As Ken has been teaching in this series, we are reminded that the mind is the ultimate battlefield in this life. The Lord, our own flesh (that negative base side of who we are) and the enemy (the devil or Satan) are all battling for control of our mind. Why does the battle rage here in the mind? Because the Bible says, “For as a person thinks in his heart, so is he…” Proverbs 23:7, NASB.
We need to understand that the battle that’s raging in the mind is a spiritual battle. Ultimately, it’s a battle between good and evil for the control of our lives. Since this is a spiritual battle, we cannot fight in our own strength or use the common weapons of warfare, we must fight with spiritual resources, like what we find in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:10-18.
Today, I want you to know that…
- You don’t have to LOSE this battle for your mind!
- You don’t have to be DEFEATED in your walk with Christ.
- You don’t have to BE A SLAVE of worry, anxiety, your thoughts, feelings, or fear.
- You don’t have to BE CONTROLLED by the desires of the body!
- However, you CAN live your life under the control of the Holy Spirit, which allows you to win this battle for your mind!
How, might you ask? The first thing you need to know is that it doesn’t happen automatically! You have to take certain steps that will ALLOW IT to happen in your life, (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23; 1 Peter 1:13).
As we take the steps in 1 Peter 1:13 to “think clearly and exercise self-control,” we put ourselves in a position where the Lord can renew the mind. The word “transform” in Romans 12:2 and the word “renewed” in Ephesians 4:23 are both in the passive voice. They are something done TO and IN the child of God.
Secondly, we need to know that we don’t have to do this alone. We have the Lord’s promise in 2 Timothy 1:7, that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind, (or discipline). So, today, I want to take these few verses in Philippians 4 to show you Paul’s plan for victory in the battlefield of the mind.
I want to share with you five simple steps that teach us all about Strengthening the Mind. If followed, these steps will help us to build a wall of protection around our minds. These steps will help us to achieve victory in the daily struggles that we all face.
- BUILD THE WALL OF PRAISE (Philippians 4:4) – Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
This repeated phrase in Philippians is Paul’s command for believers to “rejoice.” He uses this word in the imperative form, and it’s also important to note that he immediately repeats the command. This word means, “to be glad.” While not a Greek scholar, I discovered that this word is in the present tense, active voice, and imperative mood. All that means is, the believer is commanded to “keep on being glad in the Lord.”
Now, let’s face it, life is tough, and the events of modern life don’t bring much happiness! But let’s put this into context. When Paul penned these words, he was chained up between two Romans soldiers while in a prison cell. Even in the midst of this hardship, Paul knew that regardless of the circumstances of life, God never changes, God never leaves, and God never forsakes us. That’s why we are told to “rejoice in the Lord.” We don’t rejoice in the circumstances, he says to rejoice “in the Lord.” You see, people will change, circumstances will change, and life constantly changes, but the Lord never changes! He is constant, he is faithful, and he will always walk through this life right beside us.
Since this is true, we can learn to rejoice in who He is, what He has done for us, and what He is doing in our lives. Even if the road is hard, remember these facts…
- God has a detailed plan for your life, Psalm 37:23.
- God has promised to make all things work for good, Romans 8:28.
- God has promised to go with you through everything in life, Hebrews 13:5.
- God has promised you abiding victory, 1 Corinthians 15:57; Romans 8:37.
- God has promised you that the destination will be worth every step of the way, Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17.
Therefore, even when you can’t be happy about your life, learn to be happy in the Lord! Build this wall of praise around your mind! So our first step is to build a wall of PRAISE.
- BUILD THE WALL OF PATIENCE (Philippians 4:5) – Let your gentle spirit be known to all men...
The word “gentle” literally means “considerate or gracious spirit.” It has been translated in a variety of ways:
- New Living translates the word “considerate”
- Holman translates the word “graciousness”
- King James translates the word “moderation”
- The ESV translates the word “reasonableness”
This word has the idea of being patient with other people; or yielding to the rights and wishes of others. It does NOT mean we make compromises in our doctrinal beliefs in the name of tolerance, but it does mean that you have a willingness to take the back seat in favor of other people. This is the same idea that Paul introduces back in Philippians 2:4 – thinking of others as more important than yourself.
Paul is saying that the reality of our faith should be demonstrated in how we treat other people. If the focus of our lives is all about US, then when people hurt us, we’ll have a desire to retaliate and get even.
Paul wants us to take the focus off ourselves and put it onto other people. When we are focused on the people around us, we’ll be less likely to be hurt by what other people do. What they say won’t sting us so badly because we are not focused on ourselves. How they act can be passed over more easily when we focus on THEIR hurts, their situation, or their well-being. It has been said that “hurting people hurt people.” So, when people hurt us, we ought to seek to discover what is happening in THEIR life to have behaved the way they did. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is the right thing to do.
When we adopt the mentality of self-love (which is all around us) we will always look at the things people do and say, as a personal attack. It will cause us to wear our feelings on our sleeves and to be more easily hurt by the words and actions of others.
This will also cause us problems in the mind because we dwell on WHAT was done or WHAT was said. If we can learn to accept other people just as they are and overlook what they have done to hurt us, it will protect our mind from dwelling in negative areas. It will build a wall of protection around the mind that others cannot penetrate!
The bottom line is this, if we can learn to live in genuine contentment, as in Philippians 4:11, then it won’t matter what anyone says or does to us. The mind will be protected from the evil that it likes to find in others. The devil loves nothing better than to get your eyes off Jesus and onto the faults of other people! The flesh loves nothing better than to go along with the devil in accusing others and judging others. When this happens, the mind is in danger! So, our second step is to build the wall of PATIENCE.
- BUILD THE WALL OF PRAYER (Philippians 4:5b-7) – The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6 warns us against the dangers of worry. The word used for anxiety in the NASB, is translated in other places as “careful” or “worry.” The idea of “anxiety” comes from the term, “to be troubled with cares.” It refers to a state of mind that is agitated over the events and circumstances of life. There is nothing wrong with HAVING concerns (we all have them) but it’s when your concerns have YOU, that’s when the problems begin to spring up!
Worry is so dangerous because it allows the mind to create false ideas about God, others, and the world around us. Worry says, “God is dead!” or, “If there is a God, he obviously doesn’t care about me and my situation.” Both of those statements are false! God is certainly alive, Hebrews 7:25, and God does care, Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 5:7.
When the problems of life come our way, we are given some wonderful help in these verses.
- The Lord is near (Philippians 4:5b) – This refers NOT only to his second coming, but that He is always near to His children – Hebrews 13:5-6.
- Exercise the tool of prayer (Philippians 4:6) – Paul speaks of prayer, supplication, and requests. These might be thought of as, 1) general praying, 2) specific praying, and 3) detailed praying. The main point of this verse is that instead of worrying, the believer is to demonstrate his faith in the POWER and the WILL of God by seeking the Lord in prayer!
- Develop a thankful heart (Philippians 4:6) – Regardless of the situations you face in life, learn to praise the Lord through ALL of them. Nothing brings God nearer (or drives the devil away any faster) than a genuinely thankful heart!
The Lord’s promise to us is that He will replace our worries with HIS PEACE when we come before Him in trusting, humble prayer. The word “keep” or “guard” in Philippians 4:7 means “to garrison, or build a fort around, or to post a military guard.” The Lord promises to post a guard around the heart and mind of the person who trusts Him with the needs of everyday life. Instead of worrying yourself sick about things you can’t change, learn to lean on the Lord in prayer! Build this wall of prayer!
- BUILD THE WALL OF PURITY (Philippians 4:8) – Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
Ken talked about this verse at the beginning of this series, so I won’t go too far into this point, but all of these words Paul uses in this verse are a clear picture of the Word of God. God’s Word is true – John 17:17. Since the Bible is true, everything it says fits within these categories mentioned by Paul. It is honorable, it is right, it is pure (holy, clean), it is lovely, it’s of a good report (good reputation), it is full of virtue (excellence) and worthy of praise (meaning, that which leans toward worship).
We must fix our minds upon the things of God. The SOURCE for discovering these things worthy of filling our minds is the Word of God. In other words, if we will fill our minds with the Words of God, there will be no room left for evil, no room for worry, no room for fear, no room for vengeance, no room for immorality, no room for confusion or trouble. A mind filled with the Word of God, and a mind led by the Word of God, is a stable, fortified, and strong mind!
So, if you want a stable, strong, and godly mind, the best place to get it done is with the Bible. We must take the initiative and challenge our mind to dwell on God’s Word and what it says, instead of allowing the mind to run toward evil, or gossip, or slander, or sexuality, or immorality, or other people and what they are doing, or even our problems. A mind saturated with Scripture and fixed upon the Word of God is a strong mind.
This is something that you have to do for yourself!
- The church cannot strengthen your mind.
- The church cannot keep you from dwelling on negative thoughts.
- A Sunday School class or a small group cannot build a wall of protection around you.
No one is ever transformed when the motivation is external. Just like running a marathon, I can surround myself with encouragers cheering me on toward the finish line, but if I am not inwardly motivated to finish the race, I will give up, and will stop short.
The Christian life is very similar. If I am told what to do in order to grow spiritually yet fail to have the inward motivation of pleasing God in all that I do, or if I fail to walk in a manner worthy of being called a child of God, I WILL live a mediocre life.
How long will I be obedient to God if my motivation for Christianity is to avoid hell rather than loving and serving God out of a grateful heart and renewed mind? Strengthening your mind is something that YOU do to yourself, it is not something done TO you or FOR you. So, build the wall of PURITY.
- BUILD THE WALL OF PRACTICE (Philippians 4:9) – The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Do you notice how relational this verse is? Sometimes we think it reads, “If you want the peace of God, do the things I taught you.” This is not like a class or a sermon where we take notes; it involves walking through this life with other people. The Christian faith is caught more than it is taught. We grow and live within a faith community.
Paul tells the Philippians to practice the things they had seen and heard in his life. For us, it’s NOT that we have it all together, like we’re perfect in this life. Perfection is a goal, because it will never happen this side of heaven.
You’ve heard the phrase, “Practice makes perfect?” Well, that statement is wrong. If you practice it wrong, you will NOT get it right. Ask any musician. The real truth is in a modified phrase, “Practice makes permanent.” As you practice the rift on the guitar or the violin, you may start out slow, even at half speed, but you HAVE to get it right before you practice, practice, and practice some more. If you learn it wrong, you will always play it wrong.
If you want permanent change in your life, you may start out slowly, but the more you practice it under the accountability of a trusted mentor or friend, the more permanent the transformation will become.
So, we have spent the past few minutes building walls in order to strengthen our minds:
- THE WALL OF PRAISE (Philippians 4:4)
- THE WALL OF PATIENCE (Philippians 4:5)
- THE WALL OF PRAYER (Philippians 4:5b-7)
- THE WALL OF PURITY (Philippians 4:8)
- THE WALL OF PRACTICE (Philippians 4:9)
So, let’s have some time for reflection. Maybe bow your head in the quiet of this moment and let God’s Spirit speak to your heart and mind. What are your next steps?
NEXT STEPS: Consider these questions…
- Which wall is needed most in your life right now?
- Name a person who is spiritually mature that you will seek out this week to help you grow in that area.
- How will you begin to make changes in your life so you can strengthen your mind?
- WHO will you tell about this personal commitment, and the need for accountability?
- WHEN will you seek out this accountability person?
Your mind is a precious gift from God. It can be used for good or for evil, and all the forces of good and evil are battling for your mind all the time. Who wins the battle is always determined by YOU! No one can control your mind, but YOU. We are told in the Bible that we need to strengthen our mind, it is OUR job, individually, and it cannot be passed off to another person. We are in cooperation with the Holy Spirit to conform to the image of Christ. We can’t outsource that responsibility.
This is a very critical matter, because how you THINK determines how you will LIVE your life, Proverbs 23:7 (As a person thinks within himself, so is he, NASB). Until the mind is settled, all of life is out of control – remember the words of James 1:8. (a double-minded man is unstable in his ways), so I challenge you to strengthen your mind!
Let’s Pray About It: Lord Jesus, you know better than anyone that I need a stronger mind. I recognize that apart from you, I can do nothing, so please, help me to grow in my faith, renew my mind, and become more effective in my Christian walk. I confess my failures and seek your forgiveness. Lord, help me submit to your lordship, embrace your ways, and do your will.
Father, for those who have not yet begun their journey of discipleship, let them seek you earnestly, because your Word tells us that you WILL be found when we seek for you with all out heart.
Father, this time is yours. Help us to make commitments and give us the strength to follow through, especially when life get hard. We pray this in Jesus’ name, AMEN
CLOSING: Thank you for joining us today. If you made any commitments this morning, let us know about it. You can contact us using the church website (kgbc.us/more). Know that your staff prays for you, and we hope that you’ll make prayer for one another a regular activity each week.