THE POWER OF OUR THOUGHTS
God has created us with amazing minds. The complexity of the brain and how it functions is mind blowing.
Isaac Asimov said that a man’s brain is:
the most complex and orderly arrangement of matter in the universe.
Carl Sagan wrote:
The information content of the human brain expressed in bits is probably comparable to the total number of connections among the neurons – about a hundred trillion. If written out in English, that information would fill some twenty million volumes, as many as in the word’s largest libraries. The equivalent of twenty million books is inside the heads of everyone of us. The brain is a very big place in a very small space.
Many researchers think of the brain as a computer. This comparison is inadequate. Even the most sophisticated computers that we can envision are crude compared to the almost infinite complexity and flexibility of the human brain (Pines).
In addition to the brain’s phenomenal memory capacity, it has the ability to tell our hands to use a certain amount force and for them to create the right movement to pick up a pen up from a desk. We take things like that for granted, but for our brain to carry out that task takes some precise control and mathematical precision. This is but one of the hundreds of tasks we do each day. Our brain is so powerful that it can take in multiple inputs at the same time, and perform multiple tasks at the same time, which is why you can pat you head with one hand and rub your belly with other at the same time.
Since our brain is heavily involved in the functions of our bodies, when we get stressed it can affect the way we feel to the point of making us sick and developing back pain and other pains throughout the body. In fact, it is believed that 90% of the cases that doctors treat are related at least in part to stress. This shows what outside influences can have on our bodies because of the way we think.
One technique that shows the power of thought comes from the placebo effect. This involves the patient thinking they are receiving a drug or treatment that works, but no drug or treatment is given. For example:
Doctors in one study successfully eliminated warts by painting them with a brightly colored, inert dye and promising patients the warts would be gone when the color wore off. In a study of asthmatics, researchers found that they could produce dilation of the airways by simply telling people they were inhaling a bronchodilator, even when they weren't. Patients suffering pain after wisdom-tooth extraction got just as much relief from a fake application of ultrasound as from a real one, so long as both patient and therapist thought the machine was on ("The Placebo Prescription" by Margaret Talbot, New York Times Magazine, January 9, 2000).
Let give you one more example of this:
Forty years ago, a young Seattle cardiologist named Leonard Cobb conducted a unique trial of a procedure then commonly used for angina, in which doctors made small incisions in the chest and tied knots in two arteries to try to increase blood flow to the heart. It was a popular technique—90 percent of patients reported that it helped—but when Cobb compared it with placebo surgery in which he made incisions but did not tie off the arteries, the sham operations proved just as successful. The procedure, known as internal mammary ligation, was soon abandoned ("The Placebo Prescription" by Margaret Talbot, New York Times Magazine, January 9, 2000).*
Another example of how powerful our thoughts comes from the condition called pseudocyesis (sue-doe-sigh-e-sis), which means false pregnancy. This condition happens 1 to 6 times out every 22,000 births. What happens is a woman will have all the symptoms of being pregnant including her belly getting better, but there is no baby. Most doctors believe the reason this happens in most cases is because a woman has a great desire to have a child or is convinced that she has become pregnant. Her thoughts actually cause her brain to produce all the symptoms of pregnancy. In some of these cases, some of them actually test positive using a pregnancy test. Believe or not, even some men have had this same thing happen to them even though it impossible for them to be pregnant.
I am sure most of you have seen a hypnosis show. The basic idea behind hypnosis is to get a person to relax their minds and allow their subconscious take over. When that happens, you are open to suggestions that can affect you. It can be very entertaining to watch a hypnosis show because people will do things they normally would not do because their conscience mind will not allow them to. Please understand that people cannot make you do things that you are unwilling to do such a murder someone. Basically, when you are under hypnosis, they say you become more like a young child who is not as concerned about what other people think. This is why those on the stage seem to have no problem clucking like a chicken are showing a range of emotions though many people are watching them and laughing at their behavior.
Under hypnosis people seem to lose the logic side of their brain because the hypnotist can take a small ball and tell those hypnotized that this ball is super heavy and they cannot lift it no matter how hard they try. He can have them come and try and lift the ball, but they will not be able to because their minds are telling them they cannot. There is no end to the funny things the hypnotist can have the people see, taste or experience while in the hypnotic state. I have seen them think their shoe is a phone, the person next to the stinks, think hypnotist is invisible and can only see the things he moves around like a ball or another other object. I have seen them think their their belly buttons are gone, and that they themselves or someone else is a famous singer or actor.
While hypnosis is used for the stage it also used to help people with anxiety and other things such as depression and overcoming phobias. Some use it to stop smoking. One way this is done is by the hypnotist will put the thought in the person heads that a cigarette makes them feel they are going to throw up. So, when that person things about getting a cigarette it will cause them to feel sick at their stomach and for some will help them break the habit.
I just recently listened to a radio interview with a scam artist who used religion to rip people off and explained how they do it. I am sure most of us have seen the miracle crusades on TV where people come up on stage and they will fall backwards with the preacher touches them and people that will throw their wheelchair to the side or their cane and will run across the stage. The man explained how they do this. He said it begins with playing Christian music for hours that has a beat that is similar to that of heart beat. Then he said the speaker will speak with a certain tone of voice and repeating something over and over. This is enough put some people in hypnotic stated especially those that are eager to be cured from whatever they are suffering from.
Before they let someone up on stage they look for the signs that they are indeed in a trance. When a person comes up that normally has pain that keeps them from walking very good or keeps them from moving a certain way will not feel the pain in this hypnotic state, so they can run across the stage and proclaim that they have been healed, but this effect will only last from a few hours to a few days if the person really has a physical problem that causes the pain. If their pain was caused by stress or something from their mind they may not have the pain return if they believe it has been taken care of or may return once they start experiencing the same stress that brought it on in the first place.
This is why many time the preacher will say something like, “if you do not keep your faith in God and you start doubting the healing you have received, it can come back.” This way the cover their basis and blame the failure on the person instead of God or the healer.
The reason I am telling you all of this about the mind and how can be influenced because I think it is important for us to understand how we think and how our thoughts are influenced can make a big difference in our lives and how we look at things. Solomon was correct when he said:
Proverbs 23:7 For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.
As Christians, our goal should be to train our minds to trust in God and His ways. As Paul says:
2 Corinthians 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
Whether we admit it or not, our society and the way it thinks influences us and dull our senses toward sin. For example, it was not that long ago that hearing one bad word in a film was rare. When it was used it was shocking to the people that heard it. The clothing worn was descent and the shows did not revolve around sexuality. Now, you are lucky to find a movie that does not have at least one word in it and many of the movies that are made today revolve around sexuality and many of them include scenes of homosexuality.
Even the commercials that are supposed to be for everyone, they use sexautity and bad language on occasion to sell their product. We have these things around us so much and hear them even when we try and avoid them, that they have lost their shock value because we have have become desensitized. This does not mean that we no longer find these things offensive, but that we have accepted that they are going to be there no matter what we do. So, sinful acts like these and the promotion of sex outside the marriage and the homosexual movement are not affecting us like they used to.
Now we have new generations that are growing up and are having their thoughts toward sinful things influenced to believe that they are ok and part of life. We must understand that the world is not stupid and they know to change a society, one young person at a time. While they are changing them, they will also change the heart of those who are willing to be deceived. Paul warns us:
Colossians 2:8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
If we do not fight back against what the world is trying to drive into our heads, we will find ourselves looking just like the world. We will find ourselves defending sinful behavior because we allowed ourselves to be influenced and programmed by the world. Notice a few more Scriptures from Paul:
2 Timothy 3:13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
1 Timothy 6:20 O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge –
Now, notice what Peter says:
2 Peter 3:17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.
There is no reason that any of us is this should be ignorant of what the worldly people can do to us. We have no valid of the excuse of not knowing how tempting it can be to live like the world and to indulge in the sin it has to offer because the Bible warns us and lessons like I am preaching this morning warn us. If we do nothing to combat against the messages that the world is teaching us then the devil will win in your life.
Paul and Peter have both told us how we are to combat against the evil way. Paul told Timothy to guard what was committed to him and Peter tells us to grow in the knowledge and the grace of our Lord. The only way that you and I can effectively combat the negative influence of the worlds is by filling our hearts with the Word of God daily and living by it. We must continue to pray to God for strength as Jesus taught His disciples to pray:
Matthew 6:13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
When we fill our hearts with God’s Word and pray for strength we must believe that God’s goodness will always overcome the evil way. If we do not really believe this then we will be defeated by the world. James points out how we must believe in the power of prayer:
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
This teaches us that when it comes to God we must be willing to completely believe in Him and what He offers because God does not want us to be half-hearted. We either trust Him completely or we do not. This is why we see statements like the following one from the Book of Revelation:
Revelation 3:15 "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.
Let us not be deceived into thinking that we can give God part of ourseves and obey Him part of the way and be acceptable to Him because that is is not what we learn from the Bible. God wants us to transform our minds and our lives to the way of Christ. He wants us to live according to His Word. The more transform our thoughts to God’s Word the more confidence we will have in Him and His way. The more we transform ourselves into a reflection of Christ, the better we will be at influencing others so they might seek out the way of the Lord. We should have the confidence as expressed in:
Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 3 Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. 4 There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. 5 God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. 6 The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted. 7 The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. 8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, Who has made desolations in the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire. 10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! 11 The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.
We should never get to the point in our Christian lives where we think that the Lord’s hands are shortened and that He cannot help us. This Psalm shows us that God is always there and, if we will just be still and know that He is our God and salvation, we will always be able to draw strength from Him.
Many today limit what they can accomplish for the Lord because of the limitations that put on themselves. Instead of being like the little train that said, “I think I can, I think I can,” we have a tendency to say, “I think I can't, I think I can't.” If we think we can't then we probably won't, but if we think we can, then we probably will or at least make an effort to make it happen.
The way we think affects us in the religious realm and life in general. For example, when I was working for a electrician for the summer my Votech teacher told me that Professional office equipments wanted to hire me to work on copiers. Since I trusted my instructor I had no reason to believe otherwise. So, I went for an interview, which in my thoughts was just to discuss how much I would get paid and when I would start. I had no concerns whatsoever as I walked into the bosses office. I talked to him as if the job was already mine, and I told him what the instructor had told me. I was hired just as I expected.
However, I later found out that my boss did not tell the instructor that he was going to hire me but that he was interviewing people to hire. When I came in with my confidence intact and telling him what I thought was the truth, he did not have the heart to not hire me even though he had about 48 applicants. I can promise you my approach to this generous man would have been different had I known that I was just one of 48 people being people being interviewed. I would have been nervous and less confident. So, the attitude we have about what we are doing makes a big difference in how we approach things.
When it comes to doing the will of God, I think about Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 1:4 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations." 6 Then said I: "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth." 7 But the LORD said to me: "Do not say, 'I am a youth,' For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak. 8 Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you," says the LORD. 9 Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: "Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. 10 See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, To root out and to pull down, To destroy and to throw down, To build and to plant."
Jeremiah is a lot like many of us. We like to say I am too young or I am too old or someone else can do it better than me. These are limitations that we create for ourselves because once we convince ourselves that this true, we accept it. However, this should not be the case. Instead, as Jeremiah learned, there are many things we can accomplish for our Lord when we learn to draw strength from Him. As Paul said:
Philippians 4:12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
We need to stop putting limitations on what we think we can accomplish for the Lord because God has made us capable of doing things that go beyond our own view of ourselves. Even if you fail at trying something new at least you tried it and hopefully you will try something new. It is easy to continue to do what you are used to, and many times this leads to complacency. Remember what Peter said, we must continue to grow in the grace and the knowledge of our God, and this certainly can include learning to do new things for the cause of Christ.
If we approach each new thing we try as a challenge to to grow and we have a positive attitude about it, then we will probably be able to do it. Even if we do not do it well, at least we are doing what we can for the Lord. I have much more I would love to say about the power of our thoughts, but I hope this lesson reminds you of how your thoughts can be influenced by the world and how the world is out to convert you and your children to their wicked ways. The only way we can combat this is with the truth of God and through prayer. So, I hope you will not neglect to put God’s Word into your heart daily and pray for strength every day.
I also hope this lesson will encourage you to stop putting limits on yourself and realize that you can do way more than you think you can when you put your complete trust in God and His ability to give you strength in whatever you try and do. So, let’s never be deceived by the philosophies of men, but let us all continue to make our thoughts like Christ by growing in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord.