Controlling the mind, the secret revealed, is perhaps the greatest challenge of your life. It matters little what happens in the physical circumstances of living life if the mind is not calm, cool, and collected.
While a prisoner in Rome, bound with chains, and facing the stigma of being a common criminal, Paul wrote powerful, positive letters to individuals and to churches expounding the glory of being a Christian. If negative physical circumstances were the measure of his serenity and joy, he would have none. It seems that his life was a constant mixture of troubles, perplexities, persecutions, and humiliations. Controlling the mind during these many catastrophes was perhaps Paul’s greatest challenge. He knew that only Jesus could overcome anxiety-producing circumstances.
The life of Paul demonstrated the need for controlling the mind.
Reading the events of the last few years of Paul’s life staggers our understanding. In twelve days in Jerusalem prior to being sent to Rome, Paul suffered the following: while in the Temple, he was overtaken by an angry crowd; he was thrown out of the temple and the doors were slammed shut behind him; certain Jews attempted to beat him to death; rescued by the chief captain, he was bound with chains; he was believed to be the leader of a band of 4,000 murderers; he was scourged, bound with thongs, slapped on the mouth, and caught in a crowd who threatened to pull him to pieces. A band of forty Jews swore an oath that they would not eat until they had killed him. Obviously, the need for controlling the mind in those last twelve days in Jerusalem was paramount in the life of Paul.
Paul would have been killed by the Jews in Jerusalem had he not been a Roman citizen. The local leaders of Rome found that he had done nothing worthy of death or to be held in prison. Since he had appealed to Caesar, he was sent to Rome with other prisoners.
After having sailed many days and Paul’s warning of dangerous seas being ignored, the ship was caught in a tempestuous storm. For three days the ship was tossed by the winds and the waves. In desperation, the cargo was thrown overboard to lighten the ship. For days neither the sun nor the stars could be seen and all but Paul lost hope that they would be saved. Finally, fourteen days later the ship ran aground attempting to navigate a small inlet seeking relief from the storm. The ship was destroyed but those on board made it safely to shore by using the broken pieces of the ship to keep them afloat.
If the perils of the storm were not enough, Paul’s ordeal was not over. While gathering wood for a fire to warm him, a poisonous snake bit his hand. The people of the island thought that Paul surely was a murderer having escaped the sea only to be bitten by a snake that meant certain death.
Although Paul was delivered from the effects of the venomous snake on the island of Melita, he was not spared the bonds of prison. When he finally arrived in Rome, he was securely chained to a Roman soldier. He would spend the remaining days of his life in prison. How could one man endure so much suffering and yet continuously share uplifting words of encouragement to others?
He experienced the good life behind the doors of prison. The secret of Paul being able to say, “. . . I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Phil. 4:11) is found in the simple truth of the essence of life. Is the contented life determined by the flesh and blood reality of the physical world, including the trying circumstances of the perils of Paul? Or, does the contented life originate in the spiritual realm of man’s inner being, regardless of the physical circumstances in which one might find himself? What makes the quality of life good? Controlling the mind is essential to experiencing the good life.
Controlling the mind was evident in the lives of the early followers of Jesus.
The early followers of Jesus knew the enemy that could destroy their peace, their joy, and their sense of justice would never come from without, from the actual circumstances they were experiencing. The temptation to corruption that could destroy them would always come from within their own thinking. They knew the mind, when out from under the control of the Holy Spirit, was the adversary that brings death and destruction to the soul of man. Experiencing peace and joy rest solely in controlling the mind through the Holy Spirit.
The teaching of Jesus illustrated exactly where satanic power lies. When He told his followers that he would be killed (Matt. 16:13-28), Peter responded with “not so Lord, be it for from thee.” Jesus then said to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou art an offence unto me.” Peter’s expression, “Not so Lord,” placed him in an adversarial role to the outworking of the will of God for the life of Jesus.
The reason why Peter now found himself in opposition to the Father’s will for Jesus’ life was he did not fully understand the plan of God. He knew Jesus was the Christ, but he did not know exactly how that was going to be worked out by the will of God. Jesus told him that his problem began when he had exercised his mind and came up with a faulty conclusion: “For thou savourest [translated from a word meaning, “to exercise the mind”] not the things that be of God, but those that be of man.” Failing in controlling the mind, Peter’s own imaginations had brought him to an erroneous belief. This faulty thinking put Peter in opposition to what Jesus said was going to occur. At this point of the conversation, Peter was an adversary to the purpose of God in the life of Jesus.
Peter would eventually come to understand the basic struggle for man would be for the control of his mind. He would later write, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober . . . .” Do not attempt to experience life in the thinking of the mind. Do not become entangled by the intoxicating fantasy of your own imaginations. Be sober. Let your mind be sustained by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Peter closed his writings with the same warning: “Be sober, be vigilant because your adversary . . .” seeks to intoxicate you to destroy your soul. In other words, once the mind begins to escalate its worrisome thoughts of a current problem, the soul becomes intoxicated with its own created anxiety. The mind runs out of control and “sleep won’t come the whole night through.” Instead of living in the peace and rest of a sound mind controlled by the Holy Spirit, the soul is being devoured by the runaway imaginations of its own thinking. Controlling the mind, at this point of Peter’s life failed miserably.
Paul also knew of the destructiveness of the mind. Standing among some people that were steeped in religious activities, he said, “. . . I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious” (Acts 17:22). Their zeal to be religious had led them into meaningless beliefs and practices that carried no godly significance. The imaginations of their mind had created all kinds of religious activities that were actually carrying them away from God. Failing in controlling the mind, they were more in line with occult practices than the ways of God.
He would later admonish another group of highly religious people: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every though to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). It is only the thinking of man’s mind that can create within the mind something that can be exalted above the knowledge of God. The mind can create its own world of fantasy. Although these vain imaginations have no validity other than to the mind which created them, they can become very powerful. To the degree the fantasy is believed to be true is the degree of power and of bondage the deluded person now find himself to his fantasy. This vain imagination, failing in controlling the mind, stands in the life of that person as the adversary to the ways of God.
Controlling the mind is the only safeguard against satanic activities.
Satanic activity, the forces of the adversary to God, always come from the inner working of the mind of man. As Paul warned the Philippians,
For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things” (3:18-19).
Controlling the mind is the challenge of every man. The glory of man (the intellectual power of the mind under control of the Holy Spirit) becomes the shame of man (the power of the carnal mind now taking man down and away from God with every thought).
In a world created by his fantasies and imaginations, man now believes he controls the events of his life. God still rules every action of the universe, but in the make believe world of his mind man thinks he is in control. His own imagination becomes the great adversary to the ways of God. The ultimate adversary in every man’s life is always the carnal mind, the mind out from under the control of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, manifesting Jesus in your life is the only cure for controlling the mind.