The Law of Reversed Effort
For reading & meditation - Hebrews 2:5-18
"But we see Jesus ..." (v. 9)
Yesterday we said that we must make sure we do not entertain evil thoughts. How does it work in practice? Build within your mind a strong picture of Jesus, and when an evil thought comes into your mind, turn and look at Him. Those who study the mind tell us that evil thoughts are not driven out by dwelling on them, even prayerfully. It is bad tactics to direct sustained attention to them, even in penitence, for then you experience what is called the law of reversed effort. This law states that "the more attention you focus on avoiding something, the more likely you are to hit it." A simplified form of this happens when a cyclist sees a pothole ahead of him, and concentrates on avoiding it - only to run into it. The longer things are held in the focus of attention, the deeper they are burned into the memory and the more mental associations they make. The way to overcome them is to outwit them by swiftly directing the mind to some other absorbing theme. It may be difficult to dismiss them, but they can be elbowed out by a different and more powerful idea. What better idea than to hold a picture of Jesus in your mind, reinforced by daily Bible meditation and prayer, so that in the moment of overwhelming testing, the mind is turned toward Him. One who developed this technique into a fine art said: "Christ in the heart and mind is the safeguard. To think of Him is to summon His aid. Evil thoughts dissolve in the steady gaze of His searching eyes."
Prayer: O God, my Father, help me develop in my mind and imagination such a powerful picture of Jesus that it will become the saving focus of my being. Help me turn to Him immediately whenever evil thoughts crowd my mind. For Jesus' sake. Amen.
For Further Study
1. What are the three steps James gives for overcoming Satan's attacks?
2. How does this apply to wrong thoughts?