“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”
The Garden of Your Heart
When you plant a seed, it becomes a sprout, then a sapling, and then it continues to grow and mature.
When it’s a sprout, you can probably use two fingers and pluck out the whole plant. When it’s a sapling, you might need to get a good grip with both hands to uproot the plant. But when the plant matures, even the strongest men can’t uproot it — the plant becomes unshakable.
It doesn’t matter how many seeds you have planted, even if you have a million, if you don’t know how to safeguard your plants from a thief, or if you don’t even know how to recognize a thief, or if you don’t take good care of your plants, your plants will eventually wither, die or get stepped on, and uprooted.
Whenever someone tells me, “I’m struggling to have faith”, or “I’m wrestling against thoughts of doubt”, or “The devil has been coming against my identity”, it usually comes with an undertone of hopelessness or “barely-holding-on-for-victory.” What that tells me is that this person doesn’t know how to effectively deal with thoughts that come against what they know.
Even before church-folks can learn to do “thought management” they have to learn “thought distinguishment“.
Half the reason why most have trouble managing those thoughts is because most Christians are unable to discern the thoughts in their head — how to delineate between God’s thoughts, their own thoughts, and the devil’s thoughts.
For additional thoughts on this, go here.
Most people aren’t even aware that not every thought that goes through their head is theirs. And even more people don’t know how to separate the different voices in their head. The inability to discern the different voices in their head is the main reason why people struggle with:
a.) hearing God
b.) sin, temptation, guilt, shame, condemnation
c.) fear, worry, anxiety
If you believe that every thought that goes through your head is yours, you will think that you don’t hear God. You will struggle for years trying to learn to hear from God because you don’t know how to recognize how He already speaks. But, moment you understand that God speaks through your thoughts, you will place a much higher value on reading Scriptures because when you learn Scriptures you begin to get familiar with His voice, His demeanor, and the way He speaks (John 14:9, Hebrews 1:1-3, John 5:39).
If you have never heard me speak, but you have read all my articles. You would immediately know who I was if you overheard me speaking on the radio or on YouTube. You would recognize the language I use, you would recogize my emphasis on identity, my emphasis on practical change, you would recognize me if I start talking about my associations like Curry Blake, Andrew Wommack, Bill Johnson/Kris Vallotton, or Ryan/Dennis…
Most people don’t know how Jesus spoke, how He treated people, how gentle He was, how fierce He was against religious systems, how compassionate He was to the lost, broken, hurting, and hopeless.
They don’t recognize His emphasis being a son in right relationship with His Father, so you have the biggest generation of orphan mindsets all over the church. They don’t know His emphasis on grace, how He dealt with sinners and people who deserved judgment, so you have the majority of the church living under law, sin consciousness and condemning the world around them. As a result of things like these, most can’t distinguish between His voice and the voice of another (John 10:4-5). So the reality is that they already hear His voice, but don’t know how to differentiate between a friend and an enemy.
Dealing with Sin and Temptation
If you believe that every thought that goes through your head is yours, you will think you still have “sin in you” and that you are hopeless to constantly sin. You will struggle because you think that every thought to sin is innately originating from you. That is why people relate so well to Romans 7 (and completely ignore Rom 5,6 and 8).
But the moment they understand that they have been given a new nature, they have been crucified with Christ, became dead (no longer responding) to sin and now alive to Christ, they will understand that the thought to sin (temptation) is not theirs, but from the devil. They will understand that temptation isn’t something innately from themselves, but something external from an enemy. So, instead of trying fighting/resisting their “own” thoughts and temptations, and feeling condemned that they would conjure such a thought, they can now actually resist the devil who tempts, instead of themselves.
Dealing with Fear, Worry, Anxiety
If you believe that every thought that goes through your head is yours, you will feel powerless to get out of fear, worry and anxiety. If you have read about the “I am a Spirit” principle, the mindset that causes people to feel bound in a specific “feeling” is also the same mindset that causes people to be bound in a specific way of thinking.
Check out what Jesus said at the sermon on the mount:
31Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
34Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. - Matthew 6:31, 34
If you think that every thought is yours, you won’t realize that you can actually choose which thoughts you want to “take”. Most people think that just because a particular thought flies across their head, they are “required” to take it and they are “required” to let any thought affect the way they see, think, feel, and make decisions.
It is not to say that these thoughts will never come across your mind, but it is to say that you are empowered and can choose which thoughts you “take” and act upon.
When you can make the distinction that not every single thought is yours, you will be empowered to effectively manage your thoughts. Being able to distinguish the sources of your thoughts is a necessity and vital to winning the battle in your mind.
Managing your Thoughts (2 Corinthians 10)
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 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 (submission) of Christ” – 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
How do we do this? How do you “bring every thought captive”? It sounds like a spiritual back-flip, but it isn’t. This is just biblical language for the way our brains are already wired, but if you learn how to make this a tool, rather than a mental reflex, you will flourish in the Christian life.
Here’s how our thinking works:
Let’s say you have a friend named Dave. You guys are best friends. You can finish each other’s sentences, you are like minded, you have had a close friendship for over 10 years.
If I, being a stranger, walk up to you and I start to telling you that Dave actually hates you, Dave doesn’t like you, Dave actually wants to destroy all your other relationships, Dave really has motives to destroy your reputation and integrity etc etc… what would you think?
You would scoff. You wouldn’t hesitate to tell me to mind my own business, or you’d instantly defend Dave and who you know him to be. You’d be adamant to prove me wrong. No cleverly argued point would shake you. No well-packaged smooth talk would get you to doubt who you know Dave to be.
Because on the basis of your relationship with Dave and your history with him and who you know him to be, is unshakable. You are fully convinced of Dave’s integrity and who has revealed himself to be in your relationship with him, and because of that deep trust, you are not shaken.
Remember 2 Cor 10? The exact same thing happened right here in our hypothetical example. Instead of “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God”, you cast down my arguments and every high thing that exalted itself against your knowledge of Dave. Your brought every thought I threw at you and took it captive to the obedience of who you knew Dave to be.
Easy right? Of course.
The reason why this example breaks it down so simply is because I explicitly told you that the voice of contradiction was a stranger that you did not know or trust. If you didn’t know how to distinguish those accusations whether it was from a friend, foe, or your own imagination, you would have had trouble combating the accusations. Being able to distinguish between your enemy and your friend is half the battle, but it makes the rest of the battle easy.
Often people mistake the enemy for themselves so they get drawn in a battle against themselves instead actually fighting the right enemy. Instead of a stranger bringing accusations, they think they are the author of the doubtful thoughts. But the moment they can expose (recognize) the voice of the enemy, it is absolutely effortless to beat him just like it was effortless to defend your best friend.
So here begs the question: Why do so many church-folks struggle with believing God?
Dealing with Doubt
Lets go back to our hypothetical best friend, Dave. Only this time, he’s not your best friend, he’s just an acquaintance you met in passing a few weeks ago who you don’t know very well.
If I, being a stranger, brought to you the same accusations and arguments, what would happen? You’d a have a lot more trouble vigorously defending Dave. You’d be much more susceptible to believe my lies. You’d have trouble really believing that Dave is who you’d like him to be. You’d have trouble putting your confidence him. You wouldn’t be fully convinced about Dave nor his integrity. There isn’t enough trust because you don’t have enough history with Him.
You could keep confessing “no, Dave’s not like that”, but you would have trouble even believing your own words. You could try to fight the arguments, but you’d know your words were empty, without any true basis. You would not be fully convinced. You would be “shaky” on believing Dave. At some point, you might even agree with some of my arguments and say, “Yeah, maybe Dave really isn’t trust-worthy…”
In this scenario, you’d fail to “cast down my arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against your knowledge of Dave” because you have no knowledge of Dave. We are not prone to trust those we don’t know.
This is where most church-folks are at. They struggle with believing God because they don’t actually trust Him at His Word. They are at a place trying to convince themselves that they believe what God has said.
They have trouble believing that God is a good Father, they don’t really believe that God is faithful to His Word, they don’t actually trust God because they don’t actually know Him. They don’t know how to “cast down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” because they don’t have knowledge of God. They are “shaky” on believing God and often give in to the devil’s lies about God’s trustworthiness, just like they would have trouble believing in the “Dave” they met only 2 weeks ago.
They are not fully convinced of God, His nature, His faithfulness, and His word to the point where they’d stand like the way they would stand with their best friend “Dave”. See, the proof of absolute confidence is not in the positive confession, it is in the evidence of perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3).
With your best friend Dave, you wouldn’t break a sweat to defend him. You would have no hesitation because you are fully convinced who you know Dave to be. You’d have perfect peace knowing where you stand with Dave and where Dave stands with you. The opposing voice of any stranger would have zero ability to shake your confidence in Him.
So when I hear about Christians struggling to believe, saying that the devil is attacking them with thoughts, or circumstances are causing them to be shaken, what that tells me is that they either aren’t fully convinced about what God has said about them or their circumstance, or they just don’t know how to manage their thoughts. Otherwise, there would be no struggle, just like if Dave was their best friend, they’d have no struggle combating a stranger’s accusations and arguments.
See, I’m not saying that the thoughts will never come, nor am I saying you’re weak in faith if you encounter those thoughts. I’m saying, being able to distinguish the thoughts and knowing how to deal with those thoughts are the deciding factors of overcoming doubt.
In Real Life
Take healing for example. Say you see someone in a wheelchair and then you get thoughts like, “This person isn’t going to get healed. You didn’t see them healed last time, they probably won’t get healed this time.” Most people immediately think, “Dang it! I’m doubting, now they definitely won’t get healed!”
What they fail to realize is that, that initial thought “This person isn’t going to get healed” wasn’t their thought in the first place. That thought was the temptation to doubt, hence a thought from the enemy. What they decide to do with that thought, if they decide to “take” that thought and act on it is what determines whether they really doubt or not. Once it is apparent that the devil is attacking with thoughts, it becomes very easy to resist him instead of struggling to resist what you think are your own thoughts.
Isn’t that bomb-diggity awesome?
After you realize that those thoughts are from a stranger, you can counter it with what you know to be true. Here’s what it looks like in story-telling form:
“This person isn’t going to get healed. You didn’t see them healed last time, they probably won’t get healed this time.”
“Haha. Really? You don’t know Who I know. You don’t know the power He gave me. Your accusation has no basis. You don’t know my Friend and what He has said about this circumstance. Nice try.”
“They won’t get healed. You know it. This is impossible! How can you trust your Best Friend? He’s a liar. His word isn’t good, He’s not reliable, He can’t be trusted.”
“You. Have no idea what you’re talking about. Good day. Try harder next time. Really.”
See how absurd it is to struggle to believe God and what He says about you, especially when you know who the stranger is and the tactics he uses to get you to waver? Those thoughts would be light-years harder to defend against if you thought that it was you!
This looks very similar in any area of the believer’s walk. Whether it about be healing, provision, identity, etc etc. It’s when you can learn to care for each of these seeds that are sown into your life, you will see your seeds grow into mature plants that bear fruit, 30, 60, and 100-fold.
Tending the Garden
The deeper the roots of a plant get, the more unshakable it becomes, the more stable it becomes and the more pressure it can handle. The more convinced you are of who God is and who He is in you, the more unshakable you become in life’s circumstances. The less you are convinced, the more susceptible you are to wavering and doubt. Get convinced of what your Best Friend has said. Get convinced of Who He is in your life, and any opposing thoughts and voices will never shake you.
If you learn to recognize and protect yourself against “birds of the air” and thieves that try to come in to steal the seeds sown into your heart and uproot your plants, you will find more fruit flourishing in the garden of your life. If you can learn to distinguish which thoughts are yours, Gods, and those of the enemy, you can easily protect yourself from thoughts of doubt/worry/temptation.
When you learn to use this weapon of warfare, it is mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and high things that exalt itself against the knowledge of God, and for capturing rogue thoughts.
Go. Win. Be unshakable.
If you get this, you will never struggle with the emotional roller-coaster ever again. If you get this, you will be empowered to never make a choice based on your emotions.
I first caught wind of this principle while I was reading Timothy Jorgensen’s book, Spirit Life Training. It was one of our required readings when our School of Obedience was running. I highly recommend you purchase it when it finally comes out, republished by Destiny Image.
This article builds upon my other “identity” article I have written. It will be most beneficial if you read my first article on identity.
When people are feeling angry, they say, “I’m angry.”
When people are feeling sad, they say, “I’m sad.”
When people are feeling tired, they say, “I’m tired.”
When people are feeling nervous, they say, “I’m nervous.”
When people are feeling worried, they say, “I’m worried.”
Yes? Yes. Keep that in mind.
You are a 3 part being – spirit, soul, and body.
You are not a body that has a soul and spirit, nor are you a soul that has a body and spirit.
You are a spirit, you have a soul, and you live in a body.
Your spirit is the real you (Remember when God breathed into Adam?), it is what gives you life. The fact that you have been made one spirit with him (1 Cor 6:17) is what enables you to connect with God (1 Cor 2:10-12).Your soul could be defined as your mind, will, intellect, and emotions. And your body is… your body.
Most Christian are led by the flesh; they allow their spirit and soul to be subservient to the lusts and desires of their flesh, which is why they struggle with sin. They do not know that they are supposed to be dead to the desires of the flesh (Gal 5:24) and walk in the spirit. You can read more on being dead to the flesh and freedom from sin here.
Walking in the spirit is not about a conscious effort, it is understanding your identity. Thus, problems arise when your identity is rooted in our soul/body rather than your spirit.
Managing your Emotions
So when people are experiencing emotions, frustrating thoughts, or pain, those are all experienced in the soul or body. But the issue is when people place their identity in what they feel. It’s the “I am” part of the phrase. When people say that, they fail to distinguish between “I am frustrated” versus “I am feeling frustrated.”
When someone says “I am frustrated” they are placing their identity in what they’re feeling, hence, “I am frustrated”, and as a result, they will feel completely powerless to feel anything else. The mindset behind that is, “I am frustrated, and I am completely powerless to not be frustrated because I am frustrated… it’s who I am! I am frustrated!”
But if you can understand “I am feeling frustrated”, it changes the mindset to , “Oooh this is just a feeling! If this is just a feeling, I can change what I feel! I don’t have to be stuck with feeling this!”
When people say, “I’m sad, I’m depressed,” the implication is that they feel stuck in that emotion — that they don’t have any power to get out of it. But if they can shift it to “I’m feeling sad, or I’m feeling depressed,” it will help them realize it’s just a feeling, and they can change what they feel.
“Man I’ve just been so frustrated about xyz”
“Oh, well good thing you’re a spirit.”
It became a tool we used to remind us that we are no longer bound by what we feel. Emotions were no longer the basis from which we made decisions and how we related to people.
If we understand that we are made one spirit with God, and the Kingdom is in righteousness, joy, and peace in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17), then we have constant access to peace and joy.
People say things like, “I’m scared of this, I’m worried about this, this situation is making me feel stressed out.” But when they understand that what they’re feeling is something external that’s affecting them, they will feel empowered to not live in that emotion.
“I’ve been worried about xyz”
“Oh, well good thing you’re a spirit.”
The first time I lived out this principle was about a year ago. I was changing the oil for my car and the drain-nut was stuck. I tried for about 30 minutes trying to get it loose. I tried multiple wrenches, different positions to get better leverage, none of it worked. I was fuming mad. I pulled out my phone to call my uncle because he used to be a mechanic.
As the phone was ringing, I was thinking about unloading all my frustration on him because the situation was so irritating, and then, I remembered, “Oh wait, I’m a spirit.” I instantly realized I was empowered to not feel frustrated. The situation didn’t force me to be frustrated, but it was how I was choosing to respond, so I decide to chose otherwise. I realized, “I’m a spirit!” so I have constant access to peace and joy, “This is just a feeling!” so I felt empowered to feel otherwise. Immediately, my countenance changed, the frustrated lifted instantly and I calmly spoke with my uncle about the problem.
Go here to read about a time I approached a gang of 5 huge guys to minister to them, this same principle got me past the fear.
For most, it doesn’t even cross their mind that they can feel something other than what their current circumstance dictates. If the circumstances are frustrating, most people will come out saying, “I’M SO FRUSTRATED”, not realizing that they are free to be at complete peace.
So the whole point of this isn’t to eliminate your emotions, nor is it to imply that you will never experience another negative emotion (how would you even define “negative”?).
The point is to empower you to not be bound your emotion (e.g. you should never feel helpless to stay feeling scared in any situation). The point is to remind you how to live from your spirit rather than from your soul.
Did you notice how this ties back into identity? Your behavior will always reflect what you believe about yourself and what you place your identity in. If you believe you are depressed, your depression will be there to stay.
Even with sicknesses, diseases, and conditions, people say, “I’m sick.” “I’m diabetic.” “I’m paraplegic.” “I’m blind.” “I’m an alcoholic.” “I’m OCD.” The list goes on. I don’t have a problem with language and how our culture uses language, but it does create mindsets concerning people’s identity and it keeps people bound up in their issues.
Why is this even important?
The devil will do everything in his power to try to keep you powerless, and so long as he has you operating in your soul rather than your spirit, you will lose the battle eventually.
The devil makes every effort to keep believers in worry, fear, and anxiety because it keeps them focused on themselves, it paralyzes them from recognizing the real enemy and it makes them turn inward to find the problem internally. This causes them to lose sight of God and the tools He’s given us for victory . They get lost in their inadequacy and no longer see His power/sufficiency that works in us (Eph 1:18-23).
To live in perfect peace and joy isn’t some hyper-spiritual reality that only a few dead saints had the privilege to experience. It is possible for every believer to live in. Living in perfect peace and joy isn’t about some kind of emotional bliss that makes you super-human. It’s a confidence and awareness of who you are, who He is in you, and the tools you have been given to overcome any situation.
Having victory in every circumstance isn’t about trying to make every situation go the way you want it go. It’s about being able to have absolute peace and joy regardless of what is happening… and in that peace and joy, you become aware of the tools you’ve been given and that is often what helps you turn those situations for the better. Also… it’s a lot easier to think straight (Col 3:2) when you’re not caught up in an emotional breakdown.
Again, this is not about eliminating emotions from your life, that’s silly. This is about empowering you to no longer let emotions cloud the way you think, make decisions, and the way you relate to people. This is about learning to rule your emotional life, rather than allowing your emotional life to rule you. This is about learning to walk in the spirit, to train your spirit man to have supremacy over your soul and body.
Remember the first line of this article? If you’re not there yet, go ahead and read this again. =]
This is the story behind the naming of my website. Understanding this propelled me to live in a whole new freedom from the emotional roller-coaster. I no longer did things because I did or didn’t “feel” like I wanted to, I no longer worried, no longer got nervous, no longer feared, no longer felt confined to an emotion because I realized I didn’t have to. My hope is you will encounter this same freedom.
*Tim’s book has come out on Amazon.