It is only when we experience sorrow that we can understand happiness. Day after day, Adam and Eve must have moved about the garden like children discovering their world, not knowing how to really experience it. It was just there. There was no beauty for them because they had never seen ugly.
God gave Adam and Eve agency and allowed them to choose to follow or disobey Him. He respected human agency so much He didn’t place them in the world with choices and consequences at the beginning. He let them choose to enter a fallen world so they could gradually make mistakes and gain experience in a world of opposites. He gave them power to control their own minds. He would influence but never force. He treats us the same way today.
Recently, I watched a series of films produced by W. Clement Stone featuring Napoleon Hill. The first short video contains a quote from Andrew Carnegie, one of the first self-made millionaires and philanthropists in America. Carnegie believed that control of one’s mind was the key to success. He conjectured:
“Everyone comes to the earth blessed with the privilege of controlling his mind power and directing it towards whatever ends he may choose. But everyone brings over with him at birth the equivalent of two sealed envelopes, one of which is clearly labeled: The riches you may enjoy if you take possession of your own mind and direct it to ends of your own choice. And the other is labeled: The penalties you must pay if you neglect to take possession of your mind and direct it.
“And now, let me reveal to you the contents of those two sealed envelopes. In the one labeled riches is this list of blessings:
- Sound health
- Peace of mind
- A labor of love of your own choice
- Freedom from fear and worry
- A positive mental attitude
- Material riches of your own choice and quantity
“In the sealed envelope labeled penalties is this list of the prices one must pay for neglecting to take possession of his own mind:
- Ill health
- Fear and worry
- Indecision and doubt
- Frustration and discouragement throughout life
- Poverty and want
- And a whole flock of evils consisting of envy, greed, jealousy, anger, hatred and superstition”
Carnegie’s description of the two envelopes leads us to believe God has given us a greater power than just making I-want-a-red-dress-instead-of-the-blue-one kind of choices. He is endowing us with the desires of our thoughts. In other words, what we allow our minds to dwell upon is manifested in some form or another. If we dwell on our poverty, we cannot see or embrace our plenty.
Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24 KJV)
The truth is this: Our minds cannot focus fully on two things at once. Even when we think we are multitasking, our minds are switching from one task to the other with lightning speed. Our brains are programmed to block unnecessary information when we focus. This characteristic was essential when we lived in a predatory world to protect ourselves from being hunted and killed. Now that we live in a busy complex world, our brains block much of what is going on around us. We often see what we want to see. It would drive us crazy to try and process all the colors, sights and sounds clattering around us.
This idea of focus gives new meaning to Jesus’ words: “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” (Matthew 6:22 KJV)
If we focus our eyes, or the windows of our minds, upon the single purpose of gaining God’s light, our entire body will see and feel that light. If we focus on something else, we may miss that light entirely. That is possibly why people can say there is no God. Their minds are so busy proving there is no Divine Creator, they cannot see His manifestations even when everyone else sees them clearly.
Our mind is like a garden; whatever thoughts we plant will grow to harvest if we don’t pluck them out. Mind control is powerful and must be tended with care. Napoleon Hill said, “Fear is faith in reverse gear.” If we believe strongly in something, our faith – or fear – are both powerful driving forces to action. We can nourish our minds with our faith or our fears. We choose.
Pope John XXIII said, “Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in but with what it is still possible for you to do.” (Brainy quote)
Both fear and faith demand that you walk into the darkness to view the outcome. We can look into the future and say, “I can see myself being successful. Look at all the reasons I will achieve my dreams.” On the other hand, we can cower in the corner saying, “I have never been successful. I was a failure in school. I was a failure in my job. I am always a failure.” Both mindsets require you to project yourself into the future and decide the outcome before you ever move in the direction.
Having faith is like having thousands of possible doors of opportunity wide open in your mind. You can choose any one of them. When you make your choice and walk through that door, you encounter thousands of new doors open before you. By contrast, fear is like having one door in your mind; it is locked and must be pried open.
Many times, we take counsel from our fears. We worry and fret over possibilities that may never come to pass. We circle the wagons even before there is a hint of an attack. What if we are unwittingly drawing the things we fear into our lives because we are giving them our focus? Our “eye is single” to our belief that bad things will happen, and often they do.
What if we took counsel from our faith instead? What if we thought of all the reasons why events will work favorably? What if our minds really draw good things to us because we expect good things to happen? Dwelling on the positive would draw positive outcomes. What if the Bible really means what it says: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”? What if Carnegie was right about the two sealed envelopes? That would change everything. It would transform our world.
When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, it changed them forever. They were confronted for the first time with real choices and consequences. Their emotions were suddenly activated. They could cry and laugh. They could feel contentment because they had experienced pain. They were given the power to control their own minds. God didn’t tell them every step to take. He gave them commandments, but they learned through trial and error what is profitable and what is destructive. They learned to live by faith and to face their fears, just as we do.
Adam and Eve bore children and watched them struggle through good and bad choices. They learned from their own experiences as well as the experiences of others what brought them joy and what brought them pain. They taught their children if they obeyed God, they would have more joy. If they didn’t, joy would turn to sorrow. Like Adam and Eve, every human on the earth is given the power to control his or her own mind to conquer good and evil. Every day, we are given choices that will help us make our “eye single” to God and behold His glory or to focus the windows of our minds on things of the world and miss Him entirely.
Yevet Crandell Tenney is a Christian columnist who loves American values and traditions. She writes about faith, family and freedom.