Craig Groeschel - Defeat Your Negative Thoughts
I wonder how many of you are in the middle of a pretty decent life for the most part but still find yourself complaining a lot? Why is that? That our lives can be pretty special most of the time and our minds can drift to the things that we don't like or the things we want to complain about. What do we know about our minds? Our mind is a battlefield, and most of life's battles are won or lost in the mind. In other words, the life that we have in so many different aspects is a result of the thoughts that we think. What comes into your mind tends to come out in your life. If you have a negative mind, it's almost impossible to have a positive life when your mind is consumed with negative thoughts.
I wanna review today as we start our message on my book, "Winning the War in Your Mind". I want to review a key thought from 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. When the Apostle Paul said this, he said, "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, our weapons, they have divine power to demolish strongholds". What is a stronghold? Is a wrong pattern of thinking. Many of us are held hostage by the lies that we believe. He says, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive," somebody say, we take captive. We take captive. Type it in the chat, we take captive, what do we do? "We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ". The title of today's message is Defeat Your Negative Thoughts. And with that, let's go before God in prayer.
Father, we ask that by the power of Your word and the presence of Your Spirit, You would renew our minds with truth. Demolish every stronghold, every argument, every pretension in our minds, God, that sets itself up against the knowledge of truth. Give us the power, God to grab the negative, hurtful, toxic lies, capture them and replace them with truth. God, give us Your mind that we can live according to Your will. We pray this in Jesus name. And everybody said, amen, amen.
If you been with us over the past couple of weeks, we've been talking about the power of the mind as God created the mind, the mind is so incredibly powerful. And we talked about the reality that is incredibly complex, but we have something that's called neural pathways, what was so interesting is every time you think a thought, you're actually creating patterns or pathways in your brain. And the more often you think a thought, the easier it is to think that thought again. I wanna expand on that idea today and introduce what will be a some idea to some of you. I wanna talk to you about what people call cognitive biases or it's often called a mental filter.
What is a cognitive bias? A very simple definition for a cognitive bias is a mistake in reasoning based on personal experiences or preferences. It's a mistaken reasoning based on what you've experienced or what you prefer. We could call it a mental filter or a mental framework in your life. In other words, if you grew up in a context and you had something really bad happened to you, a lot of times you have a framework of thinking or a filter through which you might see a situation inaccurately. For example, maybe unfortunately there are many of you that grew up around very abusive men. And so because you were hurt and abused by men, now, a lot of times when you see men, all men aren't hurtful and all of them aren't abusive but because of what you endured, your filter tends to shape how you see men. And because of what happened to you oftentimes you may make an inaccurate judgment about someone around you.
Or for example, you might have grown up with parents who said bad things about wealthy people, like all wealthy people are bad, they're evil, they're whatever. And then you find yourself starting to succeed financially later in life, and you might feel guilty or ashamed, and it's not that it's bad but your filter shapes how you see it. The filters you have shape how you see life. What's interesting is if you change the filter it often changes how you feel, change the filter changes the feel. And we know that if you're posting a photo that's not very good on social media but you change the filter. How many of you have ever done that before? I liked this picture that I had of Amy and me until one of my kids got ahold of it and change the filter. And when you change the filter, it completely changes the feel, right? It's same, not just in a photo, but it's very true in your life. Change the filter, it changes the feel.
What is a cognitive bias? A cognitive bias is what we might call a default filter, is when our brain is pre-wired to think in a certain way or it pre-wired to interpret a situation even if our interpretation isn't completely accurate. This is why two different people can respond totally differently to the exact same situation. It's not the facts that are different, what is it? It's the filter.
For example, you might be at your workplace and your supervisor might go and give the exact same feedback in the exact same way almost in the exact same time to two different people. And the way they receive the feedback can be very, very different. One person gets offended. "Why are you telling me that? You don't know how valuable I am. I don't even like you anyway, who do you think you are giving me that feedback? You don't know how much I bring to this company". And the next person with the same exact feedback and a different filter may say, "Well, thank you. That was really helpful. Now I can do a better job, I really appreciate the fact that you valued me. Thank you for that feedback". It's not the facts that are different, what is it? It's the filter, type that in the chat, it's the filter.
Two different people can walk into a church, two people together, and one can walk in convinced that, "All Christians are hypocrites. I hate the music, this place is stupid. I never wanna come back". And right next to that person can be someone else who experiences the very same thing that says, "These people are amazing. They're so loving. I love the music. Maybe I'm here because God wants me here". It's not the facts that are different, what is it? Is to filter. Depending on what news sources you consume, you can read or watch some news sources and you can be convinced that the vaccine is the answer to every problem this year. Or if you read different sources, you can be convinced is the most dangerous thing that will kill you and it probably has a chip in it to track you, right?
It's not the... I know I'm getting into dangerous territory but just work with me. I know your side is right, whatever it is, you're right, I know you're right because I'm not informed, but you're right, okay? You're right. It's not the facts that are different, what is it? It's the filter, is what you take in. You can see examples of this even through Scripture. There's a powerful one, if you wanna read about this in the Old Testament, it's in Numbers chapter 13 and 14. When Moses sent 12 spies out to explore the land, 12 of them went out, saw the same exact thing but the reports were entirely different. It wasn't the facts that were different, what was it? It was the filter. Two of them came back and said, "Oh my gosh, it's a beautiful, it's amazing, it's perfect. God has given us, let us go take the land". 10 came back, which is funny to me that it was 10 out of 12 that were negative.
Almost perhaps representative of hopefully not our church but a lot of places out there where it's way more easy to be negative, afraid and critical than it is to fight for a positive attitude. 10 came back and said, "This is dangerous. The land devours people," which is really funny. "The land devours people and they're giants, and we are like grasshoppers in their eyes". What I promise you is nobody went up and interviewed one of these giants. What happened is their filter changed their perception of how they felt, and they felt like grasshoppers in the eyes of everybody else. It wasn't the facts that were different, what was it? It was the filter. But it's not just the filter that matters, it's also the frame. You can be in the very same situation and how you frame something, determines how you see it.
And I wanna give you a tool that I've worked with my counselor on that's called reframing. Let's adapt a tool called reframing. And I'm gonna give you a simple definition of reframing. What does it mean to reframe a situation or reframe a relationship? Reframing is creating a different way of looking at a situation or relationship by changing its meaning. Is simply creating a different way of interpreting or looking at a situation or relationship by changing its meaning. And I'll give you an example of how you can reframe a day.
Let's say you wake up and you determined ahead of time, this is gonna be a bad day. If you frame a day like this, you can say very easily. "This is gonna be a hard day. I got so much to do today. I work with these people that drive me crazy today. I don't know how I'm gonna get it all done. I'm so overwhelmed, I'm so tired. Life is hard, life is bad. Oh my gosh, what am I doing? My husband driving me crazy, why do we have all these kids? Sick of my stupid car, I hate the people I work with, I hate my job". The very same day you can have a bad day if you frame it the wrong way. If instead, you take the exact same situation and you reframe it, you may wake up and say, "Oh, I've got a lot going today, but I'm so thankful, my God is with me. I'm thankful that He's for me, I'm thankful, He's given me a job. I'm thankful for my old clunker that gets me to this job. Even though some people drive me crazy at work, I'm actually thankful for them because they're pretty good people. I believe today's gonna be a good day. We're gonna grind it out, we're gonna get a lot done". It's not the facts that change, but it's how you frame it.
I'm afraid that there are so many people that start to frame even God by saying, "I don't like what's going on, God". Rather than looking for the goodness of God in the day. It's not just the facts that are different, it's often the filter or it's often the frame. And what do we know about what goes on in life? You can't control what happens to you but you can control how you frame it. You can't control what happens to you but the good news is you can control how you frame it. What I wanna do is slow this down for just a moment and ask you, think about your life right now. Think even about the expectations that you often have in your mind.
And I wonder how many of you wanted something in life but right now you're experiencing the opposite. You thought that by this time I would be doing such and such, I'd be in this place or I'd have this or I would have accomplished this or I would have had this relationship, and you really, really wanted something but instead of achieving or accomplishing, or having, or being where you wanted, instead you're maybe at the exact opposite, maybe some of you you dreamed about having a great marriage, and that's exactly what you wanted, and you prepared for it, and you prayed about it, and you are pure and you work toward with everything in you. And you married your sweetheart, and then years later, you ended up where you never wanted to be, broken hearted and divorced.
Maybe for you, you went to college and studied and got the degree, and it felt like you were prepared to do something that would be meaningful. And now, instead of being in a job that you love, you're in an unrelated job that seemed like it was way beneath your education. And you wonder how in the world did I get here? Maybe for you, it was that you got to a point in your life where you thought I'd be married or I'd be financially out of debt, or I'd be able to travel or I'd have a ministry or be making a difference. Or I would have started my business or I'd be leading the business or my kids would have been better off. And you find yourself waking up like, why am I not where I wanted to be? And you're so confused by it.
If you ever wake up and think this isn't what I wanted, I wanted the exact opposite, the Apostle Paul knows exactly what you feel like. In fact, his story is incredibly emotional to me because he had a heart for God and only wanted to served God and only wanted to please God. And he felt called to go to Rome to preach the gospel. And he knew if he could reach the people in Rome, that would be the strategic place to help the gospel spread all over the world. So his dream, his bucket list, his top prayer list, his greatest desire, his calling was to go to Rome to preach. And instead of being in Rome preaching, he finds himself in Rome as a prisoner, locked up, in house arrest awaiting possible execution. Everything that he wanted, and he got the exact opposite.
Paul could have framed the situation in one of different ways. He could have framed it on the negative side, and this is what he would have said if he had framed it that way. From Philippians 1:12-13 from the NWV Version, NWV stands for the New Whiners Version. He could have said this, he could have said, "Now, I want you to know brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me really sucks. As a result of all the hell I've been through, I'm quitting LifeGroup and never gone back to church". That's what he could have said in the NWV. Now, for those of you that are new to church, I just want you to know that's not a real version of the Bible, I just feel like I should say that you're like on a your version about, "Where is the NWV, I can't find it anywhere, it's my favorite version".
Okay, that's not real. What he did though, is he reframed it, and I wanna read you the verse. This is what the verse says. He said, "I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me," although it may really look bad to most people, "it is actually served to advance the gospel". He said this, give me the next verse. He said, "As a result, it's become clear to those in the palace guard," guess what? Even though it looks like I'm in bad shape. When I reframe it, it is clear to everyone else that I'm actually in chains for Christ. What's happening? I'm locked up to a Roman guard, eight hours, every eight hours, I get a new one. Who do you think the real prisoner is here? I'm getting to preach to a captive audience. And I get a new influential person every eight hours who has to sit there and listen to my eight hour sermon on how good Jesus is.
Verse 14, he said this. "And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become even more confident in the Lord". And guess what? It looks bad, but because I'm in chains, they're daring to proclaim the gospel even more boldly without fear. It's not the facts that are different is how you frame it. And what I wanna do today is I wanna talk to you about how you can reframe your story and your relationships. Because what I know right now, many of you you've got a battle going on in your mind. Your life may have some complications, guess what? We all do, we all have stuff. Every single one of us there hasn't been a day without some stuff, it's stuff on your family, it's stuff with your kids, it's stuff with your neighbors, it's stuff with the people you work with, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff. Bad doctor report stuff, bad behavior stuff, fighting with your spouse stuff, financial problem stuff, fear stuff, bad news on the news stuff, bad news in your family stuff, bad news in your extended family stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff.
And so often so much of life is generally pretty decent but often it's the small part of the stuff that ends up taking us out of God's perfect will. I wanna talk to you about reframing your story and relationships and I'll give you three specific tools that can help us renew our minds, win the war in our minds so God can change our thinking, which will change our life. Let me give you three really simple tools. The first thing is number one, is I wanna encourage you occasionally to thank God for what didn't happen, to thank God for what didn't happen.
I'll give you an example of this. There was a 20-year old girl that said, "Mom and dad, I've got really bad news to tell you, I need you to sit down". And she said, "Let me tell the whole story, and I just want you to stay calm, but it's really bad news. I went out to a bar and met a guy, we drank too much. He came back to my apartment, we hooked up and I'm embarrassed to say I'm pregnant. The good news is that his probation will be over in a year, and he's gonna start looking for a job once he's out of rehab and he'll consider marrying me. But since we can't afford to get married now, he's just gonna move in right now". And she let it hang for a moment. Then she said, "Actually, none of that's true, the truth is I got a D on my chemistry exam and I just wanted you to know it could be a whole lot worse".
There may be a time where some of you ought to thank God for what didn't happen in your kid's life, right? I don't know what it would be but maybe you miss your goal at work, and you had a target so you could get your bonus, and you ended up not getting your bonus. You feel devastated by that, but you can thank God that in a very challenged and compromised economy that you didn't actually lose your job, and suddenly you're reframing the situation whether than just focusing on what's wrong, you can actually see what's right. You might get in a car wreck. One of my kids, not too long ago get a little fender bender. "Oh my gosh, it's gonna be expensive and there's an insurance hassle and a deductible, we're not gonna be in a car". Or you can say, "You know what? Thank God nobody got hurt. Thank God that it wasn't that big of a deal".
In the whole scheme of things, there are some things that are a big deal but so often it's things that aren't that end up taking this off. And if you'll take a step back every now and then and look with a broader perspective instead of focusing on what you hate, you may just change the frame and say, "God, I thank you for what didn't happen". "There are so many good things. I'm not gonna let this one category take me off of being encouraged by Your will". Thank God for what didn't happen. The second thing you can do is practice what we call pre-framing. Pre-framing, deciding how you'll frame a situation before you engage in the situation, why does this matter? Because our thoughts or frames often shape what we experience. If you go in and say, "This beat is gonna be horrible, I hate these people, is so dull".
You think you have a good beating, you're going to have a bad beat. If you go in instead and say, you know what, "We're gonna do our best, we're gonna be productive, we're gonna enjoy the people that we're around, it's gonna change". Oh, we're going out. "I hate all this. I hate these stupid events, it's gonna be a pain". Oh you know what? "I'm thankful, I'm with some people that I love, we're gonna have a good time".
The way you frame it often changes how you perceive it. And I'll give you an example of how I reframed a failure. Back in high school, one of the sports I played was tennis. And I've got some pictures of evidently, all I knew how to do is hit a backhand in the pictures, but my sophomore year, I played number one singles for a little Ardmore, Oklahoma. And in the state finals, I was in the quarterfinals, I was playing against the number four ranked seed, a guy named Mandy Ochoa, who was a legend. So I'm an unranked, unseated, nobody against a senior. I'm a sophomore, and he was a legend. And somehow we split sets, one set to him, one set to me. In the third set, I was up five games to one, 40 love against the number four ranked player in the state.
Big crowd, massive crowd of like 12 people gathered to watch this potential upset. If I won any of the three next points, they're called match points, you win any one, and I win the match. Well, I didn't win those. He went on a deuce. I ended up having seven match points in the third set. I was up 5-1, 40 love with seven match points. I lost them all, and Mandy Ochoa came back to beat me 7-5 in the third set. And I developed a reputation and a nickname called Grow Choker. If Grow Choker gets an a tight match, he's gonna tighten up and he's gonna choke. And I started to own a very negative label. Thankfully, I had a great mentor and a coach who sometime later got up into my business and essentially he didn't use this term but essentially he said, we're gonna reframe that. What I want you to realize is you've been in some of the tightest matches around and what have you learned? I said, I learned what doesn't work. He said, what doesn't work whenever you get tense whenever you don't hit out.
So what do you do in a tight match? He said ask me, he said, you go for it, you bring more into it. You let loose, you bring your energy You excel on, you bring your best, you bring your all. And he said, what I want you to do is essentially reframe your situation because of your experience now, you are prepared to become a great pressure player. That very simple little thing I'm telling it was just a kid, it has stayed with me to this day. Hey, I may have choked in some tight situations but listen to me, because of my experience, God has enabled me to be great under pressure. In the most complicated leadership situations, when I visualize how I will lead, I never see myself choking, never myself failing. I see myself walking in with the power of God, His Spirit within me, completely confident, I will lead well because I'm a pressure player, I've already pre-framed it.
Some of you you're pre-framing your failure before you ever get there. Take whatever shortcoming you have, learn from it. Pre-frame it, and walk in believing that God will enable you to be successful. What can you do? You can thank God for what didn't happen. You can pre-frame a situation. And the third thing is you can look for God's goodness. You can look for God's goodness, because I promise you you will always find what you're looking for. If you look for the good, you can find good. If you look for the bad, you'll find bad. If you wanna see what's wrong every single day, you can find what's wrong every single day. If you wanna not like people, you can find a ton of reasons to not like people. But if you wanna look for God, if you wanna see faith, if you wanna see the best you can, it's just like the difference between a vulture and a hummingbird.
What does a vulture find? Every day, vulture flies around, what does a vulture find? Dead stuff, dead things, roadkill. But what does a hummingbird find? Every day the hummingbird finds sweet things. I promise you, you'll always find whatever you're looking for. If you wanna see what's wrong, what's bad, what's not working, what's wrong with the world, you can live a really depressed negative life. But instead if you wanna look for where God is working, you can see He's still on the throne and He's still good, and He's still powerful, and He still answers prayers. It's called cognitive reframing. And a good therapist will do a tool with you. Cognitive reframing is empowering you to decide the meaning of an event, you decide. I'm gonna take it up a level and say this, let's not just do cognitive reframing where you decide but let's let Jesus help you decide the meaning of a situation. Let's let Jesus frame it for you. And I'll show you what this means to me.
Amy and I were at an event recently, I spoke at a pastor's event with there were probably 125 pastors of what would be considered the most prominent churches in the country. Many of you would know many of the pastors who were there. It was interesting is almost to every single one when we talked privately, they said last year was the worst year ever. And their spouses talked to Amy on, it was the worst year ever. And there was just this heaviness and this a sense from some almost of hopelessness of how do we recover in the church world. And I looked back over last year and have had those thoughts and every single one of you in your own way has your own version of this. And so I don't wanna pretend like my year was worse than yours, but you had some version. My version was, you know, quarantined is like one of the first people in the country back in February and then the church shut down. And there's this massive fear of like what do you do when you can't meet? How do you even navigate through that for almost three months?
Then there was the, well, if you reopen you're dangerous was what some of you thought if you don't reopen, you've got no faith is what others of you thought. And then there was the whole mask thing like, meaning if you wear a mask you're a flaming liberal, if you don't wear a mask, you're dangerous to the world. And I mean, we're talking about like hatred from Christians. And then there was the growing awareness of the racial tension. And even with the purest of intentions of trying to love people, well, it doesn't seem like any of us got that exactly right. Then the political divide, which we all know so well. And here we find ourselves in the middle of the very difficult situation looking going, this was the worst year ever. Or was it? Because when I started looking back through my old pictures on my phone, I didn't see any of that bad stuff.
And I'll show you just a small glimpse of what I saw. I was one of the first people quarantined, and I was exposed to the virus in Germany in February, came back in for 14 days didn't see Amy. This is the closest I got to her as this photo. This is me, the guy in the right down the bottom with a mask on and shirt over his head. For some reason, I thought that we helped the virus from jumping across the yard to get her. And I'm telling you right now is it was the most intimate spiritual meaningful time with Amy. We facetimed and talked from across the house and I fell more in love with her not being with her. And it's amazing how much I loved her. Then my married daughters were quarantined back in like March and April. I don't know what they were doing but somehow we ended up getting these two amazing little blessings.
And then at church, we had some restructuring which enabled my son-in-law, Luke to get promoted to a youth pastor job at his church in the greater Tulsa area. And Anna and Luke bought their first house and they didn't have a baby, they had a dog. And then this is, doesn't mean anything but Amy learned to cut hair which I thought that was funny but I got more time with my kids and instead of working out in the gym, I worked out with my sons and had more time with them. And then I have what I call adventures with joy where we went all over the place and we found some sort of a skull here. We're not sure if it's a cow head or a dinosaur head. We think it's probably a dinosaur head.
But as I look back over the last year is easy at first glance to think it was the worst year ever. But actually I see so many incredible blessings when I reframe it. And when you look at the church that had to close down for months and yet, and then attendance is like the half of what it used to be. But somehow in the middle of that, my God who is always faithful managed to see more people come to Jesus last year than any year previous. And now that I look back, it doesn't seem so bad. It doesn't seem so bad. It's reframing. In other words, if God is working in all things for good, then it's time to reject the unhealthy thoughts, do away with those frames that tell you can't and you won't, and you're nothing, and you're failure, and you're not smart and we're gonna reframe it.
And what we're doing is we're not passively receiving circumstances but we're actively interpreting it. And guess what? We're not interpreting the goodness of God through our circumstances but we're interpreting our circumstances through the goodness of God. What has happened has actually served to advance the gospel because you cannot control what happens to you but you can control how you frame it. Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. And when you know the truth, the truth will set you free.
So Father, we ask today that by Your power and Your Spirit You would help us reframe some things going on in our lives right now. God renew our mind, any area, God, we're filled with the stuff, we're confused, we're hurting, we're disappointed, we're afraid. God help us to see You in it.
All of our churches, as you're praying today those who say yes, God helped me maybe reframe and see Your goodness. Would you lift up your hands right now, you need to reframe something.
Father, I thank you that You're working. God, even as people are watching online, God renew our minds with truth. I know there are real significant burdens that people are facing right now, real significant burdens. And God, even in the middle of those trials, I pray we could experience Your grace that sustains us, Your strength that carries us and Your Spirit, God, that comforts us. Help us to see You even when we're hurting, God. Give us the power to see Your goodness, to sense Your presence, and to do Your will God in all that we do.
As you keep praying today, at all of our different churches and those of you that are watching online, some of you may say, well, I really don't see God working in any area of my life. And if I could submit to you, maybe it's because you don't have God in your life in a real way. You don't have a real relationship with God. Let me tell you about how much He loves you. He loves you so much that He became one of you. He didn't shout His love from heaven, but He showed His love on earth. He became one of us in the person of Jesus, it was God in human form, God in the flesh, Jesus was without sin, He was perfect in every way. And He's called the lamb of God, He was the innocent sacrifice, He was the sinless one who went to the cross for the forgiveness of all of our sins.
Jesus gave His life and the power of God raised Jesus from the dead so that anyone, this includes you, it doesn't matter how dark your life feels, how bad you've been, how much you've done wrong. Any anyone who calls on that name that is above every name, the name of Jesus, your sins would be forgiven and you would be made brand new. Today, at all of our churches are watching online. Those who say, I want that, what do we do? We're simply gonna turn away from our old life, we're going to repent of our sinfulness and we're gonna turn towards Jesus, we're gonna call on Him, and when we do, He hears our prayers. He forgives our sins and He makes us new.
Today at all of our churches or online, those who say, yes, Jesus, I want You to, yes, Jesus save me, yes, I'm turning from my sins, I'm giving my life to Jesus. Today, I surrender my life. If that's your prayer, lift your hands high now all over the place and say, yes, that's me. I'm surrendering my life to Jesus. Those of you online, just type it in a chat, we'll celebrate with you. Say, I'm giving my life to Jesus. I'm giving my life to Jesus. And as we have people and countries from around the world and all of our churches finding new life in Christ, would you just pray with those around you in a moment? We're gonna celebrate new birth through the power of Jesus. Just pray aloud, pray:
Heavenly Father, please forgive me for all of my sins. Change me. Fill me with Your spirit and make me new. My life is not mine. I give it to You. Change my mind, cleanse my heart, direct my steps. I surrender my life completely to You. Use me to show Your love in Jesus name I pray.