Thoughts are the most private parts of our human experience. No one else can know our thoughts unless we communicate them, so we tend to imagine that anything we think is safe, as long as it stays in our minds. But there is one Person who always knows what we are thinking; God knows everything about us, and He also knows our thoughts.
God knows our thoughts no matter who or where we are. Psalm 139 begins this way: “O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar” (verses 1–2). God searches the hearts and minds of people, seeking those whose hearts are turned toward Him (Jeremiah 12:3; 1 Chronicles 29:17; Acts 15:8). Two of the Ten Commandments deal with our thoughts. The first commandment is to have no other gods before the Lord (Exodus 20:3). That is a heart matter. The tenth commandment warns us not to covet what others have (Exodus 20:17). Coveting is also a sin of our thoughts. When Jesus walked the earth, He knew people’s thoughts and answered before they even verbalized their questions (Matthew 9:4; 12:25; Luke 9:47; 11:17). In this way, Jesus exhibited the divine trait of omniscience.
It can be intimidating to realize that God knows our thoughts. He knows the angry thoughts, lustful thoughts, vengeful ideas, secret greed, and hidden coveting. God also knows about those secret longings, hopeful desires, and private dreams. And He understands. First John 3:20 assures us that “if our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” Sometimes we are harder on ourselves than God is. He knows we are frail humans made from dirt and born with a sin nature (Psalm 103:14).
If we have given our lives to Christ, then we should find comfort in remembering that our loving Father knows us better than we know ourselves. God knows our desire to please Him (Psalm 37:23), even though we stumble at it. Within that loving relationship, we have confidence to cry, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23–24). We don’t have to be afraid of being vulnerable to our Creator. And there’s no sense in trying to hide things from Him. Whatever the issue, He already knows about it and wants us to feel safe enough to confess our thoughts to Him (Psalm 50:15; 91:15; 1 John 5:14–15). God knows our thoughts, and He helps us to know ourselves better when we talk them over with Him.
In Matthew 10:34–39, Jesus stated clearly what it means to follow Him. He said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
Jesus’ bringing a “sword” and turning family members against each other can seem a little harsh after words like “whosoever believes on Him shall not perish” (John 3:16). But Jesus never softened the truth, and the truth is that following Him leads to difficult choices. Sometimes turning back may seem very appealing. When Jesus’ teaching went from the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3–11) to the coming cross, many who had followed him turned away (John 6:66). Even the disciples decided that following Jesus was too difficult the night He was arrested. Every one of them deserted Him (Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50). On that night, following Christ meant possible arrest and execution. Rather than risk his own life, Peter denied that he even knew Jesus three times (Matthew 26:69–75).
To truly follow Christ means He has become everything to us. Everyone follows something: friends, popular culture, family, selfish desires, or God. We can only follow one thing at a time (Matthew 6:24). God states we are to have no other gods before Him (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7; Mark 12:30). To truly follow Christ means we do not follow anything else. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” There is no such thing as a “halfway disciple.” As the disciples demonstrated, no one can follow Christ by the strength of his own willpower. The Pharisees were good examples of those who were trying to obey God in their own strength. Their self-effort led only to arrogance and distortion of the whole purpose of God’s Law (Luke 11:39; Matthew 23:24).
Jesus gave His disciples the secret to faithfully following Him, but they did not recognize it at the time. He said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing” (John 6:63). And “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them” (verse 65). The disciples had walked with Jesus for three years, learning, observing, and participating in His miracles. Yet, even they could not follow Him faithfully in their own strength. They needed a Helper.
Jesus promised many times that, once He had ascended to the Father, He would send a “Helper” to them—the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26). In fact, He told them that it was for their good that He was going away so that the Holy Spirit could come (John 16:7). The Holy Spirit indwells the heart of every believer (Galatians 2:20; Romans 8:16; Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 28:20). Jesus warned His followers that they were not to begin testifying of Him “until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4). When the Holy Spirit came upon those first believers at Pentecost, they suddenly had all the power they needed to follow Christ, even to the death, if needed (Acts 2:1–4; 4:31; 7:59-60).
Following Jesus means striving to be like Him. He always obeyed His Father, so that’s what we strive to do (John 8:29; 15:10). To truly follow Christ means to make Him the Boss. That’s what it means to make Jesus Lord of our lives (Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 2 Corinthians 4:5). Every decision and dream is filtered through His Word with the goal of glorifying Him in everything (1 Corinthians 10:31). We are not saved by the things we do for Christ (Ephesians 2:8–9) but by what He has done for us. Because of His grace, we want to please Him in everything. All this is accomplished as we allow the Holy Spirit to have complete control of every area of our lives (Ephesians 5:18). He explains the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 2:14), empowers us with spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4-11), comforts us (John 14:16), and guides us (John 14:26). To follow Christ means we apply the truths we learn from His Word and live as if Jesus walked beside us in person.
It’s easy to make decisions based on what we want, think and feel―or what our emotions tell us is the right thing, right now. But we have to be very careful not to be led by emotions. We need to follow something much wiser and much more dependable―and that is the Word of God.
Hebrews 4:12 says that God’s Word is sharper than any two-edged sword, dividing soul and spirit and judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. In other words, God’s Word gives us wisdom to know right from wrong, and keep our thoughts and attitudes in control.
Even after years of study we may still not be able to apply every bit of wisdom God’s Word has for us, but we will have made considerable progress―and we’re covered by God’s grace and mercy as we continue to learn and grow.
How to Know God’s Will from Your Own:-
It’s challenging sometimes to discern if what we want is in line with what God wants for us because when we feel strongly about something, we can easily deceive ourselves into thinking it’s God’s will―and the devil will help us do it. He will even lead us to take Scripture out of context if it will keep us deceived and living in sin.
First Corinthians 2:14 says that to those in the world, truths revealed by the Spirit sound like foolishness. Only spiritual people can understand the things of the Spirit. And sometimes it’s even very difficult for spiritual people to do!
I can tell you that when you’re truly being led by the Spirit, your head can have a hard time understanding what God’s doing because He often seems unreasonable. He will do many things in your life that you just cannot understand.
I used to be so confused about some of the things God allowed to happen in my life. But when I look back at them today, I can say, “Now I know why that had to happen. Now I know why that took place.”
God knows more than we know, His ways are above our ways, and He has a better plan for our lives than we do. Instead of being led by our feelings, we need to be led by God, even when we don’t understand.
How to Manage Unstable Emotions:-
If we want to improve in this area, we have to let God show us some truth about ourselves. We need Him to reveal the root of our problem because if we see it, we can deal with it, and then we can avoid the feelings that come from it. So we can pray for God to reveal those things to us. But feelings are unpredictable by nature, so we also need to learn how to manage them when they change unexpectedly.
It’s amazing how you can straighten up your attitude just by having a little chat with yourself. Your family may not be everything you’d like them to be, but you have a family. Your house might not be everything you’d like it to be, but you’re not on the street. You may not like your job, but somebody out there wants it. You may not even like your spouse, but I guarantee you there’s someone out there who would be happy to take them off your hands.
Victory is pretty much impossible until we learn how to live beyond our feelings.
They can change so quickly! Feelings make us cry one hour and laugh the next. They behave better when circumstances are good, and they act up during periods of waiting and change. I want you to master your feelings. I want you to own your emotions, not let them own you.
Colossians 3:2 says we should set our mind and keep it set on things above. If you will make a decision today to live by the Word instead of how you feel, I guarantee that a year from now you will be a different person―and I hope, very pleased with your progress.
Life is full of decisions that do not have absolute, specific-by-name, how-to directions in the Bible. How many hours a day should my kids spend on screens? Is it okay to play certain video games? Am I allowed to go on a date with a coworker ? Is it okay to miss work because I stayed up too late the night before? We all have notions about the truth, but how do we know for sure that these ideas are coming from God? Am I hearing God? Or am I only hearing myself? Worse yet, am I hearing the temptations of Satan disguised as the leading of the Holy Spirit? Sometimes distinguishing our own ideas from God’s leading is difficult. And what if our urges are actually coming from the enemy of our souls and not from God? How do we “take every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5) when we aren’t sure where the thoughts are coming from?
Most commonly, God communicates through the Bible, His inspired Word, preserved through the centuries for us today. It is through the Word that we are sanctified (John 17:17), and the Word is the light for our path (Psalm 119:105). God can also guide us through circumstances (2 Corinthians 2:12), the promptings of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16), and godly mentors providing wise counsel (Proverbs 12:15). If God wants to speak to us, nothing can stop Him. Here are some ways to discern the source of our thoughts:
Pray If we are confused about whether or not we are hearing God, it is good to pray for wisdom (James 1:5). (It’s good to pray for wisdom even when we don’t think we’re confused!) We should ask God to make His will known to us clearly. When we pray, we “must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6). If we have no faith, we “should not expect to receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:7).
Talk to God in prayer and earnestly wait for His answer. However, keep in mind that God doesn’t give us everything we desire, and sometimes His answer is, “N o.” He knows what we need at any given time, and He will show us what is best. If God says, “No,” then we can thank Him for the clarity of His direction and move on from there.
Study the Word The Bible is called “God’s Word” for a reason—it is the primary way God speaks to us. It is also the way we learn about God’s character and His dealings with people throughout history. All Scripture is “breathed out by God” and is the guide for a righteous life (2 Timothy 3:16–17). While we speak to God in prayer, He speaks to us through His Word. As we read, we must consider the words of the Bible to be the very words of God.
Any thought, desire, inclination, or urge we may have must be brought to the Word of God for comparison and approval. Let the Bible be the judge of every thought. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). No matter how urgent the urge, if it goes against what Scripture says, then it is not of God and must be rejected.
Follow the Holy Spirit’s Leading The Holy Spirit is God—a divine Being with a mind, emotions, and will. He is always with us (Psalm 139:7–8). His purposes include interceding for us (Romans 8:26–27) and giving gifts to benefit the church (1 Corinthians 12:7–11).
The Holy Spirit wills to fill us (Ephesians 5:18) and produce in us His fruit (Galatians 5:22–25). No matter what decisions we’re making day to day, we can’t go wrong when we exhibit love, joy, peace, etc., to the glory of God. When we have a random thought pop into our heads, we must learn to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1). Will following this inclination lead to more Christlikeness? Will dwelling on this thought produce more of the fruit of the Spirit in me? The Holy Spirit will never lead us to gratify the sinful desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16); He will always lead us toward sanctification (1 Peter 1:2). Life on earth is a spiritual battle. The enemy is eager to supply diversions to distract us from God’s will (1 Peter 5:8). We must be vigilant to ensure that what we heed is more than a feeling but is truly from God Himself.
Remember, God wants to show us the right path to take. He’s not in the business of hiding His will from those who seek Him.
Here are some good questions to ask as we examine whether or not we are hearing God: Are the promptings confusing or vague? God is not the author of confusion; He is the bringer of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). Do the thoughts go against God’s Word? God will not contradict Himself. Will following these promptings lead to sin? Those who “keep in step with the Spirit” have “crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24–25).
In addition, it is good to seek counsel from a Christian friend, family member, or pastor (Proverbs 15:22). Our pastors are there to help shepherd us: “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account” (Hebrews 13:17).
God does not want us to fail. The more we listen to God, the better we will be at distinguishing His voice from the other noises in our heads. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, gives His promise: “He goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:4). Others may speak, “but the sheep [do] not listen to them” (verse 8). The better we know our Shepherd, the less we have to worry about heeding the wrong voice.
Bitterness is resentful cynicism that results in an intense antagonism or hostility toward others. The Bible teaches us to “get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” It then goes on to tell us how to deal with such bitterness and its fruits by being “kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
As an adjective, the word bitter means “sharp like an arrow or pungent to the taste, disagreeable; venomous.” The idea is that of the poisonous water given to the women who were suspected of committing adultery in Numbers 5:18: “The bitter water that brings a curse.” In its figurative sense, bitterness refers to a mental or emotional state that corrodes or “eats away at.” Bitterness can affect one experiencing profound grief or anything that acts on the mind in the way poison acts on the body. Bitterness is that state of mind that willfully holds on to angry feelings, ready to take offense, able to break out in anger at any moment.
The foremost danger in succumbing to bitterness and allowing it to rule our hearts is that it is a spirit that refuses reconciliation. As a result, bitterness leads to wrath, which is the explosion on the outside of the feelings on the inside. Such unbridled wrath and anger often leads to “brawling,” which is the brash self-absorption of an angry person who needs to make everyone hear his grievances. Another evil brought on by bitterness is slander. As used in Ephesians 4, it is not referring to blasphemy against God or merely slander against men, but to any speech springing from anger and designed to wound or injure others.
All this then leads to a spirit of malice, which signifies evil-mindedness or feelings of intense hatred. This kind of attitude is sensual and devilish in its influences. Malice is a deliberate attempt to harm another person. Therefore, “every form of malice” must be done away with (Ephesians 4:31).
The person who is bitter is often resentful, cynical, harsh, cold, relentless, and unpleasant to be around. Any expression of these characteristics is sin against God; they are of the flesh, not of His Spirit (Galatians 5:19-21). Hebrews 12:15 warns us to “see to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” We must always be wary of allowing “bitter roots” to grow in our hearts; such roots will cause us to fall short of the grace of God. God wills that His people live in love, joy, peace, and holiness—not in bitterness. Therefore, the believer must always watch diligently, being on guard against the dangers of bitterness.