One of the amazing gifts that God gave mankind was the ability to imagine, to dream, to picture things that are not immediately present, either from the past or by using information from the past to imagine future possibilities. Because this is the sort of gift that can get us into trouble, we as Christians can be wary of using it. Eve for example was tempted, not just by a piece of fruit, (she had access to many delicious fruits) but by the possibility that ‘your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ Genesis 3:5. She could imagine the possibility that God was withholding something good from them, and so she sinned.
Imagination is one of the ways in which God has poured into mankind His own creativity. It is behind all inventions, some good and even life saving, while others can be harmful. Without it mankind would be very stuck in their difficulties, unable to problem solve, and life would be somewhat one dimensional. Imagination can also help us in our relationship with God. The Holy Spirit often uses metaphor to help us to understand spiritual principles, as did Jesus when He was on earth.
We can imagine, for example the shepherd leaving the ninety nine and going off to look for the one. We can imagine the joy of the woman who lost her coin (her future security) when she found it. We can imagine the celebration she had with her friends, and so we get a glimpse of how the angels rejoice over one sinner who repents. Luke 15:3-10.
Good Holy Spirit led imagination can aid us in our praying and cause our faith to grow. Conversely, the enemy can use our imagination to unsettle us, intimidate us, and cause us to feel fear and anxiety. Worry, it seems, is just imagining what might be, before it has happened, and without God’s grace in the moment. Worry is actually negative imagination leading to negative faith.
It’s no wonder therefore that Jesus told His followers on several occasions “Take no anxious thought” or “Do not worry about your life…. food….clothes….” Why did He say that they shouldn’t worry? – “because your heavenly Father knows that you need them”. Worry in this case would be about imagining running out of the basic requirements for life, without factoring a very loving Heavenly Father.
In Isaiah 26:3 we have that wonderful promise, ‘You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you.’ The only problem is that, when we are feeling anxious, keeping our mind steadfastly on the Lord is hard. Our imagination is running riot and does not want to stay focussed on the Lord. The root of that word ‘mind’ in this context is in fact the same as ‘the imagination’, and The Passion Translation puts it like this, ‘Perfect, absolute peace surrounds those whose imaginations are consumed with You. They confidently trust in You.’ And the AV translates this as a mind ‘stayed on God’. Peace comes to us when we can keep our imagination steady and fixed, ‘stayed’, on God.
Nature hates a vacuum and so does our mind. If we just try to block out the anxious imaginations, we do not find peace. We need to replace the worrying imaginations with good and peaceful thoughts, and so we come again to the gift that is thanksgiving. Through thanksgiving we can fill our minds with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We can anchor our thoughts on all the wonderful things they have done, who they are and want to be for us, and what they promise us. We can draw from our own past testimony and the testimonies of other people. And as I keep my mind steadfastly on the Lord through thanksgiving, God keeps my mind in perfect peace.
The apostles often finished their letters with a word of blessing imparting grace and peace to the believers. The most notable is surely Paul’s encouragement to the Philippians, not to be anxious but to pray and let the ‘peace of God that – passes all understanding, AV. – that surpasses all comprehension, NASB. – that transcends all understanding NIV, – guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. I like the Amplified expansion of this verse – ‘mount guard over your hearts and minds’ Philippians 4:7. And then from verse 8, in The Passion Translation, we read, ‘So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real …..Fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising Him always.’
So let us use our thanksgiving to keep our minds stayed on our Good Good Father, and ‘Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way.’ 2 Thessalonians 3:16.