Hold that thought. It’s what you say when someone is telling you a story you want to hear but your phone rings (and it’s your spouse. Pro tip: don’t ignore that one.) Or a work topic, money topic, parenting topic, comes up on date night. It’s something that needs to be talked about, but just not right now - hold that thought.
Oftentimes, not only in life, but in ministry, leadership, pastoring, and parenting, your thoughts have to be caught.
In 1 Kings, we find the story of a prophet, a prisoner, and a king. A prophet, with blood on his face and covered in dust, ran a long way to give a report to the king. Here is what the prophet said:
“Then the prophet went and took a position along the road, with a bandage over his eyes, waiting for the king. It wasn’t long before the king happened by. The man cried out to the king, “Your servant was in the thick of the battle when a man showed up and turned over a prisoner to me, saying, ‘Guard this man with your life; if he turns up missing, you’ll pay dearly.’ But I got busy doing one thing after another and the next time I looked he was gone.” The king of Israel said, “You’ve just pronounced your own verdict.” 1 Kings 20:38-40 MSG
Basically, the servant in the story had one job: Keep this man. Guard this man. And if you let him get away, it’ll be your life on the line. But the servant failed to do the one thing he was told to do and let the man get away.
This story that the prophet ran and told the king, Ahab, was actually a parable, a leadership principle. The blood, the dust, the report, it was all a fake story, set up so that the prophet could hold a mirror up to King Ahab and show him what he had failed to do. To reveal that Ahab, too, had failed to do what his commanding officer – in his case God – told him to do. Ahab had been so busy doing one thing after another, he’d lost focus on his main mission: to keep this man. But not just any man.
To understand what I mean, and the leadership principle that applies to us, I want you to see yourself in this story. You too are under a commanding officer: God. And like the servant, and like the king, you have a job: keep this man. Guard this man. Who is the man you are meant to keep? You.
God has called you to be a leader, to be an influencer, to lead teams, and families, and leaders. But the hardest assignment? Keeping and guarding yourself. Sure, you may be good at leading others, but can you lead yourself? God would have you to know it’s your job to keep this man.
How? You’ve got to hold that thought.
I believe that all the battles of leading yourself are first won in the mind. You might be quick to put up a guard against “positive thinking” – I have known many people in the Church who sneer at the idea of positive thinking as though it were somehow a betrayal of the gospel. It seems to be one of those things Christians love to quickly bash and label as carnal. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t believe in positive thinking as a replacement for God but as a response to God.
Positive thinking isn’t evil; in fact, you will see just the opposite in Scripture. It’s not offensive to God; it’s obedience to him. The shortest verse in the Bible makes that crystal clear: “Rejoice always.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16) (Oh yes, it is the shortest. In the original Greek, “Jesus wept” is sixteen characters, and “Rejoice always” is only fourteen, making it the shortest verse. Pow.)
But don’t let its size fool you; this little guy packs a punch. It is both powerful and challenging.
Rejoice always? Think about that. Not some of the time or when things are going great, but always. Not when things are flowing, when leading people is easy, when growth is explosive, but always. Not when marriage and parenting are easy, but always.
Paul tells us specifically that ever-present joy is a part of God’s plan for our lives. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18)
With these commands (“rejoice,” “pray,” “give thanks”), he’s not only telling us the will of God, he’s giving us tools. It is impossible to do those things and be negative at the same time. When you feel like complaining, see yourself acting selfishly, or find yourself slipping into a bad mood, shoot a prayer to God that is full of joy and gratitude instead. Setting your mind on things above you is declaring war on low-level thinking.
You can spend your whole life doing one thing after another—going here and there and serving and leading and giving and pouring out—and then lose yourself. It is so important that we nail this concept down right now. Why? Because your words and actions both begin as thoughts. Or, to quote a great line from the cinematic masterpiece Kung Fu Panda 3: “Before battle of fist must come battle of mind.”
To keep this man, you’ve gotta hold this thought.
Levi Lusko is the founder and lead pastor of Fresh Life Church, located in Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, and Utah. He is the bestselling author of Through the Eyes of a Lion, Swipe Right, I Declare War, and I Declare War Video Study. Take Back Your Life is his newest book and video study and is available now. He and his wife, Jennie, have one son, Lennox, and four daughters: Alivia, Daisy, Clover, and Lenya, who is in heaven.