“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is the probable reason why so few engage in it,” said Henry Ford at the front edge of the Great Depression in 1929. Of course, we suspect that what Henry Ford really had in mind was productive thinking because all of us are thinking all the time about something. I mean, even when we do not think about what we are thinking, we are still thinking.

“A penny for your thoughts?” we hear someone ask. That old saying makes thoughts seem to be a pretty cheap commodity. In reality, however, our current economy does that old saying a great injustice.

“A penny for your thoughts” dates back to 16th century London. The first known rendition of it is in a book of proverbs from a gentleman named John Heywood. Heywood was a fellow of considerable talent, literary and otherwise. In 1521, Heywood received a 10-mark annuity as the king’s servant. There were 240 pennies to a mark in those days, so that equated to a salary of 2,400 pennies each year. Not exactly chump change!

I just did some quick calculations and learned that had John Heywood invested just one of those pennies in the mid 1500s at the measly 2 percent my IRA promises today—and had he allowed it to compound—his penny would have grown to a value of more than $43 million! So, the next time someone offers a penny for your thoughts, keep in mind that with the passage of time they could be talking about a real investment!

Jesus, on one occasion, asked His disciples, “What do you think?” (Matthew 18:12). So, perhaps the real issue here is what we think about when we have nothing else to think about. Now, there’s a thought that is especially important for those of us who preach. The Bible says, “As he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). Solomon was comparing the greed of a gluttonous guest to that of a stingy host; but we get the point, don’t we?

As I was writing this column, an email arrived in my box telling about another pastor caught up in the web of Internet pornography and who has been forced to leave his church and resign from ministry. He joins the long line of pastors in our generation who somehow allowed themselves to be sucked into an evil vortex. It is not for me to judge or condemn him. Instead, I find myself thinking, “There but for the grace of God go I!”

Moreover, if you are flirting with things that can take down your ministry, make up your mind to quit right now! I’m quite certain this was not the pathway our brother dreamed of taking the day hands were laid on him to set him apart for the ministry of the gospel. Nonetheless, that is what he has to cope with now.
So, with more force than I intended when I started to write these words, I ask you once more, “What on earth are you thinking?” What books are you reading at the moment? What are you preaching about these days? Are your thoughts about your life and current ministry primarily positive or negative? Are they in keeping with God’s call on your life? Are you thinking about what you can get or about what you can give? Are you giving any thought these days to how you, as God’s servant, can serve other people?

Remember, Jesus said that ultimately the servant is the greatest of all (see Matthew 23:11). So, what are you thinking? “What do you think?” Jesus asked His disciples.

“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Paul urged the Corinthians to look below the surface of what they heard and recognize how it impacted their thinking. We would do well to do the same. What is the content we feed our minds doing to advance our walk with and ministry for Jesus?

The good news for us is that our thoughts are ultimately under our control. No one else can control what we think unless we allow that to happen. It is up to us, and that is never more important than for preachers. As those who declare God’s Word, we—more than anyone else we know—each have an opportunity to ignite the thoughts of others that they might fly in a good direction. We, therefore, need to begin by carefully considering what we feed our own minds. With God’s help, our minds, as Paul’s, can be captivated by the love, power and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul challenged the Philippians—and us—through this letter:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).

Now, just think about that!

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