Don't Read your Junk Mail
Why encouragement is vital
“You are a wonderful artist!”
My young daughters play an arty game on the computer. It’s very simple; they click on a paint can to select a colour and then click on a part of a picture to colour it in. As they do this, the voiceover on the game says repeatedly, “You are a wonderful artist!” and “Hey that looks great!” and “You are talented!” It’s automated of course. The fictional cartoon character can’t really see what their picture looks like. But still, it’s immensely encouraging.
I’d like a similar track so I can have it on in the background while I’m working. I think it would make me raise my game to hear over and over; “Hey this copy looks great!” “You are a talented writer!” “Go on, you can manage another paragraph before banging your head on the desk!”
“Well done mummy, keep it up.”
I don’t have a backing track like that. But I do have a picture of a rainbow that my eldest daughter drew for me. I’ve stuck it up on the wall in front of my computer so I can look up and see it while I work. She’s written across the bottom: “Well done mummy, keep it up.” She didn’t mean it as a performance review but I like to read it that way. It’s encouraging.
And encouragement can be hard to come by. Dare I say, especially in the UK where bombastic greetings of “You’re awesome” aren’t exactly a national speciality. I miss that about living in Canada. North Americans are good at being positive and upbeat. So high fives and group hugs all round you guys. Oh and can I have a free re-fill? Thanks.
80% of our thoughts are negative
No matter what your culture, it’s easier to be negative than to be positive. Mark Virkler who teaches How to Hear the Voice of God estimates that 80% of our thoughts are negative. We might not have an arty computer game going on in our head but we do have a backing track and it’s not telling us how awesome we are!
The problem with our own thought patterns is that we get so used to them we don’t notice them any more. Like breathing or blinking. It’s only when the Spirit of Revelation breaks in and disrupts our thoughts – the regular paths of thinking we trudge down everyday without noticing – that we see an alternative way. It’s what repentance means: turning back and going a different way.
I had a wonderful experience at a Healing Conference in Bath with John and Carol Arnott and the Catch The Fire ministry, many years ago. I got so royally toasted in the Holy Spirit I was filled to overflowing – actually drunk in the Holy Spirit. Being overwhelmed like that, I kept laughing, stumbling around, and generally felt happy. Nothing was a problem, everything was possible, praying for people was brilliant and they got really touched by God. It was fantastic.
As I lay in bed one night, still full to the brim with the Holy Spirit, I noticed that I could distinguish the voices in my head really clearly. Wait. Let me explain, lest you think I’ve gone mad. You have voices in your head too. They sound like you talking to you. They’re called thoughts.
Where the thoughts in your head come from
Theologian Mark Virkler teaches that we have three sources for our thoughts. Some of our thoughts are just our own – these are usually logical and practical. Some of the thoughts are from God – these are the loving, kind and positive thoughts. And some of the thoughts are from the enemy. These are negative, hurtful, critical and depressing. This is why the Bible teaches us to “take every thought captive.” Because some of the messages (thoughts) received in our brain are just junk mail. Junk mail full of negative viruses that spread and corrupt things. They need to be marked as Junk and deleted straight away.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)
Back to the Bath conference now. Because I was so full of the Spirit the negative thoughts in my head stood out clearly as Junk Mail and became laughable. Rather than fall into the trap of agreeing with the Junk Mail (“Yes I’m rubbish, no, I’m a pain in the neck. I’m not as good as everyone else.”) They struck me as hilarious. They were as obvious as a cartoon villain with a handlebar moustache and a black cape trying to sneak into a scene. Obvious. Untrue. And ridiculous. It was a revelation.
I laughed my head off
It takes the Holy Spirit to blow the villain’s cover though because we are so familiar with our own negative thoughts. A very good friend of mine who is genuinely, totally amazing and a very powerful, prophetic and kind man of God once told me – with great fear and trepidation – what the most negative thought he had in his head was. He really didn’t want to tell me but bravely managed to get it out. I can’t even remember what the lie was, but it was so preposterous I found it funny. I laughed my head off. It was hilarious. But my friend, who’d heard it so many times over and over in his head, was scared to tell me it because he thought it was probably true. We get so used to receiving our own targeted junk mail, we think it’s true.
This is why the prophetic is so awesome, brilliant and excellent. God is an encourager. He’s a devoted Dad who’s dotty about us and he takes every possible opportunity to tell us so. That’s why his words comfort, encourage and exhort.
“But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.” (1 Corinthians 14:3 NIV)
Even when he has to discipline us he puts it in such a way that it feels good. The Holy Spirit never makes us feel yuck. Even conviction feels clean, right and a total relief.
That blanket of guilty blah
The enemy on the other hand specialises in making us feel yucky. He speaks accusation, criticism and condemnation. If you’re feeling manky and you can’t put your finger on why, that’s a good clue that you’ve come under condemnation; that blanket of guilty blah. Good news is that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, so tell it to bog off. (bog off may not be in the original Greek.)
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 NIV)
These days negative thoughts, condemnation, anxiety and all sorts of junk mail creep into my thinking on a daily basis and I often don’t spot them for what they are. Instead of pressing delete, I press ‘enter’ open them up and agree with them.
It’s yucky and it’s not helpful.
But when I remember to look up, I see my Father’s face and he’s smiling at me. The more of his Spirit I have and the more of his love I take the time to bask in, the better my Junk Filter becomes. I can see the Junk for what it is and delete.
Wear odd socks
So find your picture of a rainbow to tape to a wall. Put a note on your fridge or wear odd socks. Whatever it takes to prompt you to look up for a performance review and see Daddy’s face. Listen to the truth about his love for you. One day we’ll be so filled with Him that all the lies and negative thoughts that try to take us down, will seem so silly we’ll laugh. And that’s when they lose all their power.
You are awesome. You are talented. You are doing a good job. Keep it up.