Your Beliefs Are Powerful
The ultimate freedom we have as human beings is the power to select what we will let our minds dwell upon.— Dallas Willard
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.—Philippians 4:8
Son, it matters what we think. It affects everything about us as men. When I was younger, I didn't think it mattered, but with years comes wisdom, and I have come to discover that every thought that spins around in our head has consequences. The music you sing along with, the language you hear, the media you read, the marketing you believe, and even the thoughts you have about yourself all affect you. They alter your feelings, beliefs, and attitudes that, as a result, change your behavior sometimes a little at a time and other times drastically.
So let me illustrate. When I was 12 years old, I remember standing on the basketball court with a group of other young men during a gym class. I vividly recall another friend coming up and bursting into our conversation, and he began to share with the four of us about Tony's first sexual encounter over the weekend. He spared no detail. Then he closed off the conversation with this statement, "Guys, I guess Tony became a man. Tony became a man." And then he dropped the mic and walked away. And even though a 12-year-old boy does not understand what it means to be a man, this thought was compelling to me about manhood. At this moment, a belief and belief system were forming in my mind, and it was perhaps one of the most potent ideas I heard at age 12. And you should know this influenced my thinking for several years. I fell for this false belief because I did not have a father present or a Christian voice in my life. And I clung to this belief, and the supporting system of belief as my hope for manhood—resulting in several bad decisions.
The following are my thoughts on our beliefs as men. I pray this serves you well in life as you make decisions about what you choose to believe.
One | We Construct Beliefs and Belief Systems
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD."—Isaiah 55:8
So we are thinking and believing beings. This is what makes us human. In basic philosophy, we learn that the one thing that distinguishes us from all other creatures is that we do not act on instinct alone. Human beings can think and construct systems of belief about life. This means that as we are exposed to inputs of data, we make judgments, develop concepts, and inferences about life that result in ideas and images that make up our beliefs. These ideas and images are compelling.
Beliefs require two things to become a belief: first, a believer (that's you), and second, an object or proposition (that's something you believe in). You are a believer who comes in contact with objects and propositions every day. Over time, you construct beliefs, and a cluster of these beliefs results in what we call a belief system. When we strip this down, a belief system is simply ideas and images about various parts of our life. And they influence how we view family, work, education, money, politics, and our faith. A true belief system is a good thing, and false belief system is bad—thus the words from the apostle Paul to the Philippians above. When you think about things that are honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and excellent, you get better inputs and thus better outputs. The point being you construct them, good and bad.
Two | You Are Controlled by Your Belief Systems
"For as he thinks within himself, so he is."—Proverbs 23:7
This principle is probably not a shocker.
This is why a beautiful woman thinks she is ugly, or a skinny woman thinks she is obese. Her self-perceptions and the ideas and image she has constructed are now controlling her believing process and her actions.
There is evidence of this rule throughout the Bible. Take the David and Goliath story. Why did Israel not send a man out fight with Goliath? Because they were being controlled by the belief that they could not defeat Goliath. Goliath's challenge was too outrageous for them—then along came David. And here, we see a teenager with a different belief and belief system. He believed that God could defeat Goliath—and that if God was going to use someone, it was him! This radical belief uprooted everyone's belief system, and it defied human logic, but it was spot on.
Therefore we can conclude that even though belief systems are what make us human, and what we use to make sense of the world around us, they are not always correct. They can be repetitively wrong and therefore control us. And as we know, these belief systems have power and direct how we think (our thoughts) and what we do (our behaviors). This is why men hesitate to act out in faith; they have human beliefs and human belief systems that compete with God's system of faith. This is also why many men get stuck in repetitive cycles of sins; they have a belief or belief system that is entirely inaccurate.
This leads to the third point.
Three | We Have Corrupt Belief Systems
"The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."—Genesis 6:5
Yes, not only corrupt beliefs but also corrupt belief systems. We have corrupt belief systems at the core. Note that the writer above states our intentions are the real problem. It's not just our thoughts or behaviors, but the aim of our thoughts and behaviors. This is the nature of human corruption at the deepest level.
So we can conclude that corrupt belief systems distort everything, including how we view God, spirit, soul, mind, and body. They corrupt our entire being.
And remember what is pervasive about these corrupt belief systems is that they are not uniform. They are different for every person. So this means my corrupt beliefs may be different from yours, yet still corrupt. And this corruption is profoundly personal and can involve long heritage, and when we combine this long heritage with a deep personal commitment, it can be hard to break. That is why battling repetitive sin or breaking a long-term habit is laborious; it's because we have years of corrupt patterns that are rewarding us in some way, and it's hard to destroy old beliefs, systems, and the powerful rewards and patterns that go with them.
Overcoming corrupt belief systems can feel like asking someone to jump into deep-water, without a life vest when they don't know how to swim. For many, this is a paralyzing look over the bow of a great ship. This is why beginning a personal relationship with Christ is often challenging and simultaneously stimulating. The experience is eye-opening.
And this leads to the final principle.
Four | God must Reveal The Belief System
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."—John 14:6
This is why Jesus came to our world. He came to reveal the only way, the truthful way, and the one that leads to life as it was intended to be lived. God saw that our beliefs and belief systems were corrupt, and because we could not find the way on our own, God had to reveal the way. And he does this—in the person of Jesus Christ.
This bold and often divisive statement by Jesus is the revelation of a new way to believe. And every time we discover another truth about his way, God opens our mind to another reality.
I have had many moments in my life where God has revealed the truth to me. Moments where I have discovered the power of his grace over the law of my sin, the impact of what Christ did in the resurrection versus what I could do on my own, and the infinite power of a relationship with God over my religious activity. And these moments are revealing in fresh new ways every day, as long as I am keeping myself close to the truth in God's Word. God reveals something to me every single day. And it has been an "awakening."
Son, we live in times that are changing. You will be exposed to thoughts and beliefs through friends, teachers, coaches, supervisors, famous stars, and even pastors and leaders that are opposed to God's Truth. I pray that you will test these thoughts and beliefs and compare them to the truth in God's Word. His truth is good, search for it, and hold fast!
But test everything; hold fast what is good.—1 Thessalonians 5:21
I love you, son, Dad.
Vince Miller is an author and speaker to men around the world on topics that include manhood, masculinity, fatherhood, mentorship, and leadership. He has authored 18 different books for men and is hosted on major video platforms like RightNow Media and Faithlife TV. He hosts a weekly podcast, writes weekly articles, and provides daily thoughts from God's Word all just for men. He is a 27-year ministry veteran and the founder of Resolute a Men's Ministry Platform that provides bible studies aimed at building better men found at www.beresolute.org. See his latest book and small group study Called to Act: 5 Uncomplicated Disciplines for Men.