The Spiritual and Psychological Power of Claiming God's Promises Now
When God promised Abraham to give him descendents, He swore by Himself that it would come true, because there was no-one greater to swear by (no higher authority to reference).1 As Christians under the New Covenant all of God's promises for us are “yes in Jesus Christ”.2 Therefore, we can expect what has been promised with confidence.
Some of those promises are yet to be fulfilled but many are for now. What I propose to show is that some Christians are missing out on the spiritual and psychological benefits of claiming the results of God's promises now, rather than praying simply to receive them in the future.
I am thinking, specifically, of 1 Corinthians 10 v 13 and Philippians 4:13
"No temptation [test] has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted [tested] he will also provide you a way out so that you can stand up under it."
'I can do all things through the One who is constantly infusing strength into me.”3
There are many amazing promises in the scriptures for those with Christ and those yet-to-be with Him. So to give some context, this article is primarily for those who already belong to Christ4.
Never-the-less, if you read this article as a seeker of God's Truth, and it helps you understand a little more of what it means to have “every spiritual blessing in Jesus Christ” then I'll be glad of that too.
This article was prompted by a phone-call I had from a sister in the faith. She and her boyfriend had given into sexual immorality a number of times and she was finding it difficult to stay pure and focused even though she wanted too. It was causing her a lot of distress and she was questioning her walk as a Christian.
“It's too hard to resist,” she wailed.
I answered her that although I too appreciated how difficult it could be to stay pure when you loved someone, God would not allow her to be tempted beyond what she could bear and would provide a way out. That was and is His Promise.5
“But it feels to hard to resist when I'm there with him.”*
I reminded her that emotions aren't facts (in fact in Meta-States we teach that a 'state' is the holistic experienced expression of all currently occurring mental-emotional-physical processes, a neuro-logical 'reality' but not an objective one. (This is worth remembering.)
Then it dawned on me.
If she could muster even a shred of awareness of wanting to get out of an upcoming 'situation' then she could do what David did in Psalm 42 (see my other article on this site – Applying your Faith with Psalm 42) – he talked and prayed his way out of negative emotional states by reminding himself of God's character and promises and how he knew that Yahweh would never let him down.
I framed it to this sister that God's strengthening was available to her in the moment she most needed it. (I mean, why would God not want to strengthen you most in your time of need? – He did it for Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.)
She said she had prayed for strength should the situation arise again but I told her to claim her strength from God out loud - at the time she needed it. I reminded her we have a God who “-calls things that are not as though they were6 ”, a God who brought things into being by the word of His mouth and I theorized that why should it not be basically the same for us?
Jesus Himself told us “whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it shall be yours.”7 Is there any reason to believe that meant we always have to wait for what we need? What if we need what we need right now?
Jesus also said: “You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.”8 Now I do believe that meant 'anything in line with my Father's Will for you' but give me one good reason why that should not include strength to resist temptation?
Lastly, T D Jakes, the preacher and author, reminded me that every spiritual power bows at the invoking of the authority of the name of Jesus** but sometimes we just don't claim the power that comes along with that Name.9
His comment made me remember the scripture: “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”10 I realize that is a scripture that is usually used to refer to initial salvation but WHAT IF being 'saved' also referred to being saved from sin-filled situations, by verbally calling on Jesus for power, and strength in His Name to resist sin?
So why is this 'spiritual' advice turning up on a Christian site about cognitive psychology?
Well, as Christians we are called to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”.11 We are told “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”12 Did you see that?
We are called to make the contents of our mind new – to actively manage our thoughts and “fix our eyes on Jesus”13 rather than processing the thoughts we get as a result of living in a fallen world. The starting point for this process is cultivating 'mindfulness' or awareness of our own thoughts – see other article.
We can learn how to take control of our meta-function, the process of mind that allows us to talk to ourselves about the thoughts we are having or have had i.e. We learn how to talk back to our negative self talk rather than let it overwhelm us.
David did this in Psalm 42:
Why am I discouraged?
Why am I restless?
I trust you!
And I will praise you again
because you help me,
and you are my God14
What happens during this process?
Well, your brain applies every thought and word you utter to the thoughts that are currently in your mind. If your new thought 'out-frames' (i.e. mentally encompasses) the previous thought you just had, then this 'lower' thought gets re-categorized and subsumed by the higher one. It also textures it with the emotional state activated and instigated by the new frame-of-reference.
This explains why the state-progression/pattern of many of the psalms goes from miserable or unhappy through to contemplation of God's greatness - to rejoicing by the end. David outframed his thoughts of misery with those of God's greater qualities.
Over time, repeating this process 'solidifies' the structure of thinking and it becomes a meta-state structure, then a state of mind, then a permanent part of your mental matrix.
So this may explain, for instance, why Jesus was able to make a whip of cords (not easy to do if He were in a rage!) before driving the money changers out of the temple. He had (I suggest) a state of calm about his righteous indignation and anger.15
This diagrammatically maps out as:
a state of calm about
His Righteous thinking which led him to feel
indignation and anger -------------> at the money changers in the temple
The state at the top really does make a difference, it modules and qualifies it. We experience a state as holistic so this separating out is only for analysis purposes. But think about being 'seriously creative' and 'creatively serious! - there's a real qualitative difference isn't there? See more articles on the main site for a full explanation.
Anyway, if you use enough sentences that outframe and 'layer' new emotional states on top of the old, you get a change, a change of mind AND mood.
A word about NLP techniques
If you are an NLP practitioner you can find creative ways to use some of the processes of state control that you learned from NLP. For example, we can interrupt a state of arousal by using a previously created strong anchor that shocks or disgusts us (i.e. A mental image of a dead body and its smell – yes, disgusting isn't it?)
We can also change the way we re-present our experiences to ourselves (sub/meta-modalities).
Given that most people code their compelling mental images as close, colorful, in focus with perhaps sound and smell if you can send the lustful image away into the distance and make it dark and small and quiet you may experience a reduction in intensity of feeling.
You can get some more ideas from reading Brain101: How to Play the Brain Game for Fun and Profit.
However, experience has shown that these 'reassociation' techniques do not always make the changes in the place that they really need to happen – in the meanings that reside in the higher, often unconscious 'levels' of mind.
So whilst it is my suggestion that lack of mindfulness of ones own state and thinking is often a major contributor to getting stuck in a routine of sinful behavior I also suggest that the more 'meaning-full' an experience has become to you, the more challenging it can be to resist the course of action it invokes.
The following techniques can help to address this issue. In fact learning about meta-state per se will give you life-changing insights into how to deal with some of the issues of over-pleasuring.
Bobby Bodenhamer suggested that my friend could “give” the object of her temptation to Jesus by creating an image of herself about to move into lust, and presenting the image to her representation of Jesus. He explains how to do this in the article
He also reports success helping those addicted to pornography using the technique 'Fifth Position to the Lord' in which you take yourself mentally up to the Lord's throne, seat yourself with him16 and then attempt to have those lustful thoughts in his presence. He says: ”Just try thinking about involving yourself in illicit sex while you are "up there" with Jesus. That will plug a person's hormones.”
What is happening here is that a person's higher values (hopefully those of their belief in the omnipotence, and holiness of God) are bearing brought to bear upon the lower meanings of lust, desire, the carnal and fleshy nature. As a result, the lower beliefs dissolve and reform in the face of higher values.
This is a basic mental structure elaborated by Gregory Bateson:
"The higher levels govern (modulate, drive, organize) the lower levels."
If this were a purely secular article, I might not elaborate much further and reference people to the articles on the main www.neurosematics.com site.
However, as Christians we can also facilitate this process using our faith – one of our links to the supernatural - we can confess with our words and reiterate our beliefs that God is giving us the strength to do what is asked of us. As Jesus said to the blind man, “According to your faith will it be done to you”.17 At this point the power of God is involved through our faith.
To give you an example that uses mindfulness and the application of higher values, this is what I told my friend to pray out loud if she found herself in a difficult situation again.
“Father, this feels so hard and like I can't resist but You said I would not be tempted beyond what I could bear so knowing that you want to give me this strength and believing in the authority of the Name of Jesus I CLAIM the strength to get up, to resist, to walk away, to turn my mind to purity and honor you. Thank you Father, thank you for helping me, I am receiving your strength now, and I thank you as I leave and walk away from this situation.”
Do I know this will work for her? Not 100% but it has worked for me in a similar but different context. And I believe it is scriptural. Please write to me if you think I should amend the article and my views!
It would be wrong of me to suggest that God will answer your promise in every situation because I do not know His plans for you. However, if He lets you experience what you do, be assured He is working for your good somehow “for the good of those who love Him”18
PS: There are several layers of frames involved in the invocation above. I have diagrammed them below for your interest. Read from the bottom for the progression of frames.
Action confirming intent to walk away
Intent to walk away
Confirming belief of receiving God's strength in associated, immediate way
Claiming OF strength to resist, walk away etc.
Confirming belief that God wants to strengthen me AND confirming belief in authority of Jesus
SO (creates a cause-effect formula)
God's promise He would help us bear temptation
BUT (takes up a meta-level to think about 'lower' thought)
External temptation = feels so hard to resist
*Please note I am aware that it does not seem wise for two dating Christians of the opposite sex who are struggling with these issues to be alone together.
1. Hebrews 6:13
2. Corinthians 1:20
3. Translation of Philippians 4:13 by Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones, quoted in his book: Spiritual Depression
4. Romans 8:9
5. 1 Corinthians 10 v 13
6. Romans 4:17c
7. Mark 11:24
8. John 14:14
9. Jakes, T.D.,So you call yourself a man? 1997, Albury Publishing, Oklahoma, USA
10. Romans 10:9
11. I Cor 10:5
12. Romans 12:2
13. Hebrews 12:2
14. Psalm 42.11, Complete English Version (CEV)
15: John 2:13-22
16: Ephesians 2:6
17. Mathew 9:29
18. Romans 8:28
Unless otherwise stated all scripture references are from the New International Version of the Bible.
© Doug Cartwright All rights reserved.