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).
Matthew 25:35 ESV For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
Isaiah 58:10 ESV If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
Proverbs 28:27 ESV Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.
Luke 3:11 ESV And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
Matthew 14:15-21 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. …
James 2:14-18 ESV What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
John 6:35 ESV Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
Proverbs 14:31 Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
Proverbs 31:20 ESV She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.
1 John 3:17-18 ESV But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
Romans 12:20 ESV To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Deuteronomy 8:1-20 ESV “The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. …
John 6:55-59 ESV For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
2 Kings 4:43 ESV But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred men?” So he repeated, “Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’”
Luke 12:20 ESV But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’
Luke 9:13 ESV But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.”
Isaiah 61:1-2 ESV The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;