Thinking Well, Part I
We are thinking all the time. Even while asleep, neurons in the brain are firing nearly as much as they do during waking hours. Yet, most often, we are not consciously aware of how we think, what we are thinking, and why we think the way we do. Thinking well is critical to the success we experience in this life, both physically and spiritually.
The spirit in man provides each of us with consciousness and the power of intellect (the power to think). It provides us with the ability to know that we know (conscious awareness), question what we know (conscious evaluation), and add to what we know (conscious acquisition). We should be using this great gift to our advantage. Instead, we tend to take it for granted.
The Christian Calling
We are called to think, not as the world thinks but as Jesus Christ thinks. To do this, we must change the way we think. Too often, we assume that changing the way we think is a matter of observing Sabbath instead of Sunday; the Holy Days as opposed to the days this world observes; clean and unclean food; or tithing.
These things are important and should be part of our commitment to God. That being said, it is of far greater importance that we know why we do these things. To change the way we think, we must first consciously examine how we think.
Free to Think
Jesus Christ came to this earth to free a People drawn to Him by His Father:
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?” Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. (Joh 8:32-34)
Most of us are not taught to think. We are conditioned to think. We take on much of the problem thinking that our parents modeled to us. Few think freely. We are enslaved to the bias, prejudice, anger, envy, and jealousy that have become a large part of our nature. We are forgiven of this nature at baptism, but it lives on. It continues to hold us captive to wrong thinking. The apostle Paul gives a heartfelt appraisal of his condition:
We know that the Law is spiritual. But I am merely a human, and I have been sold as a slave to sin. In fact, I don’t understand why I act the way I do. I don’t do what I know is right. I do the things I hate. Although I don’t do what I know is right, I agree that the Law is good. So I am not the one doing these evil things. The sin that lives in me is what does them. I know that my selfish desires won’t let me do anything that is good. Even when I want to do right, I cannot. Instead of doing what I know is right, I do wrong. And so, if I don’t do what I know is right, I am no longer the one doing these evil things. The sin that lives in me is what does them. The Law has shown me that something in me keeps me from doing what I know is right. With my whole heart I agree with the Law of God. But in every part of me I discover something fighting against my mind, and it makes me a prisoner of sin that controls everything I do. (Rom 7:14-21) Contemporary English Version
Paul laments that he does not understand why he cannot do what is right. He concludes that it is the sin living in him that provokes him to sin. He identifies “my selfish desires” as the motivating force.
We are no different. When motivated by anger, resentment, greed, and envy, we are slaves to sin. Paul displays his willingness to look inwardly, acknowledge his weaknesses and place them before Jesus Christ:
What a miserable person I am. Who will rescue me from this body that is doomed to die? Thank God! Jesus Christ will rescue me. So with my mind I serve the Law of God, although my selfish desires make me serve the law of sin. (Rom 7:24-25).
Our job is to identify these conditioned responses and consciously fight the impulse to act on them.
4 Categories of Awareness
In order to identify our conditioned responses, we must first have some degree of conscious awareness of them. There are four major types of awareness:
- Time Awareness
Knowing where you are in time is an important skill. Outcomes of this skill are proper time management, best using of your time, being on time, and completing tasks on time.
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Eph.5:15-16)
Redeem means to buy back, rescue, or make it your own. The word rendered “evil” means, full of labors, annoyances, and hardships. This is an accurate description of our busy world of distractions. It makes time management of great importance, especially when we must balance family, church, and work.
- Task Awareness
We have all found ourselves in situations where we underestimated just how difficult a task really was. We might regret taking on the responsibility of completing the task but feel compelled to see it through. The longer a task takes to finish, the less enthusiasm we bring to the labor.
For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he may have enough to finish it; lest perhaps, after he has laid the foundation and is not able to finish, all those seeing begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build and was not able to finish. (Luke 14:28-30)
Task awareness involves knowing what needs to be done and setting priorities. This involves judging the right time to begin a project and enthusiastically seeing it through to completion.
- Result Awareness
All too often, we are content with just getting the job done. We finish and then walk away, relieved that it’s over. This approach will always result in a lack luster performance and a finished product reflecting that effort. Result awareness requires evaluating the work we do: was it our best work? Was the effort worth the outcome? What does the outcome say about our work ethic? It involves examining more efficient ways to approach what we do in the future.
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going. (Ecc 9:10)
It is important to have a clear perception of who we are. This includes the ongoing process of updating our understanding about the strengths, weaknesses, and beliefs we possess. It also means to understand what motivates us to act, speak, feel, and think the way we do. In effect, we need to accurately understand what fuels the intentions of the heart.
The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out. (Pro 20:5)
These categories of awareness are not only helpful in our daily lives, in a physical sense, but are also essential to the process of conversion.
In our second installment, we will look at problematic ways of thinking. Unfortunately, these ways of thinking are commonplace and hinder our ability to think freely and accurately.
Please join us here at the Church of God Network, as we examine the nature of our calling.