Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Reining in your emotional-life and thought-life

Philippians 4:4-5  "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near."

So many people today will pay untold amounts of money to have peace in their emotional-lives and thought-lives. Some will pursue addictions to secure what they think is lasting peace and control. The problem is that in trying to gain control, they lose control. 

The practical Christian life is lived out daily through two areas of the soul: the thought-life (the mind) and the emotional-life (the emotions or heart). We can liken the man of God's soul to a mighty-conflict. The war being waged is over whether the world or God's word will govern the man. In Philippians 4:4-9 we see the General, the Holy Spirit, giving the orders to the emotional-life and thought-life in Philippians 4:4-5. With the orders given, Philippians 4:6-9 represents the strategy for reining in the emotional-life and thought-life. 

Commands given for reining in the emotional-life and thought-life. Philippians 4:4-5
The Apostle Paul has two banners that function as themes necessary for both the emotional-life (Philippians 4:4) and the thought-life (Philippians 4:5). The Holy Spirit of God through the pen of the apostle is issuing the orders to the emotional-life in Philippians 4:4 - "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice!" What is joy? The joy being commanded here by the Holy Spirit is the unshakable confidence that God has done, is doing and will continue to do His will in your life. The word "confidence" is the true essence of God-given joy. 

Author Oswald Chambers writes in his daily devotional classic "My Utmost for His Highest", dated for March 7th: "Huge waves that would frighten an ordinary swimmer produce a tremendous thrill for the surfer who has ridden them." Chambers then later notes: "The undiminished radiance, which is the result of abundant joy, is not built on anything passing, but on the love of God that nothing can change." 

Then we see a command issued to the thought-life in 4:5 "Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near". The phrase "gentle-spirit" could also be translated "sweet-reasonableness" or "readiness to forgive" and thus our thought-lives ought to be governed by what is most reasonable or ready to forgive. Those are the commands issued forth from the General, God Himself.   So then how do we carryout these two commands?

Practical steps for reining in the emotional-life and thought-life of the Christian. Philippians 4:6-9
Every time God issues forth a command in scripture, there is always at least one provision of grace available to carry out the command. The emotional-life is the first area of practical concern in applying the command from Philippians 4:4 of "rejoicing always". Men are emotional - whether they admit it or not. Dr. Adrian Rogers said it best years ago: "You can tell what is important to a man by what makes him angry, what makes him laugh and what makes him cry". Proverbs 29:11 reminds us - "Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit." Either your emotions will control you or you will control of your emotions. Note the following strategy for reining in the emotional-life:

1. Stop worrying, start praying. Philippians 4:6a 
Philippians 4:6a "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication....".
How many of you reading this right now are worry about something? Anxiousness here speaks of rolling whatever is bothering over and over and over again in your mind. You and I dear friend will often worry first and then pray last. Why not switch up our order? In applying the command to "rejoice", one of things you is realize that because God is in control, the main responsibility is to have confidence (joy) in Him. Nehemiah 8:10 reminds the believer that the "joy of the Lord is their strength". The Holy Spirit who is the General issuing the commands in Philippians 4:4-5 is the same One who indwells every believer. One of the greatest ways to unleash Spirit empowered joy in your emotional life is to sing, or hum or whistle songs of praise or hymns to yourself. (Ephesians 5:19-20) I have found that when I do that, the excesses that can often accompany any emotions are calmed. As Jesus notes in John 7:38, the Holy Spirit acts as a fountain of living water, and He desires to splash up into your emotional life. By doing as suggested above, you will find it easier over time to stop worrying and start praying. But notice also...

2. Stop griping, start thanking. Philippians 4:6b
Philippians 4:6b ...."with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
The best way to rid your emotional-life of bitterness and apply the command of "rejoicing always" is by giving thanks to God in all things. Begin with the smallest things: a warm bed, warm shower, a car that runs and so on. As you literally thank God for the smallest things, you will find so much to be thankful for that before you know it, you are beginning to look at situations from an eternal perspective.  

3. Claim the promise of peace and joy in your emotional life. Philippians 4:7
Philippians 4:7 "And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
How do you know when you have reined-in your emotional life? When you have the "peace of God" that surpasses all understanding. As you daily rein-in your emotional-life, you must claim the promise of God's unending peace. God's peace ruling the soul of the child of God is inexplicable by human standards. It is oftentimes in the severest trials where the saint of God is distinguished from the mere religious pretender. 

So then what of the thought-life? Being that the emotional and thought-lives are interconnected in these passages and in real-life, we will move on in considering how one can rein-in the thought-life:

4. Look for what God has given you, rather than what you don't have. Philippians 4:8
We begin at the end of Philippians 4:8 and work our way up to the beginning of the verse. We read in the latter part of Philippians 4:8b "if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." The source of the thought-life's discontent often lies in assuming that God has somehow short-changed us. However when we begin to examine and think through what God has given us in regular life and eternal-life, we gain the ability to rein in our thought-lives. Notice how Paul writes: "If there is excellence", that is to say: "what makes you conclude that God is good and has done good in your life?" Then Paul says next: "If there is anything worthy of praise" - that is - what can you think of to praise God for? 

Then we're told to "think on these things" at the end of the verse. What things? Paul has given us the list of categories to work through as we rein-in the thought-life in Philippians 4:8a  "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute....", Where do we find such things? The scriptures. The number one way by which the man of God can execute these instructions is through daily reading, study and application of the scriptures. (2 Corinthians 10:5; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17) When we do these things, we will be able to conclude in our minds that God has indeed given us more than we deserve. 

5. Claim the promise of peace and reasonableness in your thought-life. Philippians 4:9
We read in Philippians 4:9 "The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."
Notice how the same promise of peace is given for the thought-life in 4:9 as we find for the emotional-life in 4:7. As man who has reined in his thought-life will be governed by the "gentleness of spirit" or "sweet-reasonableness" that we saw in Philippians 4:5. Reining in the thought-life entails reinforcing yourself with the positive spiritual realities spoken of in these verses. Only through such positive spiritual realities can you defeat or defend yourself against the negative realities thrown at you by the world, your flesh and the Devil himself. 

In Philippians 4:4-9 we saw the only effective way we can rein in the thought-life and emotional-life. Philippians 4:4-5 gave the commands of rejoicing and exhibiting a gentle spirit or sweet reasonableness to all people. We then saw a strategy for practically taking these commands and reining in one's emotional-life and thought-life: 
1. Stop worrying, start praying
2. Stop griping, start thanking
3. Claim the promises of peace and joy in your emotional life
4. Look for what God has given you, rather than what you don't have
5. Claim the promise of peace and reasonableness sin your thought-life

Questions for thought:
1. How do you understand the relationship between your emotions and thoughts?

2. How does reining in your emotions and thoughts in stressful situations demonstrate to a watching world the Person of Jesus Christ in your life?

3. What is at least one take-away that you have gained from today’s lesson?  

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