Life is more difficult when the mind is not at rest and by rest, I do not mean inactive but rather worry-free or free from distractions. We are taught in 2 Corinthians that the weapons of our warfare are prayer, the word of God, the gift of faith and the power of God the Holy Spirit. A stronghold ( 2 Cor 10:3-6) is what occupies the mind and it can be anything from a wrong thought or belief or a wrong way of thinking things through, which is then reflected in our lives. In order for us to understand how the mind can be at rest, it’s best if we begin by looking at how God works in our lives and how we are to cooperate in the power of the Spirit.
The salvation which is already ours
Salvation is a gift from God and God works in us to make us more like Him. When we are called to work our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12), we must first recognise that it is our own salvation. we did not earn it and we do not need to work in order to keep it. It is ours, given as a gift, but it is a gift that matures the believer and this is important if our minds are to be at rest. The follower of Christ is not to be content with their own conversion story as if this is the only thing they have to show and tell about their salvation, but rather they are to move on to maturity, in the knowledge that He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion (Phil 1 :6).
Surrendering to the will of God is how we move on to maturity in our Christian life and where we understand that time and change go hand in hand, that over time we will become more like Christ until we are complete. Let us take special notice of what God does in order for this to happen. In Philippians 2:13 we learn that God’s power at work within the believer’s life is to will and to work, God doesn’t do the willing for us and neither does he do our work for us, but His power works in us to will and to work. In other words, the motivation comes from God and the ability comes from God and we are to work this out in our lives daily.
The surrendered mind
Paul encourages the Christians at Phillipi to have the mind of Christ and in Romans, he teaches that Christians are transformed by the renewal of their mind. The renewal of the mind leads to the transformation of the life and the life is not transformed without the mind being addressed by the word of God. Thoughts and beliefs that are held in the mind are to be transformed by the word of God, for the surrendered mind is not inactive but it is at rest. The mind that is being conformed to the world is a mind that will be in a state of unrest.
The restful mind is not a mind absent from the concerns of life but remains at rest through those concerns as it is surrendered to the will of God in faith and love. There were obviously those at Philippi that did not have the mind of Christ and this is seen and experienced in the church. Paul asked this church to complete his joy by being of the same mind, in other words, his joy was not complete for they did not have the mind of Christ among them. Since Paul’s joy would be complete if they had the mind of Christ, then it would not be complete until they did. The joy of one person is directly linked to others, for what Paul desires is not the completion of his joy but the unity of mind between these Christians, which in turn would lead to his joy being complete. Therefore, Paul presents the fact that the mind of Christ did not permeate the fellowship and when it does this would lead to Paul’s joy being complete as He desires what God desires in this fellowship.
The Mind of God and what goes through our mind
When our minds are not at rest and our joy is not complete we understand this is so, because we are not independent of the fellowship we belong to, the family that we are in, the jobs that we do and even the news that we watch. It may also be the case that our mind is not at rest with what we know about God and even what we know God will do, allow or not permit. To explain this tension we will look at the relationship between God and Jonah at the time when God commanded Him to go to Nineveh and preach against it.
When God commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah knew what would happen and what he thought would happen did happen. The message that he was to preach was “yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown1” and Jonah knows that this message of judgement would lead to God not destroying them, which we learn from chapter 4:2. He says “this is why i made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you were a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster” It was what Jonah knew about God that caused him to flee, Jonah’s mind was not at rest with what he knew to be true about God. What we learn from this is that our minds and hearts may be in a state of unrest because they are not surrendered to the will of God.
A mind at rest
When a Christian casts all their anxieties on to Christ in the knowledge that He cares for them, two thoughts are running through their mind, the anxious thoughts and the word of God. Anxieties take place in the mind and we acknowledge that they can have an effect on the physical body, at the same time, revelation (God’s word) informs the mind and heart with truth and so the mind experiences rest when the mind surrenders to the truth of God’s word rather than allowing the anxieties to have a free reign. An unrestful mind is not just the result of anxieties or unwillingness (remember Jonah), it can also be when we are struggling to live by faith, or it can result from being faced with a problem that we must find an answer to. In fact, there are plenty of issues that can cause our mind to be in a state of unrest. Therefore, since the solution is for us to be surrendered to God in line with His word, our minds must process everything that must be done. So how do we through all that unrest which occupies our mind, then convince ourselves and get ourselves to the place where we can finally be at rest?
Paul encourages those Christians in Philippi to commit everything to God in prayer. Imagine that your mind is like a tangled ball of string, which you have been struggling to untangle. Then imagine handling that ball over to someone else, the ball of string at this point is still tangled but it is now in the hands of someone else and the relief you feel does not come from the ball becoming untangled, but that it’s no longer left with you to untangle it. Handing an unrestful mind over to God in prayer in faith will result in the same feeling of relief. It may bot be that you get to see how everything will work out, be addressed, the problems solved, but in faith, you feel the relief from knowing that it is in God’s hands, if indeed you have truly handed it to God in prayer.
Rest and Renewal
When we find it difficult to give our full attention to the word of God and prayer, it can be difficult to get to the place where we actually pray that we will be able to give God our undivided attention when reading the word or praying. However, this will happen the more we commit to reading and praying on a daily basis. The other thing which will happen, when this happens, is that we will experience the renewing of our minds, which in turn leads to the transformation of our lives. In other words, it can be difficult at first to get to the place where we begin to see the value of our commitment to God in prayer and the reading of his word because the transformation we go through happens over time.
Since there will always be too much to think about at any one time we should remember that it is the peace of God which guards our hearts and minds. The peace of God is the city wall that protects us, we are not responsible for protecting our peace because it is the peace of God that protects us, it surpasses all understanding and it will guard our heart and mind. Too often Christians try to use their mind to do what only the peace of God can accomplish, therefore a mind at rest is not a mind that he’s everything figured out but rather a mind that is protected by the peace of God.