Last week, I talked about starting the journey of emptying myself to make room for God in my thoughts, choices, and way of life. I also noted that this is a process of growing that I will have to begin again each day. So, what practical steps can I take to make my mission a reality?
My first step has to be paying more attention to my thoughts. Do you ever really listen to yourself? My brain is going all the time, and most of that time does not involve thoughts one would call “God-worthy.” In fact, many times, my thoughts are busy being critical of myself and others. If I can do a better job of listening to my inner dialogue, I will immediately improve what my tongue actually says as well.
One of my current reads is the book on the Sermon on the Mount, Invitation to a Spiritual Revolution, by Paul Earnhart. This morning, I read his thoughts about Christ’s teachings on faith. Like the emptying of the self, faith is also a daily practice. Earnhart defines faith as “an active, practical force which affects the whole of life,” and little faith as that “which has not been carefully thought out and applied.”
When I allow myself to get worried about anything, I am practicing little faith, or actually no faith at all. But, as Earnhart points out, I am not alone. He uses the example of the episode when the disciples were in the boat with Jesus in the storm and got so nervous. They had seen Jesus perform so many miracles, but they still didn’t fully understand the truth of Christ. If you understood and had faith that the One who had created all things was in the rocking boat with you, would you have any reason to worry about the storm swirling around you?
Like the man who came to Jesus for healing for his son, but at the same time plead with Jesus to “help me with my unbelief,” I spend my days tottering between facing the world with open, peaceful arms and worrying over the smallest of issues. But, what Earnhart had to say this morning was worth applying to my life:
It will help us if we realize that the freedom from fear to which Jesus calls us is a lesson we master over time, by long practice–by reminding ourselves again and again of what the cross says about the unchanging faithfulness of our Father’s love and by prayerfully taking our burdened thoughts to Him (Phil 4.6).
By watching my inner thoughts, I now have an ever better saying than just “Stop!” to turn my negative thoughts toward the positive thoughts that bring us closer to God:
I will not be anxious!
I will have faith that grows!
When my mind is empty of the critical thoughts and anxiety, then I can hear God. I can fill my head with the Bible verses I am working to memorize. I can fill my head with images of the wonders of nature that are often as close to God as we can get. I can go from faith-challenged to faith-warrior.