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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




Stop Thinking the Worst

By Thomas Lindberg
Aug. 1, 2010

Do you feel at times like everything in your life is going wrong? Perhaps it’s hard for you to admit to such thoughts. After all, if you have “real” faith, as some people define it, aren’t you supposed to just bounce along in life from mountaintop to mountaintop? I’ve got news for you. Even when you live with genuine faith, you cannot have mountains without valleys.

Let’s back the calendar up 2,800 years and meet a man who was a powerhouse of faith, and yet faced a season of intense struggle. The prophet Elijah was obedient, faithful and godly. But at a key point in his ministry, life got really rough for Elijah. He came to a crisis point, and Elijah compounded the crisis with a big mistake — a mistake that you and I are tempted to make. Elijah began thinking the worst.

“Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors’ ” (1 Kings 19:3,4, NLT).

What’s happening here? In a nutshell, Elijah has just come away from the greatest spiritual victory of his life — an ultimate mountaintop experience where the fire of God fell from heaven, the priests of Baal and Asherah were destroyed, the people of Israel again acknowledged God, and the Lord brought rain to the land after a horrific drought of judgment. You can read all about it in 1 Kings 18.

When it was all said and done, a tired but victorious Elijah had witnessed God’s hand move in an amazing fashion. But when Queen Jezebel responded with an execution declaration, Elijah plummeted into the deepest valley he had ever faced.

Our thoughts can get the best of us, as Elijah proves, even when we know God personally and know the truths of His Word. Whenever our discouragement speaks more loudly than the quiet assurance of the Holy Spirit, it always spells trouble.

How can you keep from thinking the worst? Let me suggest four words that can point you to helpful, healing principles. They are summed up in the word STOP.

 

S: Stir

When you meet up with fear or despair, stir your spiritual memory. In response to Queen Jezebel’s threat, Elijah focused on her human power when he should have stirred his spiritual memory. And Elijah had much to remember: God had miraculously fed him by the brook Cherith, had supernaturally supplied food for a widow and for him, had raised a boy from the dead in response to his prayers, and had sent fire from heaven on Mount Carmel.

Elijah should have said something like this: “Yes, I’m in a mess. But I’ve been in a mess before, and God brought me through all those times. I will trust Him again.”

In Psalm 40, David is in “the pit of despair” (v. 2). What does David do? Does he start thinking the worst? No! Instead, he says, “O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them” (v. 5). David stirred his spiritual memory and kept his fearful thoughts in check.

I like this little couplet:

Yesterday God helped me,
Today He’ll do the same.
How long will this continue?
Forever, praise His name.


T: Talk

Talk to yourself. Speak aloud the truths of the Word. Think how encouraged you can be when you hear yourself announce, “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’ ” (Psalm 91:2, NIV). Imagine how you can defeat discouragement when you do this: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

Years ago I discovered a lump on my neck. What’s that? I thought. The week before, I had visited someone in the hospital who had a lump in their body that turned out to be cancer. I began thinking the worst. I convinced myself I was going to die from cancer, and I even began planning my funeral. (The lump turned out to be a knot in one of my muscles and disappeared in 10 days.)

Learn to quote Scripture out loud, then watch as God’s Word reshapes your thoughts. Four of my favorite verses to quote are these:

“Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid of them! The Lord your God will go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6, NLT).

“But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts my head high” (Psalm 3:3).

“O Lord, I will honor and praise your name, for you are my God. You do such wonderful things! You planned them long ago, and now you have accomplished them” (Isaiah 25:1).

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

You have a choice when life turns rough. You can let your own fearful thoughts take control — a device that Satan always tries to use to his advantage — or you can take God’s Word and speak it out loud to yourself.

 
O: Opportunity

Instead of thinking the worst, look for an opportunity to see God at work in your behalf. Consider Elijah. He thought his life was over. But God was setting up an opportunity for Elijah. God wanted Elijah’s attention so He could change Elijah’s direction. While Elijah was thinking the worst, God was planning the best. When you study the rest of the prophet’s life, you see that God continued to give divine revelation, allowed Elijah to anoint the next king, connected Elijah in a mentoring relationship with Elisha, and ultimately ushered him into heaven without dying.

It has been said that life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it. I often think of the apostle Paul during his times in prison. Instead of succumbing to the discouragement of his surroundings, he surrendered himself to the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Some of the choicest epistles in the New Testament were penned from Paul’s prison cells.

Paul wrote from jail to the Ephesian church and said, “I’m a prisoner of Jesus Christ” (3:1). Not a prisoner of the Roman government — a prisoner of Jesus Christ. Paul could have started to think the worst, but he looked for an opportunity to continue ministering during difficult times. And God allowed him to be a powerful witness.

In every Christian’s life there is constant interaction between the natural and the supernatural, your natural circumstances and God’s supernatural guidance. Don’t live with blinders on that limit your view to the natural. Catch a vision of the supernatural at work in you and through your daily challenges.


P: Persist

Persist in your rejection of fearful thinking and in your embrace of daily faith. Spiritual victory is not purchased at the cheapest price in the shortest time possible. God wants you to be persistent. God doesn’t want your spare time; He wants all of you.

A few years ago my wife went through a rough time, much like Elijah. God was faithful and brought her through. But during those days she wrote and clung to these words:

“The Lord may not have planned that this bad thing should overtake me, but He most certainly knew about it. Therefore, even though it were an attack from the enemy, by the time it reaches me it has the Lord’s permission — therefore ALL IS WELL!”

I challenge you, stir up your spiritual memory; talk God’s Word to yourself instead of listening to yourself; look for divine opportunities during difficult days; and persist in your rejection of fearful thinking and in your embrace of daily faith.

Follow these steps, and I promise you, you will soon be leaving your valley far behind.


Dr. THOMAS LINDBERG is senior pastor of First Assembly of God of Memphis (Tenn.).

Email your comments to pe@ag.org.