By Rick Warren
This month is the final installment of this series on how to have a healthy mind. Thanks for joining me in this discussion. Now, let’s wrap it up.
4. LEARN TO ASK QUESTIONS
One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 20:5. It talks about the importance of asking questions. You can learn from anybody if you just learn the right kind of questions to ask. “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep water but a man of understanding draws them out.” In the heart of everybody there’s something you can learn, there are some insights you can use because we’ve all had different experiences. A lot of times they’re not there on the surface. You have to draw them out, like drawing water out of a well. How do you draw people out? How do you draw the insights you could use out of people? Ask questions. Learn to ask questions. It’s a wise thing.
Draw it out of people. When I was in college I made a list of standard questions that I would ask whenever I got around somebody I thought could teach me something. Questions like:
What has been your greatest success in life?
- What has been your greatest failure in life?
- How could I learn from that?
- How do you manage your home?
- What are some things you do with your kids?
- What are the books that have changed your life?
- Who are the people who have influenced your life?
- How do you plan your time?
- How do you relax?
Make up questions that are important to you and whenever you get around somebody like that, you can ask those questions.
5. WRITE YOUR IDEAS DOWN.
Hebrews 2:1 tells us, “We must pay careful attention to what we hear so that we don’t let it slip.” The problem is we don’t remember things and tend to drift. Every person has tremendous ideas throughout their life but we let often them slip by. Think of all the good ideas you have had today but can’t remember now because you didn’t write them down. The difference between success and failure, the difference between being a high achiever and mediocre, is how you handle good ideas. Everybody has a good idea every now and then. Successful people know how to manage them. They take advantage of them. They write them down so they don’t forget them.
How does this apply to your spiritual life? For thirteen years I was a Christian and my spiritual life was up and down, up and down. I’d get real close to God and then I’d backslide far away from God. I was a spiritual yo-yo. Vance Habner calls them Malaria Christians — you get a fever, then a chill, a fever then a chill. That’s the way I was — back and forth. Finally, I was getting sea sick. I said, “Lord, I’ll just live down here in the valley if I can’t stay close to You.”
What was my problem? That I wasn’t dedicated enough? That I just needed to be more committed? No.
The problem was I would learn all these great truths and apply them in my life for a while but pretty soon I would forget those truths. We forget things so easily. As a result we don’t apply them. How many of you would say, “I’ve had to ask God to teach me a lesson more than once because I forgot it.” You learned a lesson but then you forgot it. I’ve discovered that the problem in most Christian’s lives is not dedication, it is retention. It’s the fact that we just don’t remember the things that we learned because we don’t write them down.
The U.S. Air Force did a study and they discovered that we forget 90-95% of everything we hear in 72 hours. That’s a depressing statistic for a pastor. I work real hard to get insights and truths from God’s word and put them in a simple outline so it will be easy to remember. I hate to think that by Wednesday everyone has forgotten 95%. If you can’t remember it, you can’t work on it. That’s why you need to take notes, write things down. That’s why I try to provide outlines every week for the people of our church. An outline gives them something to take with them.
Years ago, I began to keep a spiritual journal. On a continual basis, I take notes and write things down so I will not forget them. I cannot learn from a forgotten truth.
6. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TRANSITION TIMES.
These are times that you’re driving to and from work, times when you’re getting ready in the morning, time when you’re waiting for a taco, when you’re sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, when you’re exercising — when you’re awake and alert but your mind is not in gear. You could memorize scripture. If you’re sitting in an office, carry a paperback book with you. Use those spare minutes and utilize those fragments of time. Read a book.
Listen to recordings. Just think of all of the hours you spend driving when you could be using that time to listen to messages or Bible studies. It’s never been easier to listen while on the go. I have taken many courses without ever leaving my car. I’ve taken two courses on management, one course on creativity, a course on public speaking, a course on vocabulary, all kinds of Bible studies, and I never got out of my car. Your car can serve as a college on wheels.
I found a Psalm called the New Twenty-third Psalm.
The tv is my shepherd
My spiritual growth shall want
It makes me to sit down and do nothing for His name’s sake
Because it presenteth so many good shows, I must see
It restores my knowledge of the things of the world and keeps me from studying God’s word
It leads me in the paths of failing to attend worship service and doing nothing for the kingdom of God
Yea, though I live to be a hundred, I shall keep on viewing my tv
As long as it will work, for it is my closest companion.
Its sound and its pictures, they comfort me
It presenteth entertainment before me and keepeth me from doing important things with my family
It fills my head with ideas which are contrary to God’s word
Surely, no good thing will come of my life because my tv causeth me to backslide
And I shall be ashamed before Him at His coming.
It used to be said, You are what you eat. Now it’s, You are what you watch. What if I came over to your house tonight and said, “I want you to get your whole family in the living room so I can entertain you. I want to tell you about five murders, three rapes, a case of incest, and all kinds of violence.” Doesn’t that sound like an entertaining evening? If you put those same horrible things on television, all of a sudden they becomes entertainment.
When God gave you your mind, he gave you one of your greatest gifts. You are responsible for using it and developing it and keeping it sharp. Yet you have never touched the capacity of your mind. It is limitless.
One last warning: Can you overdo intellectual pursuit? Sure. We read in 2 Timothy 3:7 about people who learn and learn but can never know God. They never make that commitment to Him. “These people are always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.” That’s a tragedy. The greatest knowledge is to know God. Paul said, “I want to know Him and the power of His resurrection.” That’s the important thing.
Some of you have allowed, over the years, all kinds of material into your mind indiscriminately. Harmful things from magazines, books, shows, billboards, the internet. As a result you’re having problems with a habitual pattern of thinking. You can’t get a thought out of your mind. Maybe it’s worry or anger. Maybe it’s lust, jealousy, or bitterness. Maybe it’s guilt.
How do you do you rid yourself of these unhealthy thoughts? Let God give you a brainwashing. Let Him wash out the garbage and give you a clean slate to start over. Romans 12:2 (Phillips) “Let God remold your mind from within.” Philippians 2:5 “Let this mind be in you which is in Christ Jesus.” Put on the mind of Christ. As leaders, the pressure can be even more intense. Some of you are under a lot of stress and you think you’re cracking up, going crazy. You’re out of balance. We read in 2 Timothy 1:7, “God has not given to us a spirit of fear but a Spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind.” You have a right to a sound mind. God gave you a sound min. You may have given your life to Christ, but you must give Him your mind and begin to develop it in the way He has planned.
Rick Warren is the Founding Pastor of Saddleback Church and author of many internationally bestselling books including The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life.