Volume 50 | Number 2 | April–June 2022

Inglés Español

The Power of the Thought Life

By Dr. H. T. Spence

Two powers that have profound influence upon the human spirit are the mind and the thought life. Everything in life prompts thoughts, and these thoughts have a profound influence upon our spirit. Although we can change some circumstances to alter their outcome, there are many circumstances we do not have control of. Such circumstances we must commit to the winds of providence.

Nevertheless, there is one thing that we can have control over in every circumstance: our thoughts concerning each circumstance. In time, our thoughts become a part of our human spirit fashioning what we will become as we come out of a circumstance. From one perspective, we are the maker of who we are by virtue of the thoughts we both choose and cultivate. But we must take courage when uninvited thoughts are forced upon us; these thoughts are not our thoughts! We must resist and wage a war against them. If we do not resist them, they then become our thoughts unto which our will unites.

The Spirit versus the Flesh

At the outset of this biblical burden, a few observations must be made concerning the power of thought and its association with the physical, frail human body. In the garden of Gethsemane, Christ observed to His sleeping disciples that the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matt. 26:41b). This observation may be true in a variety of contexts of the Christian, even in the thought life. The Christian heart and spirit desire right thoughts, and they experience such thoughts with regularity. Moods and the thoughts bringing and feeding those moods certainly can be triggered by a variety of situations and circumstances in life. The seasons of changes in life in both women and men can affect the moods and thoughts of their lives. At these seasons, a Christian must lay hold of these thoughts and not permit them to control his thinking and thus his living. We must pray for God to help us through these seasons of changes in life; never let them control you!

There can also be emotional and mental side effects resulting from changes or malfunctions of any of the body’s seventy-eight organs. Sometimes moods and thoughts are affected by these bodily changes. For example, because the thyroid gland influences every other organ of the body, its malfunction can have profound effects upon thoughts and moods. Women are three times more likely than men to develop a dysfunctional thyroid. Both the more common hypothyroidism (under-active) and hyperthyroidism (over-active) can arise at any age, although their risks increase with age. It is also important to understand that “every single cell in the body has receptors for thyroid hormones, and without proper thyroid function many systems in your body suffer,” even the mood swings and the thoughts of the mind. The more severe the thyroid disease, the more severe may be the mood and thought changes. Such side effects can arise as moods of darkness and despair, or as articulated thoughts bombarding the mind. These physical diseases may need medical or natural remedies.

Through all this, the Christian woman must pray for God to help her deal with the imaginary thoughts that are not true or real. Otherwise, such thoughts can lead to dark moods (though not from her heart) that are the side effects of a malfunctioning organ. These vacillating emotions can reach the border of her soul and affect the mind. Yes, this can happen even to a Christian.

The Thought World of Our Soul

Amidst day-by-day living, the Christian must protect his mind and moods with thoughts that will truly benefit his soul as well. The mind is the master-weaver of both the inner garment of character and the outer garment of cultured living. How often in earlier years we let our thoughts in certain circumstances run wild, weaving only ignorance and pain. But there must come a time when we lay hold of the power of our thoughts and their influence over our spirit. We must begin to weave with enlightenment and a proper perspective of our thoughts.

The Lord often called men’s attention to their thinking about various aspects of life and truth.

And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham (Matt. 3:9).
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking (Matt. 6:7).
What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? (Matt. 17:25).
But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? (Matt. 21:28).
What think ye of Christ? Whose son is he? (Matt. 22:42).
Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh (Matt. 24:44).

At the garden when Peter took a sword to defend the Lord, it is stated,

Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? (Matt. 26:52). What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death (Matt. 26:66).

Christ often asked the disciples and others: What do you think about this? “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” The expression “as a man thinketh” embraces the whole of a man’s being; it also affects how he lives and responds to every aspect of life. A man’s true character is the complete sum of his thoughts. As a plant springs from seed and could not come into being without the seed, so every act of a man springs from the hidden seeds of thought, and the act could not have appeared without those thoughts. This principle includes spontaneous and unpremeditated acts as well as those which are deliberately executed. The acts of a man are the blossom of his thoughts; either joy or suffering are the fruits of these thoughts.

We are made or unmade by ourselves. In the armory of thought we forge the weapons by which we either destroy or build up ourselves. Even in our weakest or most abandoned state, our thoughts about life are most crucial. At such times how will we govern ourselves? When reflecting upon our condition, if we immediately search diligently for the Law upon which our life is established, we will then become a wise master builder.

Carefully note Matthew 7:24–27:

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolishman, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

This is most important: we will have to dwell in the house that our thinking has built. May these thoughts be consumed in continued doing and obeying the Word of God.

Oh, the stages of a tested life! It first begins with the rain from above; it continues with floods rising from beneath and winds from every corner. But a well-built house is kept from destruction. How sad to see professing Christians destroyed by circumstances and testings because of a thought life built upon the sands of humanism.

Similarly, one’s mind may be likened to a garden that is either cultivated or allowed to run wild. Whether cultivated or neglected, any field will bring forth something. When no useful seeds are sown there, an abundance of useless weed seeds will abound therein. Just as a gardener cultivates his plot, keeping it free from weeds, and growing the flowers and fruits he desires, man must cultivate the garden of his mind, weeding out all the wrong, useless, and impure thoughts, and cultivating toward perfection the flowers and fruits of right, useful, and pure thoughts.

We must come to understand the laws of thought that operate in the shaping of our character, circumstances, and destiny. Therefore, parents are crucial in guiding the developing thought life of their children. They are not merely to be training right actions and responses. Thought and character are one, and as character can only manifest and discover itself through environment and circumstance, the outer conditions of a person’s life will always be harmoniously related to this inner state of the heart and mind.

The Bible says, “Daniel purposed in his heart!”What was this? His thought life in God’s Word set the course of what he would do no matter the circumstances. Every thought-seed sown or allowed to fall into the mind and to take root there produces its own fruit, blossoming eventually into an act and bearing its own fruit of opportunity and circumstance. Good thoughts bear good fruit; bad thoughts produce bad fruit. Often men are anxious to improve their circumstances but are unwilling to improve themselves, choosing to remain bound within by bad thoughts. But to what degree is this to be found in the life of God’s people? The lives of Jacob and Joseph illustrate principles about the thought life.

Our Background and Its Influence upon Our Thinking

With a passive father and a most influential mother, Jacob had a difficult upbringing. His only sibling was his brother Esau. Esau was a man whose thought life was toward the world. Their father had thoughts toward the comforts of life; their mother had thoughts toward scheming, deception, and manipulation. Jacob grew up in a home filled with a variety of thoughts that produced a variety of people. Jacob had some thoughts on good things, but these were never cultivated. Though a grown, unmarried man at home, his thinking was still immature at the age of seventy-seven. If the providence of God had not worked to get him out of the home, he may never have left home; truly another story would have unfolded about him.

Note how Jacob finally left home. Knowing Esau desired to kill Jacob, Rebekah convinced Isaac to send Jacob away to gain a wife from her family. Isaac did not discern all that was in his wife’s request. She convinced Isaac to send Jacob away to her brother Laban in Haran (Padan-aram). Amidst Rebekah’s manipulation, God worked to get Jacob out of his weak home, away from his family proclivities controlling the lives of all who lived there. Though Jacob later saw his father again, God did not permit Jacob to see his mother again. Nevertheless, her well-established influence lingered long in his life and thinking.

After his five-hundred-mile journey, Jacob was thrown into another family that was more worldly, more scheming, and more conniving than the home from whence he came! His future father-in-law Laban religiously combined the memory of the true God with cultural pagan gods. He was a man given to worldly ways and to a spirit of domination and manipulation. Yes, Laban was a man who could mix his antithetical thoughts syncretistically; he truly was the product of his bad thinking. This dominating figure forced Jacob back to not only thoughts of home but also thoughts of the God Who was taught amidst the weaknesses of his parents. Soon, a greater seriousness began to take hold of his thought life.

In Genesis 31:1–16, Jacob departs Haran and his father-in-law after twenty years away from his father. Many thoughts prompted his decision to take his family and leave, never to return to Laban. On his journey back home, Laban caught up with Jacob. This encounter prompted more thoughts and more decisions in Jacob’s mind. Finally in Genesis 32:6, 7, Jacob truly comes face to face with his past:

And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to thy brother Esau, and also he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him. Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands; And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape.

Oh, how difficult it is to change the way of past thinking! Jacob immediately responds according to his habitual thought life. Jacob needed a crisis to aid in such a change. This aid of change came at Peniel, where he wrestled with the angel. There the Angel of the Lord finally changed Jacob’s old nature.This was the Angel Jacob declared redeemed him from all evil (Gen. 48:16). This blessed conflict was the work of sanctification (Rom. 6).

Later came more circumstances such as the failure of his own children who thought to vindicate the dishonoring of their sister Dinah. Their thoughts inspired actions to which Jacob responded,

Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land…and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slayme; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house (Gen. 34:30).

Next in Genesis 35, the Lord came to Jacob and called him back to Bethel. This call prompted new thoughts in his mind concerning the worldly dress of his family and their need of deliverance from the gods they had embraced since the days that Rachel stole the gods of her father. These thoughts prompted his actions to bury and hide all these things under an oak.

Increasing circumstances coming to Jacob prompted more thoughts. These thoughts were mixing with one another and producing a spirit, a mood in this dear man. In Genesis 35 there was the death of Deborah (the nurse of his mother Rebekah, the last link to his mother); then his wife Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin. Beginning in Genesis 37, several other circumstances occurred such as the losing of Joseph, then twenty-two years later the losing of Simeon (in Egypt), and the possibility of losing Benjamin. All these circumstances now had a powerful influence on Jacob’s thinking:

Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me (Gen. 42:36).

Note the ever-mounting circumstances and, oh, the thoughts, thoughts, and more thoughts that filled his mind and produced a spirit, a mood, a manner, and a character of weakness! Finally, the day came when we read in Genesis 45:25–28,

And they went up out of Egypt, and came into the land of Canaan unto Jacob their father, And told him, saying, Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt. And Jacob’s heart fainted, for he believed them not. And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived: And Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die.

Oh, dear Christian, we tend to see the negative, dark side of life amidst increasing complex circumstances of life. Thus, Jacob formed thoughts against himself and contrary to the principle of God’s providence. His thoughts became darker and darker. Yes, although delivered from the power of the sin principle, Jacob needed the ongoing working of sanctification in his thought life concerning the circumstances God’s providence had brought!

How often we read things into words that were never intended, or we surmise incorrectly about providential events only to unnecessarily coddle hurt feelings. Perhaps there are darkening thoughts about our physical condition or moods of melancholy about events that happened years ago to us. Dear Christian, the Devil takes advantage of such an unsteady mind!

Things were finally well with Jacob when he went down to Egypt, seeing with his own eyes his beloved Joseph and his other two sons freed from prison. These circumstances created thoughts of good and not evil. His life ended with better thoughts, yea, victorious thoughts. But amidst this precious end, oh, the years Jacob missed having good thoughts, loving thoughts of the Lord, and trusting thoughts in providence. For so many years his heart was infected with inward, sorrowful, and dark thoughts! Many times, such thoughts affected his words to his family, causing his sons much agony and secretive deceptions with him. How Jacob had been years ago with his father seems minor to the deeper deceptions his own sons manifested toward him!

Joseph and His Thought Life

The better end to Jacob’s thought life is not always the case with those who have lived a long life. If this is so, it may be an indication that the earlier thoughts were not always proper and right in principles. It is one thing to have misfortunes, but another thing to be bitter with God in the secret thought life of a Christian.

Despite all the difficult and sorrowful circumstances that Joseph went through, his thought life seemed to have been one of trusting God and not permitting bitterness to enter his heart.

  1. He was hated by his brethren.
  2. He was sold by his brethren.
  3. He became a slave in Egypt.
  4. His character was slandered before Potiphar.
  5. He was imprisoned through false accusations.
  6. He was forgotten in jail by the butler.
  7. He lived thirteen years on the dark side of providence.

Nevertheless, note Joseph’s heart when his own children were born:

And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house. And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction (Gen. 41:51, 52).

Note his heart when he finally revealed himself to his brethren:

Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life….And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God…(Gen. 45:5, 7, 8a).

Also note his final words when his brothers feared his turning against them after the father Jacob died:

And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them (Gen. 50:19–21).

Oh, the Thoughts of My Mind and Heart!

We must ever remember the words of the Lord in Jeremiah 29:11:

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected [favorable] end.

God has thoughts in His mind about us, yet they are thoughts of peace and not of evil! When circumstances come our way, we must be careful how such circumstances prompt certain thoughts about God, His providence, and about the circumstance itself:

He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly (Prov. 14:29).
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones (Prov. 17:22).
He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit (Prov. 17:27).
The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear? (Prov. 18:14).

My thought life profoundly affects my spirit toward others; it affects how I approach my circumstances, how I think of God in those circumstances, and so much more in my life. Good thoughts and actions will never produce bad results; bad thoughts and actions will never produce good results. Nothing can come from corn but corn, nothing from weeds but weeds. As the heart, so is the life. My within is ceaselessly becoming my without. Nothing remains unrevealed. That which is hidden is but for a time; it ripens and springs forth at last. The fourfold order of the universe is seed, tree, blossom, and then fruit. From the state of a man’s heart proceed the conditions of his life; his thoughts blossom into deeds, and his deeds bear the fruit of character and destiny. Life is ever unfolding from within. Whatever the thoughts found within the heart, they at last reveal themselves in words, actions, and things accomplished. As the fountain from the hidden spring, so issues man’s life from the secret recesses of his heart. All that he is and does is generated there.

God has made us the keeper of our heart (Prov. 4:23). He has also made us the watcher of our mind. We must be the sentinel for our life. Therefore, a man can be diligent (by God’s precious grace) or negligent in these matters. By God’s help we can carefully keep our heart more and more diligently; we can become the guardian against unrighteous thoughts. Or we can choose to live loosely and carelessly, neglecting to guard the mind and heart.


One reason God sent the Flood is expressed in Genesis 6:5:

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

The imagination is the product of a mind’s collective formation of a multitude of thoughts. The mind within itself can both create illusion and perceive reality. One can potentially surround himself with created illusions whereby the perception of truth is lost. On the other hand, he can by the Word of God destroy such illusions and establish Truth in his thought life.

The mind is a weaver of destiny: thought is the thread; good and evil deeds are the warp and woof. The web woven upon the loom of life and character becomes the garment of life. One’s thought life clothes itself in garments of its own making. Temptation does not arise from the outer object of circumstances; it arises in the lust of the mind for that object.

But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (James 1:14, 15).

Every moment of one’s thought life must be guarded because it is the door of all temptation.

A man’s life proceeds from his heart and mind: he has compounded that mind by his own thoughts and deeds. Every established thought condition is an acquired habit. A thought constantly repeated at last becomes a fixed habit of the mind, and from such habits proceed the life. For example, when commencing to learn a trade, a young man cannot deftly manage his tools; however, after long repetition and practice, he becomes skillful with perfect ease. Likewise, the mind through perseverance, prayer, and God’s grace can truly become stayed on the Lord. Through His amazing grace, Spirit and Word, God can help the mind and heart to even reform the thought habits of a believer.

This age has become more volatile and more aggressive in claiming the thought life of Christian youth. Dear youth, be careful about dwelling on thoughts that are subtle enemies to the heart and against the hope of good character. It is important what we think on in our teenage years because it will have a profound influence on what we will be when we enter the prime of life. We plead with our youth to control their thought life! Do not let thoughts run away into areas that will destroy your future. There must be intentional, careful guidance and guardianship upon your thoughts. You will become what you are given to in thought. The thought life must be harnessed and controlled, or it will drift aimlessly into areas that bring grief to the Lord. A drifting thought life is not healthy; it leads to apathetic thinking, which in turn will lead to an apathetic life.

How often those who come to Christ in later teenage or adult years have a great battle about the memory bank of their past thoughts. This is what the Devil will draw from to weaken their Christian lives. But there is hope in Christ and His work at Calvary. We can come to Christ’s mind (Phil. 2:5), to His process of thinking. God can heal a broken mind; God can heal the mind to be one that is stayed upon the Lord. Such a healing will take a consistent walk with Christ and the continual feeding upon His Word to provide thoughts to take the place of the old diet of thoughts.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound [healthy] mind (2 Tim. 1:7).
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Phil. 4:8).

May God help us on the battleground of our thought life where the Devil and God meet in a holy war for the soul!