By Irena Zabickova
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”—Romans 12:2
Thoughts. So many rush through my mind almost as if they are chasing each other. They seem to be lined up behind some invisible partition eagerly waiting to flood me with what they have to say as soon as they find just a little opening. And for some reason, many of my thoughts tend to be on the negative side, noticing the flaws and lacks in a situation, person, or item.
It has been many years since I first learned about the power of my thoughts and the control they can have over me. I had asked the Lord to help me keep my mind on Him, knowing full well that only with Him can I succeed in the endeavor of changing my thinking pattern. Then I went on to train myself to screen my thoughts as they pop into my mind, trying to discern whether it is one of the “lovely” things to think about. “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.”1 If a thought brings something praiseworthy, I dwell on it; if not, I quickly discharge it and let in a positive one instead.
The interesting thing is that no matter how long I am at it, I still seem to catch myself entertaining some less-than-positive thoughts. So it’s something I have to continue working at. No wonder the Bible is full of admonitions to keep our minds and hearts on the Lord, such as, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”2 Perhaps it is because what is on our minds sooner or later makes it out of our mouths; what we think about, we talk about. Plus our minds are the first place where we talk ourselves out of faith. Thankfully, our mind is also a platform where God can speak to us with His still small voice and talk us into faith again.
Recently, I had been reading about the great escape of the Jews from Egypt and their ensuing eventful trek through the wilderness, filled with the Lord’s obvious signs and miracles. In spite of the clear presence of God, there are many references to their murmuring and grumbling. It seems as if a murmur-punishment-repentance cycle permeates the whole story.
I discovered that when I read this narrative I tend to have one of three reactions to it. When I’m in a place where I’m feeling close to the Lord, I tend to question how they could be so blind to their ungratefulness. If I’m going through a difficult time, and maybe doubting God’s fairness, I almost understand their predisposition and seem to approve of their lack of trust in God’s plan and care. Yet other times I take it as a reminder to be thankful and grateful and to not think and voice negativity.
The other day I got caught with my proverbial pants down. I had started complaining about something, and God exposed it right as I voiced it, and revealed my negativity and lack of faith. Right at the moment when I was fuming about an issue that I hadn’t been looking at from His perspective, God turned the tapestry around and let those who heard my complaints see the perfect design He was working on. I stood there speechless, my feelings having a boxing match inside of me. Which one would win?—Humility and admission of my mistake, or my pride and some logically reasoned-out excuse?
And then a verse popped into my mind: “Nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.”3
I wondered if God was trying to prepare me for an upcoming chastisement of some sort, but instead, a sweet soft voice spoke to my mind in answer to my question:
“No. I didn’t remind you of this verse to punish you.”
“So what then? What is the difference between me and the Jews in the wilderness?”
The answer came clear and wrapped in humble love:
“The difference is My death—the fact that I died for your sins long after the wilderness story was over and long before your life on earth began. When I died for you, I provided you with the gift of salvation. I paid for your sins long before they were committed. So now you don’t need to pay for them. I already did. That is the difference. Easter is the difference. Easter was the bill-paying time.
“Unfortunately, many people don’t fully understand that the gift of My death on the cross has paid for their past, present, and future sins. Some people think they are forgiven for what they did in the past but they feel they still need to be punished for their present errors. But I want you to understand that My payment is done, once and for all, and no further payment is needed, all because of Easter.
“So Happy Easter! May it be a reminder of My love. I died for you and was raised victorious from the grave on Easter. Your sins are forgiven, washed clean by My blood, which I freely shed for you!”
“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.”—1 John 2:12
“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”—1 Thessalonians 5:9