The way you think determines the daily course of your life. More importantly, it determines your course over the long haul. Character is built one day at a time, which means weak character can be strengthened as we make spiritual choices—and strong character can be weakened if we make unspiritual ones. “Little things mean a lot,” said an old song, and certainly this is true when it comes to the effects of our thinking and doing. What seems but a small, momentary decision can lead to consequences far beyond the moment, because each decision becomes a part of shaping our characters. A rifle aimed at a target two hundred yards away may be off the mark by only a very small amount at the ten-foot mark, but when the bullet covers the distance to the target, it may miss the bull’s-eye by a very wide margin. The importance of making righteous decisions consistently, without becoming careless, cannot be overstated. Your life will end up at the target toward which it is aimed now. So, when you get where you’re going, where will it be?
For many years, I have observed the truth of this principle in the lives of older people. Some are like the proverbial grandmother who brings cookies and milk with the sweetest of smiles. They are very warm, light-hearted, a real joy to be around. But honestly, just how many older people do you encounter who are like this? Not many, if your experience is anything like mine. You see, older people have reached the target at which they have been aiming for many years, as far as characters and attitudes go. The thinking that characterized their life has now reached its full bloom, be it kind or bitter. When you get where you’re going, where will you be?
Keeping our minds focused on the positive and spiritual is not easy. But with God’s help, we can learn to do it. Paul provides us with an amazing example of seeing the hand of God in everything, every day. Even while chained to prison guards, he was almost beside himself with joy-filled thinking. A cursory reading of Philippians demonstrates this clearly. One of my favorite passages in this little happy letter is in chapter 4:4ff. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything…” Here, God tells us to rejoice, which means (1) that the decision is ours, and (2) we can do it. Paul is essentially saying, “Just loosen up, and trust that God is near and in control of life’s circumstances.” Refuse to allow the practical atheism of anxiety to control your thinking. Instead, pour out your hearts in prayer to God, bathing your heart in gratitude. Remember that the key to the future is the past; for if God has protected and provided in the past, surely he will not neglect to do so in the future. As an older man now, I appreciate more than ever the observation of David in Psalm 37:25. “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”
Our Philippian passage goes on to promise us that God’s peace becomes better felt than told when we have this trust in our hearts. Just keep your mind engaged with the positives of loving and serving God and others, and imitate those who have learned these lessons. Then the God of peace will be with you in life and death, for time and for eternity, during the moments of mountaintop exhilaration and also during the valley-low moments of heartache.
When you get where you’re going, where will you be? It all depends on the path your thinking is taking you on, day by day, month by month, year by year. Before you know it, we will all be standing before God, giving an account of how we lived our brief lives here on earth. How we feel then will be determined by how we feel now—and all feeling is a result of your thinking and doing, every day in every way.
You and I are aimed at a target right now, and we will all reach it sooner than we imagine. “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully in the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:13). The power of spiritual thinking: a life lived for God in time and a soul with its Maker in eternity. Don’t miss it!