A HEALTHY BODY produces energy. Likewise, a healthy mind produces joy. This is not an accident. If you want to experience vibrant health and abundant energy, it is essential that you consume certain foods and drinks and refrain from consuming others. The same is true if you want to lose weight or put more muscle on your frame. You have to say yes to the foods that lead you toward your goal and no to those that lead you away. Very simply, you need to eat this, not that. And while, for the most part, this is now considered common sense, it is not always common practice for those desiring to reshape their physical bodies or increase their energy levels.
Progress toward joy begins the same way, with a firm decision to cut back on joy-reducing thoughts and increase joy-producing thoughts. In short, you have to change your mental diet. You have to think this, not that. After all, joy is the sum and substance of emotional health.
Many well-meaning individuals desire to be leaner or more energetic but then continue to indulge in a diet and lifestyle that takes them in the opposite direction. Consequently, they do not reach their goal. Many with the goal of increased joy run into the same predicament: they keep consuming a mental diet mismatched with their goal. In both instances, there is a major disconnect between desired objectives and daily behavior.
Joy is a state of mind that must be purposely cultivated if you are to live and love and influence others as God intended. Fortunately, joy does not depend on the outer conditions of your material life, but rather on the inner condition of your mental life. Joy is the result of something strikingly simple, though not necessarily easy: consistently thinking joy-producing thoughts.
Is this within your grasp? Is it even possible for anyone to accomplish? Before you answer, let me remind you that few endeavors worth pursuing come easily to anyone, and the attainment of a joy-filled spirit is no exception. There are risks in shooting for this gold standard of faith in action. There is a high price to be paid, and it must be paid in advance. Certain comfort thoughts will need to be relinquished. Counterproductive habits will need to be abandoned. Tenured excuses must be surrendered.
Since you are free to choose what you think about, and you have billions of options, what specific thoughts should you increase to become joy filled? What specific thoughts should you decrease? What kinds of thoughts will distress your soul? What types of thoughts will nourish and hydrate your soul?
At any given moment we can consciously choose to
• think excellent thoughts, not mediocre thoughts;
• think focused thoughts, not scattered thoughts;
• think fresh, exciting thoughts, not stale, boring thoughts;
• think compassionate thoughts, not harsh thoughts;
• think innovative thoughts, not common thoughts;
• think loving thoughts, not indifferent thoughts;
• think energetic thoughts, not exhausted thoughts;
• think constructive thoughts, not destructive thoughts;
• think helpful thoughts, not hurtful thoughts;
• think successful thoughts, not failure thoughts;
• think faith thoughts, not fear thoughts;
• think fit thoughts, not fat thoughts;
• think bold thoughts, not comfort thoughts;
• think opportunity thoughts, not security thoughts;
• think giving thoughts, not getting thoughts;
• think serving thoughts, not self-centered thoughts;
• think grateful thoughts, not entitled thoughts;
• think abundant thoughts, not lacking thoughts;
• think responsible thoughts, not irresponsible thoughts;
• think reconciliation thoughts, not retaliation thoughts;
• think principled thoughts, not popular thoughts;
• think positive thoughts, not negative thoughts;
• think thoughts of victory, not thoughts of defeat; or
• think about the promises of God, not the problems of this world.
Think about what you want, not what you don’t want. Why is this required for joy-filled living? Very simply stated, we tend to bring about what we think about. As King Solomon counseled, “As [a person] thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7, NKJV).
Building on Solomon’s wisdom, James Allen wrote that “the outer world of circumstance shapes itself to the inner world of thought, and both pleasant and unpleasant external conditions are factors which make for the ultimate good of the individual. As the reaper of his own harvest, man learns both by suffering and bliss.”
It is my intention that during this forty-day regimen, you will start experiencing more of the bliss that is called joy-filled living. Starting today, release the need to hang on to thoughts that haven’t worked well for you.
It is true that we can think this, not that!
Tommy Newberry, 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life: Living the 4:8 Principle (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2012).