Tuesday, January 17, 2006

KEY TO HOLINESS AND AN ABUNDANT LIFE IS WORKING WITH GOD TO CONTROL THOUGHTS

By Michael H. Brown

Do you ever find yourself ensnared by thoughts, hovering on something that's hard to shake -- and inhibits, even torments, you? Is your mind a constant battlefield?

We're told by Scripture that indeed the spiritual battle is intense in the course of our "interior lives" -- our thinking -- and so it is crucial to control that. We need "right thoughts."
While we can say over and again that we should control our thinking -- that thoughts are judged by God, that they are real, that they have actual effects, and thus must be reined in -- we rarely hear of a way to do that.

How do we control what we think? How do we rid ourselves of niggling, obsessive, and perhaps destructive thought patterns?

Let's take the example of love: Time and again, we're instructed that the great challenge of life is to love. Nothing is more important. Yet that's often very difficult to do. A car pulls ahead of us when it shouldn't. A family member wants to feud with us. A cashier is rude. Someone we know misrepresents what we said. Mentally, we want to lash back.

But when we love instead, God's grace flows, and when His grace is flowing our larger prayers are answered. We live miraculously.

There is a way of starting this pattern of grace, a mental discipline that can change your life, I believe, if you really try it. First, pray for the "gift of love." Use that precise phrase. Pray that you feel love for everyone. Pray it every time you say a Rosary. Then put it into practice.
Every time you have a thought about someone that is positive, remember to say, "Thank you, Lord, for the gift of love." If it has been a good thought, with a feeling of warmth, you have a legitimate reason to rejoice. If it started out a negative thought, your thanking God for the gift of love will halt the negative and transform it into a positive.

If you have completed an unpleasant thought, repeat "thank you for the gift of love" over and over until you feel that love toward whomever you did not.

Say it when you have good thoughts and even when you have ones that start out bad but that you then change. Say it each time you think about anyone. Merely thanking God will cause a thought to change patterns and expiate the wrongful way we had started to view someone.
Soon, you'll find your way of thoughts making a dramatic turn for the better, for when you thank God -- and when you are in constant communication with Him -- He changes your heart. It is what is meant by "praying without ceasing."

Do the same when challenged in other situations. If there is an opportunity for lust, immediately thank God for the "gift of purity." You will purify. If there is an inclination to impatience, thank God the for "gift of tolerance."

Thank you Lord, for the gift of love. Thank you Lord, for the gift of humility. Thank you, Lord, for the gift of patience... and so on, throughout the day.
Each time you are inclined the wrong way, remember to thank God for the way you should be thinking and you'll find a radical transformation.

Give this a couple weeks. Be diligent. The fruits are wonderful. Remember: Jesus was totally disciplined. You couldn't sway His thinking. He fasted for forty days! And that discipline permeated other aspects of His Life. This has taught us that a key to holiness is discipline.
"Our life source, our source for right thinking, is regular, personal fellowship with God in prayer and the Word," notes a preacher, "The Bible says a tree is known by its fruit. The same is true of our lives. Thoughts bear fruit. Think good thoughts, and the fruit of your life will be good."
For when you do this with the help of God, you have disciplined your thoughts, which is a path to a miraculous life here and salvation after it.

[resources: Michael H. Brown is author of The God of Miracles]

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