What thoughts come to mind when you wake overnight? What are your first reflections of the day? When your mind wanders during the day, where does it go? What do you dream about? And where do our thoughts come from?
For the most part, what our minds process and bring forth comes from our experiences: What we see and do, what we watch, listen to, and read, where we go, and how we spend our time. Very rarely, if ever, will something wholly unknown to you occupy your mind.
For instance, after binge-watching episodes of a television show, I have experienced dreams involving the characters in the program. After playing a video game for an extended time, I have found my thoughts throughout the day overwhelmingly drawn to the plot of the game.
If I spend a lot of time writing, researching, and reading from God’s Word, I find my thoughts frequently drawn to the topics of which I am writing. I also find myself more aware of what God is doing around me and see the interconnectedness of things and events in light of God’s working in the world.
Sometimes our thoughts seem to “come out of nowhere,” but even though we may question what prompted the emergence of an idea at a particular moment, the thought itself is most likely rooted in a past experience of one kind or another. Either that, or God directly implants new information for our contemplation, but I think that this type of new revelation is infrequent at best.
I think that even thoughts prompted by the Holy Spirit are generally based on something in one’s past. God orchestrates the events in our lives and the circumstances through which we live so that He can then remind us of those experiences as He desires. In this way, He helps us to make decisions according to His will as the Holy Spirit prompts, counsels and develops us toward Christ-likeness.
There is frequently a strong correlation between what an individual thinks about and how he or she feels. What one thinks affects his or her emotional stability and quality of life, including his or her physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual development.
Proverbs 4:23 admonishes us to “Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23 ESV)
I like the translation in the New International Version, that states, “Guard your heart…”
What is at stake, the lifeblood of our existence and abundant life, is of utmost importance and requires careful watch and dedication.
If it is true that our thoughts ultimately come from prior experiences, we need to be careful of the situations and stimuli with which we allow ourselves to engage.
Paul, in the book of Philippians, tells us how we should think.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8 ESV)
Are the activities that you engage in and the things that you read, watch, and listen to conducive to this type of thinking? I have found that what I do and what I think about have a cyclical relationship. I tend to think about what I do, which in turn, causes me to further act on what I think about. Are you creating and collecting honorable, pure, lovely, commendable, and excellent memories through what you engage in that are available for recollection later in life?
In Christ, we have a lot of freedom to make choices as to how we spend our time. The Apostle Paul teaches that all things are lawful for me, but not everything is beneficial. Increasingly, we need to follow his guidance to the Corinthians.
2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2 ESV)
We live in a temporal world that is passing away. God did not create us with this world in mind but for an eternal relationship with Him. The time that each one of us has to live on this earth is nothing compared with the eternity for which God created us.
We have a choice. We can either focus our attention on enhancing our earthly lives and maximizing pleasure or direct our focus upward, engaging in activities that have an eternal impact on others’ lives and our relationship with God.
I am not saying that you can’t use some of your time on short-term worldly entertainment, but aside from general character development, such pursuits are of little worth.
Paul instructed the Ephesians to use their time wisely. This is good advice that we should all heed.
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16 ESV)
We live in a world that is full of wickedness because of the sinful hearts of mankind. As a result of sin, we all deserve punishment, which is eternal separation from God. Jesus died to provide salvation and eternal life for all who place their faith and trust in Him.
Even though there is nothing that anyone can do to save his or herself, once entering into a saving relationship with Jesus by grace through faith, works done in Jesus’ name and for eternal benefit merit eternal rewards.
All our works will be judged, not based on earning salvation, but for the distribution of eternal rewards.
13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:13-15 ESV)
If the life that one leads is filled primarily with temporal pleasures, such an individual will feel the pain of loss, even though he or she, individually, is saved.
So what are you going to do, and how are you going to spend your time? On what will you direct your thoughts and occupy your mind: on the fleeting momentary pleasures of this temporal life or with a focus on eternity?
The choice is yours, but time is running out. Each of us only has a limited time to live on this earth and nobody knows when his or her end will come.
Live wisely and make the most of the time you have, and live with eternity in view.
If you have not personally accepted God’s gift of salvation and eternal life and want more information on how you can be saved, please check out my page How Can I be Saved?.
Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.