HAVE you ever vowed that you will not gossip or that you will be more thoughtful and understanding of others, or perhaps that you will be more precise with your finances? Many of us earnestly desire to be kinder and to act more responsibly. But how many times do such valid intentions fall by the wayside!
The Apostle Paul recognizes this human tendency when he writes in his letter to the Romans: ``To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me'' (7:18-21).
Temptations and suggestions come to all of us, but temptations and suggestions lack the power to influence us when we recognize that they don't have any spiritual authority to back them. In the New Testament, I John reminds us: ``Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God'' (4:1).
If we are to put--and keep--our daily life in order we must be orderly about our thinking. We must rigorously test the thoughts that present themselves to us, to discover whether they are from God. In The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, the Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, urges: ``Watch, and pray daily that evil suggestions, in whatever guise, take no root in your thought nor bear fruit. Ofttimes examine yourselves, and see if there be found anywhere a deterrent of Tr uth and Love, and `hold fast that which is good''' (pp. 128-129).
Whether our individual functions are in the lines of business, social work, homemaking, or other skills, we usually know our own jobs well enough to recognize quickly when something is not correct. As Christians, as followers of Christ Jesus, we can apply ourselves consistently to forming a Christly foundation from which to recognize more easily what is God-given and to resist any temptation to accept what isn't. Throughout the Bible we receive instruction telling us what our duties are toward God and ma n; and we also find directions on how to resist worldly suggestions that would prevent us from fulfilling those duties. By prayerfully seeking to express our oneness with God, we will sharpen the listening qualities that enable us to understand God better. This grounding wonderfully equips us to live each day in a way that defeats temptation.
While it's certainly important for us to pray, how we pray is individual. There is no formula for prayer, but our desire to do right is a constant prayer that puts us on the right track. In the Bible, in Psalms, we read, ``It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord . . . : to shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night (92:1, 2).''
As we examine our thoughts to determine their source, we can endeavor to purify and to refine them. We can reach out to our fellow beings, whether in the family, the community, or the world, and pray for unity of motive and action. It is a privilege as well as a duty to arm ourselves mentally for each day's challenges, to be ready to recognize erroneous suggestions, and thus be equipped to defend our thinking. Then, we can remain confident that we can't be undone by temptation or deception.