“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Some mistakenly believe that Christian Perfection includes freedom from wandering thoughts. They think that holy people have their minds totally fixed upon God at all times. False teaching on this subject has caused great distress to those who battle with wandering thoughts, some have even given up their faith in Christ. In this sermon we will try to answer four important questions.
What are the different kinds of wandering thoughts?
There are only two kinds of wandering thought that believers should concern themselves with: (1) those that wander from God and (2) those that wander from natural matters.
It is not unnatural for our thoughts to stray away from God. The fact is that our human nature finds it easier to ignore spiritual things. It tends to think about those things it loves. Even when we are captivated by some teaching, studying God’s word, and in intense prayer our minds will make a connection with some worldly thing. While we are in the flesh we will never fully fix our minds upon one thing, but will allow ourselves to dream about food, clothes and other necessities of life.
Each one of us has the ability to fight against the will of God. The human mind will always view obedience in a negative way. We will be dominated by anger, bitterness, and vindictiveness at times. We will day-dream about what might have been and what could be. How often, when studying the Scriptures, have our thoughts focused fruitless and worldly things? This is why we must use the resources God has given to us … “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” (2 Corinthians 10:4.)
What causes wandering thoughts?
The main cause for our wandering thoughts can be found in our sinful attitudes. The flesh loves this present world and looks for happiness in what it produces. We think more about ourselves than of God and spiritual matters. Our minds are easily distracted from he Lord by the slightest noise or the most unimportant demand upon out time.
There are many reasons why our minds wander off on a tangent when we are in God’s presence. It could be a concern over personal illness or dilemma that sparks a wandering thought. There are those with mental disorders who find it difficult to think straight. Someone may say or do something that attracts our attention. We may simply be tired, fall asleep, or day-dream. Do not our emotions get the better of us sometimes? Has anyone fully mastered their thoughts? Sometimes a single thought sets off a chain reaction in our minds which leads us completely away from where we began.
It does not matter how holy we might become, thoughts will spring up, almost out of nowhere, and demand our immediate attention. The eye and the ear have the habit of hindering our concentration, but we should not forget the devil’s use of such distractions. He will use anything that will draw us away from God. He endeavours to fill our minds with thoughts that will harass and confuse us. He knows the exact button to press to get our thoughts off of the things of God.
How can we distinguish the kinds of wandering thought?
There are obviously sinful wandering thoughts, but some are innocent. When we have no thought of God then all our thoughts are sinful. Why? Because we have become atheistic in our thinking. This in turn will produce animosity towards God. Thoughts that arise from sinful attitudes are undoubtedly evil. This is seen where there is pride, unforgiveness and vindictiveness. A good tree cannot bear good and corrupt fruit at the same time. These thoughts may be caused by someone else’s words or actions, but we must prevent them festering in our minds.
Innocent wandering thoughts, as we have stated, may be caused by physical weakness, tiredness or sickness. The Lord understands this. Every moment there are millions of changes taking place in our brain that computes messages to our bodies. A simple twitch of the knee might spark a random thought. None of such things are inconsistent with Christian Perfection and our love for God.
How can we be delivered from wandering thoughts?
What kinds of wandering thoughts can we hope to be set free from? Certainly we should be delivered from those that keep us from God, those that oppose His will, and those that bring us into ungodliness. Such wandering thoughts imply unbelief and enmity against God. Satan will use these to destroy us unless we gain the victory over them.
The innocent kind of wandering thought will remain until the cause is removed. Unless the illness is cured, our bodies are fully rested, or external forces removed we will battle with these thoughts daily. Some of the things that cause our thoughts to wander will remain until “this mortal shall have put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:54.) Until Satan is cast into the Lake of Fire he will use temptation to harass and weary us … “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9.)
We can bring all wandering thoughts to God in prayer, and He will give us dominion over them. Let us ask that we will be “more than conquers” in every circumstance of life (Romans 8:37.) Those that lead us away from God must be destroyed at the root so that we can be cleansed from “all filthiness of the flesh and spirit” (2 Corinthians 7:1), from every evil attitude, word and deed. Let us pray that God would replace our sinful wandering thoughts with perfect love so that we can love Him with body, soul and strength, and to know what it means to walk in the Holy Spirit and to have His fruit in our lives (Romans 8:2, Galatians 5:22.)