How many times have you begun a self-improvement project by listing all the things that are wrong with you? Some of my favorites:
- Too fat
- Terrible housekeeper
Magnifying our flaws is the opposite of helpful! As author and life coach, Tommy Newberry, points out in his book, “40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life,” we tend to bring about what we think about. Case in point, if I want to be chubby, broke, sitting in a cluttered home, and missing out on my dreams due to inaction, I can hold on to that negative list. But I don’t want that life and I am betting that you don’t want your own version of that either.
I’ve chosen to work through Tommy’s book starting today as a Lenten exercise, giving up negative thinking for the next 40 days. I invite you to join me. I will use some of his ideas and share the results of my exercises with you. You may follow along, if you like, and think about how the daily challenges might change your own mindset between now and Easter to increase the joy in your life. You can also purchase the book and join in whole-heartedly. It’s available on Amazon in book form or on Kindle which would allow you to get started today, but don’t worry if you lag a little bit behind. Perfection is not the goal. Here is a link to the book on Amazon:
You could probably find it at other places, too. This isn’t a sponsored link so there’s no benefit to me if your purchase it on Amazon.
A little bit about me, I lead a Life Group at my church, Christian Life Austin, called Transformed Minds. Transformed Lives. The title comes from Romans 12:2 (NLT), “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing, and perfect.” As is usually the case, we teach the things we struggle with most. “Stinkin’ Thinkin’” as it is frequently called has destroyed relationships and held me back from living the full life God has prepared for me. As I cried out to Him, He began to show me how my undisciplined, negative mind was the culprit!
The oft-quoted passage, “as he thinketh in his heart, so is he,” (Proverbs 23:7 KJV) is true. Your attitudes, emotions, actions, and results are fueled by your thoughts. The goal for the next 40 days is to increase positive, faith-filled thoughts that line up with who God says He is, who He says I am, what He says I can have, and what He says I can do.
Newberry’s book is based on what he calls the 4:8 principle (The 4:8 Principle, 2007) referencing Philippians 4:8, but I believe it is more helpful to include verses 7 and 8 (NLT) to get a fuller picture of how to turn your thoughts and your life from negativity to joy:
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
This breaks down to:
- Refuse to Worry.
- Ask God for what you need.
- Remember all the times He has come through for you and thank Him for His goodness.
- Accept the massive peace He offers.
- Don’t be Lot’s wife! Don’t look back at your problem, instead fill you mind and your mouth with thoughts of a beautiful new life in Christ!
The exercise Newberry prescribes for Day 1 is to “Think This and Not That” taking off on the title of the diet book by David Zinczenko. Newberry explains that changing your body and your mind require a similar tactic which is to eliminate the junk and fill up on healthy things. Think about the person you want to become. What good thoughts would help you move in that directions? What is the junk that could stop you?
Going back to my original list, my “Think This and Not That” thoughts will be:
|Think This||Not That|
|I can make good food choices. God has given me a spirit of self-control (2 Timothy 1:7).||I just cannot resist sugar!|
|I’ll tackle one housekeeping chore today with the 15 minutes I have, focusing on this one thing!||I’m too tired and overwhelmed to tackle this mess!|
|My job allows me shine God’s love and hope into the lives of others. I work for the Lord and He rewards me well! (Colossians 3:23-24)||No one appreciates my efforts at work. Why bother to put out the effort to advance?|
|My God shall supply all my needs now and throughout my life. (Philippians 4:19) Always has! Always will!||I’m gonna be a bag lady! Better watch another YouTube video about living in your car!|
The second part of the exercise is to write a short sentence indicating your commitment to improve your thinking. Mine is:
For the next 40 days I commit to memorize Philippians 4:6-8 and to use it as an outline to stop stressing and start believing God’s promises for an abundant life.
P.S. Today’s post was much longer than upcoming posts will be. Wanted to give you some background and set the stage for the fun to come!