By Tim Howington
Managing our Minds in Tough Financial Times
I remember when my son studied about Johnny Appleseed in his first grade history class. Some think that Johnny was a fabled character who embodies the generous spirit of America. But, he was a real person. He was an entrepreneur type who loved his apple trees and made it his mission to plant nurseries of apple trees all over his part of the country. By the time he got through there were apple orchards all over the place. Johnny was a planter. And he spent his time and effort planting seeds that would blossom into trees that would provide sustenance to millions. Our topic in this chapter is not about agriculture, but is neurological in nature. The question today is what kinds of seeds are you planting in your mind? What kinds of thoughts are consuming your days? There is a battle going on for the mind and it is being lost at the seed level. We are planting the wrong kind of seeds and therefore we are growing the wrong kind of trees.
This is really true when it comes to managing our minds during tough financial times. The key to winning the battle for the mind has to do with what we allow our minds to focus on. If we focus on what we do not have, then we will plant seeds of anxiety that will grow into mind-trees of hopelessness. If we focus on what God is able to do, then our minds will grow beautiful orchards of contentment. Now I know that our thoughts may not pay the light bill. But thinking about the right things keeps our hearts with the right perspective, which affects our attitudes, which allows us to struggle well in times of adversity.
What should we be thinking about?
Think about Worthy Things
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8
Listen to Paul’s list of seeds to plant in the gardens of our minds. He gives a great list of things that we should focus our thoughts on. I have rearranged the order to spell the word PLANTER. These categories of thoughts could help you make some progress in your thinking. Memorize the acronym and work systematically through the list till you are thinking rightly. When you catch yourself thinking of unworthy things you should try to shift gears to thoughts that are:
P-ure and Praiseworthy
As I was working through this section, it occurs to me, that each of these thoughts that I need to be planting in my mind, ultimately describe our Heavenly Father. He is pure and praiseworthy. He is lovely. He is admirable. He is noble. He is true. He is excellent. He is right. And while there are other things in this world that are worthy to focus our mind’s attention on, our God who spoke the universe into place and daily shows His meticulous providence towards us, should be the major focus of our minds during our times of need.
Think about the fact that God Owns it All
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for He founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters” Ps 24:1-2
There is something freeing about knowing that we are not owners but managers. One of the core messages of Scripture is that God owns it all and we are His managers. Because God owns it all, we as His managers must focus our minds on Him instead of our circumstances. What does He want us to do to manage His resources? This should shift our thinking to a place of balance. It is not ultimately about us, but Him. Our Father knows what we need and wants to take care of us as we represent Him.
I love my wife for a lot of reasons, but one thing I really admire about her is that she is a woman of faith. Oh, she has season of doubt like the rest of us. But, she believes that God is able to take care of us. During our season of financial anxiety she was constantly reminding me that there is no shortage of resources that God is able to bring to bear on our financial struggle. How does she do that? She focuses her mind on the things of God and His promises in our lives, and she understands that God owns it all. She looks back to what God has already done on our behalf. In short, she has planted seeds of faith in her heart and they have grown into trees of faith. I wish I could be more like her.
We must manage our Mind.
The Scripture is clear that our minds are a major battlefield when it comes to overcoming trials. The peace of mind that we crave during difficult times starts with what we allow our minds to meditate on. Isaiah says that “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You (Is 26:3).” A steady mind focused on the things of God will serve you well in tough times. Practically, that means that we don’t allow our minds to wander to all the worst case scenarios. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we won’t experience the worst case. But many times, we borrow tomorrow’s trouble when today has enough challenges of its own. As we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, He will take care of the necessities of our lives (Mt 6:33).
Johnny Appleseed planted apple seeds that produced apple trees. The believer plants spiritual seeds that produce spiritual trees. The Psalmist says it this way: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Ps 1:1-3). The mind is a funny thing. It will meditate on the things we tell it to and the key to managing our minds in the tough financial times is thinking about the right things. Pretty simple huh? Maybe I will get me a piece of apple pie and think about that some more.