Your Perception Is Your Reality
By Craig Groeschel
For centuries people believed the world was flat. (Some still do. Don’t believe me? Google it. You’ll find there are “Flat Earthers” today.) Because they believed the wrong idea, it impacted their lives as if it were true. People would not venture too far out in the ocean for fear they might sail off the edge. Why? Once again, a lie believed as truth will affect your life as if it were true.
Growing up, a lot of us were told that going swimming right after eating wasn’t safe. Our parents made us wait 30 minutes after a meal to get in the pool. The only problem is that it’s not dangerous to swim after eating. That was and is a lie. Right now you may be thinking, No, I’m pretty sure that’s true. But it isn’t! Yet we believed it, so the lie affected our lives as if it were true.
Missing some swimming time isn’t a big deal, but what if you believe significant lies that have serious implications? What if you buy into the lie that you’ll never be good enough? Or that you made too many mistakes? Or that God doesn’t really care about you? Or that you’ll never be able to stop doing what you don’t want to do?
One more time, because this point is crucial: a lie believed as truth will affect your life as if it were true.[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Where Are Your Thoughts Taking You?]
There is a specific lie I have believed as long as I can remember. Living as if that were true has been one of the biggest limiting forces in my life. For years my strongest thoughts have always been about my shortcomings. I have always felt inadequate. No matter what anyone else said, my inner voice always screamed, No matter how hard you try, you’ll never measure up.
Why did I feel that way? Frankly, I’m not sure; I have never not felt that way. It seems self-doubt comes naturally to me, but at the same time I could give you a resume proving why I should feel that way.
Essentially, I was living a faithless life.
As I type these words about how we can control our thought life, my mind is racing. As the psalmist often wrote (Ps. 42:5, for example), I am wrestling with my thoughts. I am battling feelings of overwhelming anxiety because I have said yes to too many things and overcommitted myself again.
But then I come back to what I know is true. And what is true is the point of Winning the War in Your Mind.
I swat at the swarm of thoughts flitting around my head and remember that I am not a victim of my own mind. I have power over my thoughts. I am not captive to them. With God’s help, I can make them captive to me.
While I know those truths, at the same time the reality is that I am a struggling thought warrior who has battled insecurity, negativity, fear, and anxiety most of my life.
Midway through college, something dramatic happened to me. Jesus changed my life. By God’s grace, he found me and saved me.
Soon I was being so transformed by my relationship with Christ that, while still very new in my faith, I sensed God calling me to be a pastor. (Way before pastors could wear cool shoes and have more Instagram followers than church members.)
As God was building my faith, I felt him telling me I could make a difference in the world through his church. All my childhood insecurities and teenage self-doubts were being eclipsed by glimpses of hope. What do I mean? Well, here’s a little backstory for context:
When I was growing up, my family couldn’t afford name-brand clothes, so my mother bought used Izod socks at garage sales, cut the alligators out, and sewed them on my generic shirts.
I felt fake.
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In second grade I discovered I was color-blind. Not only could I not match my fake Izod shirts to my no-name pants, but I would never see the beauty of this world as others could.
I felt defective.
In a spelling bee with my classmates, I misspelled Mississippi. We had learned a song teaching us how to spell the word. And every time an “i” appears, there’s only one of them and two of everything else. How could I possibly misspell Mississippi?
I felt stupid.
In fifth grade a girl named Tiffany dumped me for a guy named Brian. Her reason? Brian had a motorcycle. I only had a moped. (Yes, 12-year-olds in my small town drove motorcycles and mopeds.) Tiffany said I was Richie Cunningham and she wanted the Fonz. (If you’re too young to remember Happy Days, then think of it like she said I was Screech and she wanted Zack Morris.)
I felt lame.
My father played minor league baseball. He was a professional athlete, and I wasn’t sure if I could even play in college.
I felt inadequate.
These isolated events, along with many others, formed my perception of myself into the reality I would carry into my newfound faith as a young adult.
I felt I wasn’t good enough.
So I learned to play it safe and avoid risks at all costs. I felt that, given any opportunity, I would fail. I quietly came to define success as just not failing.
Chances are good you have your own set of lies holding you back. The lies nearly derailed my call to ministry.
You Are Who God Says You Are
Only weeks after putting my faith in Jesus, I tried to teach my first Bible study to a group of young guys in a little church in Ada, Oklahoma. Afterward the leader of the youth group said, “Well, I guess teaching the Bible is not your gift, is it?”
Three years later I finally got up the nerve to try teaching the Bible again, after being asked to preach my first sermon. After the service, as I stood at the door saying goodbye to church members, an older gentleman looked at me with a raised brow and remarked, “Nice try.” Nice try?!
The next lady in line asked if I had any other skills besides being a preacher and then made a weak attempt to encourage me to keep my options open. Seriously, that really happened. I had to fight off the temptation to run and hide in the church baptistry. And yes, full immersion!
Despite yet another setback, still believing God’s call, I continued my journey toward full-time vocational ministry by going to seminary following college and marriage. About halfway through seminary, the day finally came when I stood before a group of spiritual leaders as a candidate for ordination in our denominational church. With the entire committee looking on, the spokesperson explained to me, “We’ve chosen not to ordain you. You don’t have the gift-mix we see in most pastors. In fact, we are not sure you are called to be a pastor. But feel free to try again next year. But for now, it’s a no.”
Immediately all those childhood memories met up with my teenage memories. They all joined forces with the rejections from the church, forming an avalanche of negative thoughts that crashed over me, engulfing me. The voices roared loudly, You aren’t enough! You will never be enough! You will never measure up!
And then the final verdict was delivered: You . . . don’t . . . have . . . what it takes!
Driving home in my red Geo Prizm, I felt dejected, embarrassed, confused, and angry. Devastated. How can I explain to my wife that I didn’t make the cut? How can I face my pastor? My friends? My classmates? The church where I serve? The tears flowed as every possible negative thought played on repeat.
But then a strange thing happened.
Suddenly a different voice interrupted the others. God spoke. He spoke to me. While not audible, the words somehow seemed louder than any physical voice I had ever heard.
In that moment, my heavenly Father said, “You are not who others say you are. You are who I say you are. And I say you are called to ministry.”
While that was of course one of the most powerful moments of my life and a massive turning point, I wasn’t suddenly healed of my negative thinking or delivered from believing every lie I’d told myself while growing up. The patterns were still there. The consequences were still ingrained. But I began to realize God had a very different way for me to think and a much healthier way for me to think of myself. I realized he was offering me a choice of whether to continue to believe my lies or accept his truth about me.
That’s the beauty of allowing God to master our minds: he gives us a new path, a new way to think, but we have to get on board, agree, and cooperate with him.
Adapted from Winning the War in Your Mind: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life by Craig Groeschel. Click here to learn more about this book.
Are your thoughts out of control—just like your life? Do you long to break free from the spiral of destructive thinking? Let God’s truth become your battle plan to win the war in your mind!
We’ve all tried to think our way out of bad habits and unhealthy thought patterns, only to find ourselves stuck with an out-of-control mind and off-track daily life. Pastor and New York Times bestselling author Craig Groeschel understands deeply this daily battle against self-doubt and negative thinking, and in this powerful new book he reveals the strategies he’s discovered to change your mind and your life for the long-term.
Drawing upon Scripture and the latest findings of brain science, Groeschel lays out practical strategies that will free you from the grip of harmful, destructive thinking and enable you to live the life of joy and peace that God intends you to live. Winning the War in Your Mind will help you:
- Learn how your brain works and see how to rewire it
- Identify the lies your enemy wants you to believe
- Recognize and short-circuit your mental triggers for destructive thinking
- See how prayer and praise will transform your mind
- Develop practices that allow God’s thoughts to become your thoughts
God has something better for your life than your old ways of thinking. It’s time to change your mind so God can change your life.
Craig Groeschel is a New York Times bestselling author and the founding and senior pastor of Life.Church, which created the free YouVersion Bible App and is one of the largest churches in the world. He has written more than fifteen books and hosts the Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast. He is the Summit Champion for the Global Leadership Network, which reaches hundreds of thousands of leaders around the world annually. Craig and his wife, Amy, live in Oklahoma. Connect with Craig at www.craiggroeschel.com.
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May 14, 2021