The mind is strengthened in the same way that the muscles of our body are – through exercise and proper diet. Concerning appropriate diet, Paul developed a wholesome dietary menu that is sure to enhance the vitality of the believer’s thought life. “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil. 4:8 KJV).
If the believer is going to expose his mind to violence, pornography, filthy language, course jesting, and extravagant indulgences, the heart will readily be conformed into a stagnant cesspool of carnal ambitions. “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). Physically you are what you eat, but spiritually you become what you think upon. It is simply the sowing and reaping principles of the harvest. The three laws of the harvest are: you reap what you sow; you reap more than what you sow; and you reap after you sow. Paul explains that if “a man soweth to his flesh, he shall of the flesh reap corruption” (Gal. 6:7-8). When a believer feeds upon (thinks upon) what is corrupt, it leads to a legitimate harvest of corruption. It will be realized long after the initial seeds were sown that the repercussions were far more devastating than what could have ever been imagined.
No particular exercise strengthens all the muscles of the body; different exercises are required to maintain complete muscular fitness. Likewise, Scripture provides different strengthening exercises for mental fitness. Each exercise challenges a specific mental temperament by replacing an inappropriate bent with a godly thought pattern. Our minds are such that we must think upon something. Not thinking about something just doesn’t work! For the next ten seconds (after reading this sentence) try clearing your mind of all thoughts and especially don’t think about the letter “R” in the word “Rascal.” So how did you do? It is very difficult not to think about something once it has been introduced into your mind. However, if you replace what you want to mentally escape with another thought, you can avoid this enigma. Sir Thomas More put it this way, “Occupy your mind with good thoughts, or the enemy will fill it with bad ones. Unoccupied it cannot be.”
Since our minds must ponder something, let us think about Christ and things such as Scripture, hymns and spiritual songs. We must think rightly and use biblical exercises to increase the mind’s adherence to proper thinking. Cults and New Age religions understand the fact that our minds must have something to think upon. The Eastern form is to empty and then control the mind, while the Christian form is to fill the mind with thoughts of Christ! The following are six mind exercises to help the believer maintain a Christian focus.
Settling The Mind
How do you first react when there is distressing news? Do you think positively about it? Is your initial recourse to ponder how God might derive glory in the circumstance? He will, you know (Rom. 8:28). Spiritually speaking, it requires practice and determination to refocus the mind on something lovely instead of what is causing the soul anxiety. Clearly, it is possible to focus or set the mind on a particular thing by an act of the will. Isaiah informs us ultimately how to maintain peace in our minds, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee (the Lord): because he trusteth in Thee” (Isa. 26:3). The next time your mind becomes anxious, practice inviting Christ into your thought-life. Let your mind ponder potential divine solutions or outcomes to the situation by which the Lord will glorify Himself. This will settle your mind. The mind must have something to focus on – who better than the Lord?
Recalling To Mind
The exercise of “recalling” is similar to that of “settling,” but it requires the mind to focus backwards into its own memory bank in place of potential future solutions. In this mental exercise, one recalls either the past faithfulness of God or His promises and directives. We are creatures that tend to forget the Lord, our past mistakes, and His past faithfulness. Thus, there is much exhortation in Scripture to remember the Lord, His goodness and His commands (Dt. 6:12; 8:11; 9:7; Lk. 22:19). The prophet Isaiah instructed God’s people to “Remember this, and show yourselves men: recall to mind … remember the former things of old, for I am God” (Isa. 46:8). What is the benefit of refocusing the mind backward upon historical events or divine statements? We reacquaint ourselves with God’s promises of deliverance and recall His past faithfulness through the storms of life.
Renewing The Mind
So far we have learned to shift our thinking from present circumstances to ponder how the Lord might use the situation for His glory or to His past faithfulness and declared promises. “Renewing” is a third way of refocusing the mind. “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Eph. 4:23). Renewing relinquishes carnal and worldly thinking to meditate upon the acceptable will of God. “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:2). As a believer renews his mind (thinks upon what is the good and perfect will of God), he or she is transformed from carnal thinking to holy living.
This technique of strengthening the mind will be helpful for those who are prone to think selfishly, to compare themselves with others, or to have proud thoughts. If we dwell on an inappropriate thought, we should confess it as sin; however, this action in and of itself will not overcome the mental bent. We must replace inappropriate thinking with proper thinking. So, for selfish thoughts refocus the mind on how we can serve for the glory of God instead of how we can be served. Remembering God’s sovereignty in creation and His unique purpose for our lives will help replace “comparing” thoughts. Simply remembering that I can do nothing for God’s pleasure naturally (Rom. 7:18; 8:8), but that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13) will aid in overcoming prideful thoughts. If godly thinking does not initially repel the thought, confess the ill imagination as sin and replace it with a holy inclination. When the believer does not renew his mind, he exposes a great deal of territory for the adversary to dig in and gain a stronghold.
Persuading The Mind
This aspect of mind exercise forces vague thinking to specific reasoning. It brings blurred conduct into focus. Young Christians often have difficulties working out the gray-zone areas of liberty. The Lord desires us to work out our salvation (sanctified living) with fear and trembling before Him. He desires us to be holy for He is holy (1 Pet. 1:16). The task then is to reduce the gray-zone area of liberty into appropriate personal conduct that neither offends one’s conscience nor the edicts of Scripture. “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5). The believer doesn’t function in a fog of unclear notions, but becomes fully persuaded in his or her mind as to what is right and what is wrong behavior. This behavior glorifies God and does what is spiritually edifying for self and others; it does not stumble the lost or a weaker brother or make provision for the flesh to be master.
Girding The Mind
Girding the mind relates to the exercise of focusing the mind on accomplishing an intended goal no matter what distractions, difficulties, or sufferings are encountered. “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13). In ancient days, the hulls of ships were undergirded with ropes and cables to keep the hull from breaking apart in storms (Acts 27:17). The girding of the ship strengthened it for the strenuous trials ahead. The marathon runner comprehends the cost that the race will impose on his body. He mentally prepares (girds his mind) for the forthcoming pain and the exhaustion that will soon beset him, then he runs with endurance to finish the race. He is not distracted by cramping muscles, blisters, shin splints or any such thing; he runs on for the prize; he runs to finish the race well.
Readying The Mind
“Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind” (1 Pet. 5:2). After a difficult workday or after a huge endeavor, there is a tendency for us to relax our minds. You know, just “zone out” for a bit and be a “couch potato.” This phenomenon is often accompanied by a craving for some amusement – like watching TV, or a movie, or listening to music. A ready mind is a mind that does not shut down, but remains focused, active, and available. Satan does his most extensive programming through the portals of our soul (our eyes and ears) when we are fatigued. We listen to or view evil propaganda that we would not normally permit ourselves to digest. When our minds are shutdown, we cease to apply the Philippians 4:8 mental filter, and the filth just creeps in. There are times when the believer should rest (Ps. 23:2), but the mind should remain sharp. Good soldiers of the cross remain alert and available, for the enemy is cunning, lurking in the shadows for those who let their guard down.
It must be emphasized that these mental exercises are not for the purpose of increasing natural intellectual power (mind power) or to better serve God through natural strength and means. This would be foolish and only add to the tendency of the fallen soul to pursue God through our natural abilities, especially if one is abundantly gifted. The intent of the above mind exercises is to settle and focus the mind, and to fortify it against carnal suggestions.
May these six exercises aid your mind to better focus upon spiritual matters and allow the Lord Jesus to more fully reside in your thoughts.
By Warren Henderson
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org