If I were to ask you who your greatest influences are, you might cite your hardworking father, your witty grandmother, or maybe your eleventh grade history teacher. Perhaps you’d think of a mentor, pastor, or close friend.
But Paul David Tripp tells it to us straight, saying, “no one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one talks to you more than you do.”1 Oh, how true this is. Turns out we are more influential in our own lives than we realize. Just one quick inventory of the thoughts that dominated our thinking this day can leave us confronted with the truth: We are what we think.
What are some of the thoughts that go through your mind in the day-to-day? Here are some of mine, even now:
I’ll never change. I’ll never overcome this weakness. I’m not a good mom. I’ll ruin these kids. I’m not capable of this difficult task. I shouldn’t trust people. I’ll inevitably get hurt. I should be so much further along in my walk with the Lord. God must be disappointed in me. I can’t minister or lead if I don’t have all the answers. I wouldn’t be going through these circumstances if I were a better Christian.
My guess is that while those statements seem recognizable as lies when someone else says them, you too allow them to form in your mind about yourself and your own circumstances. See how much your thoughts direct your days? Can you see why Tripp says no one is more influential than you are?
Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (NKJV). The principle here is that your heart and your mind are connected. You can try to act or behave in a certain way, but ultimately, your actions will take the shape of what drives our hearts and minds.
Take an inventory. What are the most common thoughts that fill your mind in the day-to-day?
This conviction to meet the jumbled-up thoughts and lies in my mind with the truth of God’s Word didn’t form out of a noble pursuit of spiritual discipline, but rather through the most brutal of seasons where my emotions and feelings about my life threatened to pull me under the tide of life’s unexpected waves of doubt, fear, exhaustion, and disappointment.
Maybe you know what “unexpected” feels like. Most of us intentionally or unintentionally write narratives for our ideal lives that include graduating college with very little school debt and marrying a godly man who will not only be handsome eternally but will also always read our minds when we have needs and always have the right answer for how to lead us into the future. We write scripts for our lives that perhaps include adventures abroad, a good job, nice benefits, a squad of fun friends who will never betray us, a vibrant church to plug into, and lots of opportunities to use our gifts in ways that feel natural and encouraging.
None of us plan to write confusion or failure or chapters of loss, pain, conflict, or suffering into our stories. No one plans to struggle to love her husband, to feel helpless in motherhood, to feel lonely in ministry, to wrestle with identity. But there I was in my late twenties, chaffing from all this and more. In that time of my life, I was in a pattern of bowing to my emotions and stumbling about in my doubt like James says, “like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6, NIV).
My husband Troy and I were both believers, but reality pressed in with the tension of our faith against the pressures of life. And he said to me one day, in the midst of me feeling sorry for myself and in a slump, “Honey, you really need to preach truth to yourself. You believe the gospel and the hope we have in Christ. Tell yourself what to do like the psalmist does.”
The psalm he referred to is Psalm 42.
"Why, my soul, are you so dejected? Why are you in such turmoil? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him, my Savior and my God" (Psalm 42:5)
If the psalmist’s remedy for a downcast soul was to tell his soul to put his hope in God, then we must know why putting our hope in Jesus changes our hearts and minds. Somehow as believers we trust Jesus to save us from our sins, but we so easily forget He saves us to a new way of thinking, living, and being.
1. Paul David Tripp, “Wednesday Word: A Weekly Devotional with Paul Tripp,” Paul Tripp Ministries, Inc., March 13, 2013, accessed April 3, 2020, https://www.paultripp.com/wednesdays-word/posts/talking-to-yourself.
Excerpted from TruthFilled: The Practice of Preaching to Yourself through Every Season. Published by LifeWay Press®, © 2020 Ruth Chou Simons.