Bible memorization is a powerful weapon in the mental battle against temptation.
Preoccupy your mind with good things. The mind cannot be empty. To suppress evil thoughts, replace them with something else, with something better. Philippians 4:8 should be our guide: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Cultivate the mind to think noble, elevated thoughts. Keep it active and focused, and you will reach higher toward the goal of Christian perfection.
A German song says:
“The thoughts are free, who can fathom them?
They fly over, like shadows in the night.
No men can know them, no hunter can shoot them.”
Yet, there is One who reads our mind like an open book. If our thoughts were written in the sky for all to see, would we be ashamed? God’s opinion should matter much more!