A few years ago, I began collecting memorable thoughts and quotes. My regret is that I didn’t start earlier. I’d be willing to trade my stashes of WD-40 and duct tape for those message outlines, good jokes, and countless facts I’ve heard and forgotten along the way.
Recently, while looking over the few hundred I have saved, I pulled out a few thoughts that “jumped out” at me for a variety of reasons. See if you agree that they are worth far more than the boxes of baseball cards I also should have kept (smile).
1 What we have at the center of our attention is what has us. • King David is both a positive and negative example of this principle. Whatever he gave his attention to would either “make him” or “break him.”
2 God loves us enough to accept us as we are, but He loves us too much to leave us that way. • Could anything be better? (Philippians 1:6).
3 Nothing is so relevant as the eternal. • A Jewish man named Asaph learned this thousands of years ago while struggling with feelings of envy, disappointment, and doubt (Psalm 73).
4 We see things not only as they are, but as we are. • Uh-oh (Titus 1:15).
5 To change, we must want something else more than what we now have. • Maybe this is why the Scriptures say we will find the Lord (and the heart-changing help of His Spirit) only when we look for Him with all our heart (Jeremiah 29:13).
6 Live for what you will not regret when you die. • “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
7 The secret of abundance is found not in what we have, but in what we enjoy (or are thankful for). • Paul expressed this in his letter to the Philippians (ch. 4). Nothing produces wealth more quickly or certainly than a heart of gratefulness.
8 The poorest of all are those who don’t know the one to thank for the sunshine or to trust in the dark. • Isaiah said it with an edge. Even the ox knows its master, and the donkey knows where to find its food (Isaiah 1:3). Those who don’t know their God are poorer than both of them.
9 We can learn more from our critics than our admirers. • One group tells us how wonderful we are. The other tells us the truth (Proverbs 27:6; Psalm 141:5).
10 When I am in the presence of God, it seems profoundly unbecoming to demand anything. —Francis Schaeffer • No one understood this better than our Lord, who said, “Nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
11 Attack problems, not people. • I get the two confused until I remember the words and spirit of Christ (Matthew 5:43-44).
12 For some troubles, God has not given us answers—He’s given us His Son. • That was His gift to the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43) and to us.
13 What God thinks of us is more important than what we think of ourselves. • Paul seemed to have this down pretty well. He showed that he not only took the opinions of others, but also his own, with a grain of salt (1 Corinthians 4:3-4; Romans 14).
14 Fear God—not to run from Him, but to Him. • This might be even more basic than loving Him (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10).
15 Get knowledge—but don’t depend on your knowledge. Seek to be wise—but don’t rely on your wisdom. Work hard—but don’t trust in your hard work. Work smart—but don’t stake everything on your own cleverness and efficiency. Be ethical—but don’t lean on your morality. Make plans—but don’t hope in your plans. Save money—but don’t trust your savings. Add up your numbers—but don’t count on them. Value people—but don’t depend on people. • I’m intrigued with that lengthy New Testament letter that doesn’t ever mention the subject of idols by name—yet abruptly ends with the words, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
16 We are saved by God’s mercy, not by our merit; by Christ’s dying, not by our doing; by trusting, not by trying. • If it came down to having one or the other, we’d probably do well to trade all of our assets and education for this one thought (Ephesians 2:8-9).
17 Worse than blindness is sight without vision. —Helen Keller • This reminds me of Jesus, who said, “Take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness” (Luke 11:35).
18 Wise are those who look at others with the same generosity they offer themselves, and who look at themselves with the same critical eye they have for others. • Yet look what we do! We blame others to get the attention off ourselves (Matthew 7:3).
19 It’s better to deserve honors and not to have them, than to have them and not deserve them. —Mark Twain • Jesus gave an example of someone who takes a seat of honor at a banquet, but then is told to give it to someone else (Luke 14:7-11).
20 I have found that the desire to have is soon replaced by the fear of losing. • Solomon wrote a whole essay about this (Ecclesiastes).
21 Use things and love people. Don’t use people and love things. • Why, after so many complex and profound things are considered, do the most important things in life seem so simple?
What I enjoy most about this collection is understanding how all good principles are rooted in the wisdom of Scripture—while pointing us to the Person of Christ.
The best ideas are like the star of Bethlehem. Their purpose is not to celebrate themselves, but to lead us to the One who offers us the forgiveness, patience, grace, and wisdom we need. —Mart De Haan