Proper feelings and thoughts
Desires, feelings, and thoughts go hand in hand. For example, God’s rule concerning the act of Christian giving is recorded in 2 Corinthians 9:7:
“Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
God says concerning prayer, “The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth” (Psalm 145:18). On the other hand, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (Psalm 66:18).
The outer man must agree with the inner man
There is much social pressure that requires you to look happy, to act as if you were happy, to be polite, to do the acceptable thing. Of course we should do these things. However, the outer man must agree with the inner man. The Christian is concerned, not only with his tone of voice, but with what is in the heart as well. The Christian is concerned, not only with how he acts, but with how he feels. James says:
“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic” (James 3:14-15, emphasis added).
To illustrate, a certain woman is a very friendly person, easy to talk to, likable. Consequently, she is always invited to the neighbors’ homes for coffee. Friends often ask her to drive them somewhere. The church is always asking her to do special tasks. Her husband frequently brings guests home. But behind her friendly manner are her dislike of people and her resentment because she feels that she is being imposed upon. The people who call upon her surely benefit from her services and her friendliness. She is the loser. The conflict between her acting and her feeling may cause her to become ill.
An official of the famed Mayo Clinic, Dr. Edward Rynearson, made the statement that seven out of ten persons who see a doctor “have symptoms but not actual organic diseases.” He says a symptom is usually related to tension caused by conflict between the inner and the outer man.
Dr. O. Spurgeon English, of Temple University, Department of Psychiatry, points out that the emotions can affect blood nourishment, glandular functions, or muscle tones. Most laymen think of pain as originating only from such causes as broken bones, bruises, ulcers, inflammation, or infections. They think their discomfort must come from a condition which can be diagnosed by x-ray or other laboratory methods. Dr. English has found that anxiety, hostility, guilt, jealousy, anger, frustration, worry, rage, resentment, and envy are some of the emotions that can cause such problems as disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, disorders of the heart, disorders of the skin, headaches. A glance at his list of emotions reminds one of the works of the flesh, listed in Galatians 5:19-26, or passages such as Ephesians 4:31-32 and James 3:14-18. Note also the fruit of the Spirit of God in these verses, that is, the proper inner reaction toward others.
Your goal–a wholesome response
An adequate estimate of yourself requires proper feelings. Words and deeds without appropriate desires and feelings behind them leave you cold, dissatisfied with yourself; and, hence, keep you from a proper love of your neighbor.
Each of us has his own private world of thoughts. The questions are often asked: “What do you think of that person?” “What do you suppose he meant?” “What did you think of the sermon?” Such questions illustrate that you hold the key of the gate to your thoughts. No one can share your thoughts without your consent. In order for you to have a sense of wholesomeness, you must experience wholesome thinking.
We come back to “the great commandment” (Matthew 22:37). If we love God wholly, we want to do things His way. The promise is that, if you “let your requests be made known to God … the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). When our minds and hearts are in tune with God, our thinking will be wholesome.
A reporter tells of a reaction common to many. While covering a dog show, he approached an official for a press pass, explaining that he wanted to write an article about the show. The official delivered a brief, snarling lecture on the subject of people who expect to get into dog shows free, unless they are showing dogs. Then he asked, “Are you showing dogs?” “No, I am not!” replied the reporter. The official abruptly turned his back, leaving an astonished and overwhelmed reporter. Immediately the newsman began to think of things he should have said. Sharp-edged retorts leaped into his mind. He fancied a much more successful comeback that included sidestepping an irate, lunging official and flooring him with a neat right to the jaw. He had thought himself into a sweat before something else took his attention.
How different was Christ’s example! After being beaten, spat upon, mocked, and crucified, He called upon God, saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Peter said of the Lord Jesus, “…and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23).
Feelings and thoughts have to do with the inner man. They need not show. As the psalmist says, “His speech was smoother than butter, but his heart was war; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords” (Psalm 55:21).
Your goal ought to be such that your response to the unexpected situation, the unfair, unreasonable situation, will be a wholesome, positive one — “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
When you achieve this goal, you will find that your thoughts will conform to the exhortation of Philippians 4:8:
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
Proper words, proper actions, proper desires, proper feelings, proper thoughts are the ingredients that give you a sense of personal wholesomeness. These qualities are necessary in order that you might love your neighbor–as yourself.