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In 2013, Dutch researchers noticed an odd thing happening when the people they were studying walked through the doorway into the research room. And in an odd way, their behavior is connected to a statement that the ancient patriarch, Abraham, the great man of faith, made in Genesis 17.
Hi my name is Dean Smith, in this podcast I ask the question should Christians be self-talking. You know when we talk to ourselves during the day, sometimes to beat ourselves up or cut ourselves down. The reality is most of us self-talk several times a day and most of it is negative and for some it is almost incessant, but you would never know it by the cheery disposition they show the world.
And when we are not speaking negative self-talk, we are thinking it.
So the question I want to ask is this: Should Christians be doing this or should we be doing Godly self-talk instead?
So back in 2013, Dutch researchers were studying people who were struggling with anorexia, believing they were too fat, they would basically starve themselves and if they did eat, they would often vomit the food out after.
What these researchers noted was this, as these people walked through the doors they would slide through sideways, because they thought they were too big to walk through face first, even though there was more than enough room.
This was because most in this group had convinced themselves that they were too large to walk through the door normally and this was due to the way they thought about themselves and the constant self-talk they were too fat.
In fact, some therapists working with the anorexia patients will try to gradually tone down the negative self-talk as they look at themselves in a mirror as one of the ways to curb this thinking.
Now for Christians this can sound like a lot of psycho mumbo jumbo but in fact I believe the Bible may speak of this.
But I will let you decide.
The Bible clearly states that wrong thinking can literally distort your perception of reality and this is exactly the point the writer of Proverbs was making when he said in Proverbs 23:7, as a man thinks, so is he.
And you know this is exactly what Abraham, the father of faith, did 41 hundred years ago when God told the patriarch that he would have a son in his old age in Genesis 17.
At this point, Abraham was still going by the name Abram.
Now God had given Abram that same message earlier, that he and his wife Sarai would be the parents of many nations.
But because of their difficulty in having a child, they didn’t fully believe this message and it eventually led to Sarai giving her maid-servant as a concubine wife to her husband. This of course led to the birth of Ishmael.
According to the culture of that day, this was perfectly acceptable. In fact, archaeologists have even found marriage contracts that stated if the wife was unable to bare a son, she was required to buy a girl for the husband to have a child through. This contract even named the girl that was supposed to be purchased.
Both Abram and Sarai were struggling to believe God’s promise.
So God did a very interesting thing in Genesis 17.
God changed their names. He changed Abram’s name to Abraham which means father of a multitude and God changed Sarai’s name to Sarah which means princess.
And in the story found in Genesis 17, we find part of the reason why God did this was because Abraham was involved in negative self-talk and we can see it after God reassured the patriarch he would be the father of nations:
Notice how the Bible records that Abraham “said to himself” he was negative self-talking that exposed his unbelief. He was not saying it to anyone else, he was saying it to himself.
Here is a man we consider one of the great patriarchs of faith. In fact, he is the first man declared to be righteous because of his faith. So we can have people talk the talk when others are around, but what are they saying to themselves when no one else can hear them?
Now Abraham was struggling with unbelief, and he was reinforcing and I suspect even making it worse by the words he spoke to himself.
Even Sarai said much the same thing a little later on in Genesis 18.
Undoubtedly, this was not the first time that Abram and Sarai had done this negative self-talk and it was causing them to walk sideways with God, leading to the Ishmael episode.
They desperately needed to change the way they thought about themselves. By changing their names, God was directly challenging their negative self-talk, because it was self-destructive and defeating. From this point on they they had to refer to themselves by their new names.
In one sense, it was a form of positive self-talk and it helped change Abraham and Sarah into the man and woman of faith as we know them.
So how many times in the day do you self-talk and how many times is it negative, where you belittle yourself or speak about how negative things are. I catch myself doing it often in a day and when I am not saying it, I am thinking it.
So how often are believers doing it today?
Well, all we have to do is turn to the pop charts and if song downloads are any indication, a tremendous amount.
Popular Christian singer Lauren Daigle’s hit song “You say” has been the number one Christian song for 62 weeks. It has literally set a record for the length of time it has been at the top of the charts.
Obviously, this song is resonating with people.
So why is that?
Well, let’s take a look at the first two lines for a clue:
This number one hit song is about the lies people are saying to themselves. People are identifying with this song because we are not only thinking bad things about ourselves, we are also going one step further and doing a lot of negative self-talking.
In an interview with Fox News, Daigle said:
Like Abraham and Sarah, we need to change our self-talk and I am not talking about what you say to other people, I am talking about what you are saying to yourself, about yourself, when no one is around.
The Apostle Paul makes an interesting statement. He wrote:
What Paul was saying is that you can read something, but hearing is where the power is.
Researchers have discovered that positive self-talk, statements such as “I can do this” will actually help people do better in strength and endurance tests. They are not stronger because of it, they were just as strong before the self-talk, but what the self-talk did was help them fully achieve their potential.
It helped them break through their fear and unbelief.
Now we have traditionally interpreted this verse in Romans to mean faith comes when we hear the word of God preached.
And certainly this is true.
But I believe positive Bible believing self-talk, which you also hear, can create faith. In fact, I suspect this type of self-talk is perhaps the bigger builder of faith. Because we can listen to a positive uplifting sermon once a week, but if you are beating yourself up and cutting yourself down multiple times in a day for the next six days who is winning the battle of faith here.
Because I believe the opposite is true, as well. If faith comes by hearing, then when we hear negative self-talk we are creating unbelief and destroying faith.
We need to literally declare, “I can go through anything with Christ’s help.”
Now just in case you think this is a bit weird, there might even be a couple of examples of this happening in the Bible.
Do you remember the story in the Gospels of the woman with the issue of blood who pushed through a crowd, grabbed Jesus’s cloak and was instantly healed?
She was not only struggling with a sickness, but as well with society’s perception of her.
This woman’s sickness was evidence to the Pharisees that she was a sinner and God was punishing her. She was despised and rejected by the religious elite of her day.
But when Jesus showed up, the woman knew the Lord was her last chance for healing, her last hope. But to get to Christ, she needed to push through the huge crowd of people who had gathered around Jesus and touch the Lord’s robe.
She had to push through the rejection and despising crowd.
The Amplified version of the Bible tells us what happened next:
She had been saying to herself “If I only touch his outer robe, I will be healed.”
But notice the tense, because the Amplified version translates it accurately, it implies that she had been saying it multiple times, more than once.
She had been doing self-talk:
“If I only touch His outer robe, I will be healed.”
“If I only touch His outer robe, I will be healed.”
“If I only touch His outer robe, I will be healed.”
I have no idea how many times she said it, but clearly it was more than once.
And those words not only spoke of her faith in the power of God, but as well gave her courage to go forward, no matter what people would say about her, and touch Christ’s robe.
It helped her break through the fear of rejection.
And when she did this, the Bible says that the woman with the issue of blood sucked the healing virtue out of Christ.
OK, it didn’t exactly say that, what the Bible did say is that Jesus felt the healing virtue leave him. The Lord wasn’t even praying for this woman,
She grabbed His garment and she pulled the healing virtue out of Jesus like a vacuum.
But if this woman’s story tells us anything, it tells us that self-talk has to be more than once. It has to be repeated again and again. It has to be a life style and has the power to change your life.
We may also have another example of self-talk in King David’s life. After the prophet Samuel anointed David as the next king of Israel, the reigning leader, King Saul set out to kill David.
Because of Saul’s continued threats, at one point David decided to flee Israel with his small army of men that had rallied with him. David made a treaty with the neighboring king of the Philistines and moved there. During a confab or meeting with the Philistines, the Amalekites attacked David’s home base taking their wives and children captive.
David’s men were outraged and were blaming David for getting them in this mess. The Bible says they were thinking of stoning David, so you can imagine what they were saying.
So what was David’s response?
In 1 Samuel 30:6, the Bible says that David “encouraged himself” in the Lord.
How do you encourage yourself in the Lord? I think David was doing some godly, self talk.
And shortly after this David and his army successfully attacked the Amalekites and got back their wives and children.
I believe there was some godly self-talk going on here. But believe it or not it was negative self-talk that may have contributed to David’s problem in the first place.
There is an interesting verse, three chapters earlier, that tells us what led to David’s decision to leave Israel and go to Philistia:
We read that David was “saying to himself” that Saul was going to get him. Saul was going to kill him. David was speaking fear and unbelief and made the decision to flee to Philistia. Is this what he was supposed to do, who knows? But a lot of weird stuff happened in Philistia including David having to feign madness to survive.
So summing this up, negative self-talk sent David fleeing to Philistia and positive self talk helped him beat the Amalekites.
What I am suggesting is that we need to start changing the way we talk about ourselves and our circumstances. We need to self-talk faith.
Look we are all self-talking, all the time. We all do it. What are you saying about yourself.?
I would suggest that negative self-talk is a form of unbelief, because it is a denial of who you are in Christ and the power of God to help.
It’s also a process. It won’t change over night, because many of us may be trying to break habits of negative self-talk that we have been doing for years, in some instances for decades. This negative self-talk won’t change without a fight.
We will need to work at it.
In Romans 12:2, the Bible says that we are transformed by the renewing of our mind, literally changing the way we think. So let’s start that process of change with some faith driven self-talk.
If you are struggling with sin and temptation say:
- Dean, you are dead to sin. (It is better to say it this way, than I am dead to sin.)
If you are struggling with self-doubt, say:
- Dean you can do all things through Christ that strengthens me.
If you hate yourself and beat yourself up when you make a mistake say:
- Dean you are a child of God, co-heir, ruling together with the Lord.
That doesn’t sound like a loser to me.
We need to fully embrace our identity in Christ and self-talk may be one way to help us do it.