Believe, Think, Feel, Do, Believe

For a long time I have been a fan of the theory that what you believe, determines what you think, and what you think determines how you feel, and how you feel manifests itself almost inexorably in how you act (or what you do). (I first ran across this idea in a book by Robert S. McGee titled, The Search for Significance; a book I highly recommend, by the way.)

Believe => Think => Feel => Do

The title of this post indicates my belief that this process is cyclical.  In other words, if you think and feel, but do not act it circumvents the cycle, and the disconnect will produce cognitive (and emotional) dissonance.  This static in the process eventually causes a change in what we really believe, whereas a completion of the cycle further embeds the original belief.  So, in my estimation the process really ought to be visualized like this:

Believe => Think => Feel => Do => Believe

Unfortunately, the American mindset seems to be dominated by an implicit assumption that Christianity consists of:

Believe => Think => Feel

As if whether we feel “happy,” for example, is the goal of the Gospel’s transforming power.  As if, the Gospel can work in us mightily without extending itself into the things we do, the words we say, the way we live, the priorities we cherish, etc.  This abortive philosophy of metamorphosis has resulted in “Christian” lives that look no different from their suburban neighbors, in a world that sees the Gospel as powerless, and an overwhelming number of Christians who do not equate being a “believer” with being a “disciple.”

We can only live changes: we cannot think our way to humanity. Every one of us, every group, must become the model of that which we desire to create. – Ivan Illich, as quoted in The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch, pg 101

There is another aspect to this conversation which I ought to mention before wrapping up this post.  One can study incessantly, but there are certain truths that will never be apprehended without being practiced.  Additionally, the practice of God’s commands (the walking in God’s ways) inherently reveals truths that we would otherwise never connect.  We are human beings, not human doings, however, the act of being cannot be separated from the physical.

God understands this.  We often reflect on the message of Sabbath in relation to the need to cease from doing and rest, however, the converse message is that on the other six days of the week we are to be actively doing the good works which God created long ago for us to walk in (Eph 2:10).  If one is not doing, then one is robbed of the power of ceasing to reflect on the truth of one’s being.  The truth that we are new creations in Messiah, and the anticipation of our eternal Sabbath, which yet awaits the return of Messiah.

9 thoughts on “Believe, Think, Feel, Do, Believe

  1. Greetings Nate, Absolutely! Look at the ratio, 6:1, it speaks volumes. Thanks for your thoughts… may we inspire each other on to walk in the Good Works prepared for us in Yeshua Messiah (They are revealed in Torah). Shalom

  2. Yes, I have repeatedly reflected on the fact that persistent right doing, regardless of your feelings eventually produces the feelings that ought to go hand in hand.

    That fact is the one “fly in the ointment” of this theory, and I haven’t figured out quite yet how to integrate this reality.

    Perhaps, the model represents an ideal, whereas, the reality is that at times we must act on truth, regardless of whether we “feel” like it or not.

    I have reflected on what originally produces belief, but had not gone much further in that direction. I will contemplate Word of God, and Witness of Creation…Spirit of God must figure in somehow also. Very interesting contribution; thanks, Dan.

  3. Nate,
    I read this particular post a while back, and i find myself revisiting it today, as something seems to finally click in my head, and i’m gathering momentum for this particular issue of believe=>think=>feel=>do=>believe.

    I’m not sure the “feel” should actually be in there, cause feelings are certainly not applying in my motivation to do this thing i have to do, rather it keeps me from wanting to do it.
    More of a blieve=>think=>do=believe….

    Thanks for that post though. It was needed.

    Shalom my friend,

  4. Tanja,

    The feel definitely belongs in there. As you do, it begins to change what you believe and think, which then produces feelings. So one day you will wake up surprised to discover that you actually feel like doing what is right! It’s a surprising and wonderful day!

  5. Nate, ok since i’ve tried this albeit reluctantly in practise, i can see how the feel belongs in there. Somehow though at this time the feel doesn’t seem to stay positive for very long….
    I suppose it takes a retraining one’s emotional make up, though consistently sticking to the new way of life ?

    Ahh gosh i feel i have accomplished so very little. I’m certainly not feeling like i deserve to be written in the book of life for another year.

    Shalom my friend,

  6. Nate, how would this compare?

    Believe => Think => Feel => Do => Believe

    Believe => Conviction => Repentance => Do => Faith

    A thread today brought this one up for me.


  7. Tanja,

    That could work; it may not be a comprehensive cycle, but it certainly is in the right order. Though some would argue about where “faith” ought to fit in, but I do believe you’re using “faith” in the emunah sense of faith/faithfulness?

  8. Nate,
    Yes i meant exactly that sense of faith: emunah.

    It may not be quite a cycle, but i think it could be faith in and of itself lends to more belief as all of it is a learning circle.

    How about that?


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