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Change your thinking and you can change your life. That’s the premise of the book Thinking for a Change. Very few people really take the time and effort to think deeply about life or work or faith. This book tries to lead you into a habit of thinking well. It’s work but it’s worth it.
Below are listed some biblical case studies of those who mastered or failed to master the various kinds of thinking habits and how this impacted their life. It was often true: Before God could change the world He had to change the thinking of an individual.
Eleven Thinking Skills Every Successful Person Needs
1. Acquire the wisdom of big-picture thinking.
Case Study: King Jehoram in 2 Kings 3. This king of Israel was in dire straits. The Moabites, with a much larger army than his, planned to conquer him. As he marched his allies across the desert, they ran out of water. When they groaned to Elisha that they needed water, God replied through the prophet: I will give you your water, but this is a small request; I will also give the Moabites into your hands. King Jehoram saw the immediate need but took his eyes off the ultimate solution. He failed to see the big picture.
2. Unleash the potential of focused thinking.
Case Study: The Syro-Phoenician woman in Mark 7. She was an outsider who came to Jesus with a request and wouldn’t be denied. She persistently asked Him to heal her daughter. At first, however, Jesus refused to respond. Despite this, she stayed focused and tried a different angle. When Jesus said he came to the Jews first as God’s children, she replied that even the dogs get scraps from the children’s table. She was right on target. Her focused and determined thinking moved Jesus to meet her need.
3. Discover the joy of creative thinking.
Case Study: Nehemiah in Nehemiah 2–4. Nehemiah led the way in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. He did it because of his shrewd, creative thinking. He mobilized the citizens by selling his vision for the value of a new wall. He stationed workers to build the wall across from their own homes so incentive would be high to do a good job. He planned how to encourage when they discouraged, and he protected the workers by using an armed rotation of soldiers until the job was finished.
4. Recognize the importance of realistic thinking.
Case Study: Abraham in Genesis 18. Abraham was interested in sparing the city of Sodom, where his nephew lived. His first proposal was a bit optimistic as he negotiated with God about how many righteous people lived in the city. Over time, Abraham grew more realistic about the state of the citizens and finally arrived at a realistic conclusion. His realism may have spared Lot and his family.
5. Release the power of strategic thinking.
Case Study: Joseph in Genesis 50. Joseph endured a difficult life, beginning with mistreatment by his brothers in Canaan. When he assumed leadership of food supply management in Egypt, and his brothers needed him, they were naturally fearful. This was Joseph’s chance to get revenge. But Joseph recognized what was happening, and told them that what they meant for evil, God meant for good, to spare the children of Israel and preserve their future. Fortunately, Joseph saw things from a strategic perspective.
6. Feel the energy of possibility thinking.
Case Study: Peter in Acts 10. Simon Peter was praying on a rooftop when God gave him an unusual vision. The vision expanded Peter’s thinking so he would be open to sharing the gospel with Gentile people. Peter was so entrenched in his current paradigm he pushed back. This new thought was foreign to him. God finally convinced Peter that His goal was to reach the nations, and he needed to see new possibilities. This led to Peter’s visit to Cornelius and a new world of ministry.
7. Embrace the lessons of reflective thinking.
Case Study: Jonah, in Jonah 4. This prophet whined about the outcome of his work and God’s grace toward the citizens of Nineveh. Jonah lamented the situation rather than learn from it. He was so caught up in himself that he failed to reflect on what had happened. He only saw one angle and only lived in the moment. This forced God to use an object lesson to give him proper perspective in the end.
8. Question the acceptance of popular thinking.
Case Study: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in Daniel 3. This classic story illustrates how a handful of individuals can change a nation. The king had erected a statue of himself and instructed everyone to bow down to it. If they refused, they would die. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego questioned the popular thinking of the day and forced everyone—including the king—to rethink his law. While everyone else just flowed with the crowd, these three thought on their own.
9. Encourage the participation of shared thinking.
Case Study: The elders in Acts 15. In this chapter we read about the Council of Jerusalem, where a huge debate took place among the Jewish leaders of the early church. In this council, the church leaders including Paul, Barnabas, and Simon Peter interacted over whether the Gentiles must keep the Law of Moses, and specifically, whether they must practice circumcision. It was not until the key leaders shared their thoughts and a healthy debate ensued that they came to a unified decision.
10. Experience the satisfaction of unselfish thinking.
Case Study: Barnabas in Acts 1, 9, 11, 13, and 14. Barnabas (if indeed he was the same person as Barsabas, who wasn’t chosen to replace Judas Iscariot) didn’t cease to stay involved. He continued seeking, supporting, and serving people wherever he went. Barnabas’ agenda revolved around others. His unselfish thinking moved him to give his money, possessions, and time liberally; it enabled him to mentor potential leaders in the church, and ultimately it led to his becoming an apostle after all (Acts 14:14).
11. Enjoy the return of bottom-line thinking.
Case Study: The apostles in Acts 6. This chapter details the first conflict in the early church, where some people felt they were being neglected in the ministry. The widows at some tables were being overlooked. The twelve apostles gathered the congregation together and communicated some healthy, bottom-line thinking: It would not be wise for the key leaders to serve tables and neglect teaching and prayer.
In this text, it is interesting to note that apparently the apostles didn’t even have to pray about this issue. They recognized the value of bottom-line results and pursued them.
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