In the September 1995 Journal of Neurophysiology, there was a study that was done on the brain activity of piano players. Two sets of pianists were monitored. The first set practiced their finger movements on the piano, while the second set were only allowed to think about the movements of their fingers and were not allowed to move them. Those who over the course of 10 days practiced on the piano saw an increase of the portion of their brain devoted to assisting in the repetitive movements. This is indicative of improvement in a skill. The astounding thing was that those who did not move their fingers saw the same mental benefits. Our thoughts are not physical, but they are processed in the physical organ of the brain and they can have measurable physical effects in our bodies. That is a tremendous power!
God, who created mankind with the ability to think, revealed the importance of our thoughts in His Word. Proverbs 4:23 says "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life." The "heart" here is not literal, but symbolic for the innermost thoughts and emotions of a person. This is how the Good News Bible translates this verse "Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts" (another good verse is Proverbs 23:7). God gave us the ability to shape our lives with our thoughts. Thoughts are what drive our words and our actions. While every thought does not become a word or deed (impossible as we think at over 1300 words per minute, which is faster than we can talk) each thought is important in shaping who we are becoming. Scottish author, Samuel Smiles put it this way "Sow a thought, and you reap an act; Sow an act, and you reap a habit; Sow a habit, and you reap a character; Sow a character, and you reap a destiny."
With the understanding that our character is being developed at the level of our thinking, it becomes vital to consider what we allow to occupy our thoughts. What we find is that there is a battle going on within our minds. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 tells us "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 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, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled." God has given us the ability to control what we think about. However, we have the three "s's;" Self, Society, and Satan desiring to occupy our brains. So, we are admonished to fight against those things that are not Godly.
As we push out thoughts that are contrary to God and His way of life, we must then focus our mind on Godly things. This is where verses like Philippians 4:8 are a treasure trove of instruction. The list of things that should make up our thoughts include things that are true, noble, lovely, and just. These are characteristics that we desire to be a part of who we are. If we want to have these as aspects of our character, it begins by choosing not to think on the negative, but by being led by God to meditate on positive.
How much of our brain as of late has been focused on Godly things? How much has been on negative worldly topics? The effects of what we decide to occupy our mind will have an impact in our lives. Let us continue to strive to control our thoughts to be more like God's. As we do this, we begin the process of developing Godly character.
Have a positive and edifying Sabbath!