We are struggling with the belief aspect of our growth, because we are still struggling with the belief aspect of our growth: who we are in Christ. With the helmet of salvation firmly on, we see ourselves for who we really are, it is imperative to our growth and maturity in our ministry of reconciliation.
God’s basic goal for our life is character development, but there certainly are a lot of distractions, diversions, disappointments, trials and traumas which come along to disrupt the process. Paul reminds us that the tribulations we face are actually a means of achieving our supreme goal of maturity.
People tend to look for quick-fix solutions to difficult situations, but God’s plan is for us to hang in there and grow up. We need occasional mountaintop experiences, but the fertile soil for growth is always down in the valleys of tribulation, not on the mountaintops.
When we stop believing that God is in control; that he is working everything out for our good; that whatever happens is for the ultimate best of everyone involved, however little it seems to be that way. The more time and energy we invest in contemplating our own plans on how to live our life, the less time and energy we have to seek God’s plan for our ministry of reconciliation.
When our faith in God’s omnipotence and care is strong, it is impossible for Satan and his forces to break through our shield of faith and land an attack. Satan and his forces are actively involved in trying to distract us by peppering our mind with their thoughts and ideas.
The first thing we need to understand about the battle for our mind, the main targets which must be destroyed, are the strongholds. Strongholds are negative patterns of thought, which are burned into our minds either through repetition over time or through one-time traumatic experiences.
Before we were born anew, all our stimulation came from the environment of this hostile world. Every day we lived in this environment we were influenced by it and preconditioned to conform to it. The worldly stimulation we were exposed to was both brief and prevailing.
Brief stimulation includes individual events, situations, places and personal encounters we experienced. We were influenced by books, movies, music and traumatic events we experienced or witnessed. We learned a way to cope with these experiences and resolve the conflicts they produced.
Prevailing stimulation consists of long-term exposure to our environment, the influence of our family and friends, our neighborhood or our jobs. We developed a philosophy about how to survive, cope and succeed in this world apart from God. Once a stronghold of thought and response is entrenched in our mind, our ability to choose and act contrary to that pattern is virtually nonexistent.
That is why Paul insists that we be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Strongholds in our mind are the result of conditioning; we can be reconditioned by the renewing of our mind, anything that has been learned can be unlearned.
Satan and his forces have no power over us except what we give them by failing to take every thought captive and thus being deceived into believing their lies. If Satan and his forces can get us to believe a lie, they can control our life. If we fail to take a thought captive to the obedience of Christ, but believe it, they will control us.
Since Satan and his forces primary weapon is the lie, our defense against them is the truth. Dealing with Satan and his forces is not a power encounter; it is a truth encounter. Satan and his forces know just what buttons to push to tempt us.
They have observed our behavior over the years and they know where we are vulnerable, and that is where they will attack. Our temptations will be unique to our area of vulnerability. The moment we are tempted, we are at the threshold of a decision, and if we do not immediately choose to take that thought captive, we will begin to consider it as an option.
If we begin to mull it over in our mind, immediately our emotions will be affected and the likelihood of yielding to that temptation is increased. We need to take every thought captive by practicing first-frame thinking, evaluate every thought by the truth and do not give place to the lie.
Our emotions play a major role in the process of renewing our mind, our emotions reveal our perceptions and here is where the shield of faith comes into play. Our emotions are a product of our thought life, and if we are not thinking right, if our mind is not being renewed, if we are not perceiving God and his word properly, it will show up in our emotional life.
If we fail to acknowledge our emotions, we may make ourselves a slow-moving target for Satan and his forces. We are not shaped as much by our environment as we are by our perception of our environment. Life’s events do not determine who we are; God has determined who we are, and our interpretation of life’s events determines how well we will handle the pressures of life.
In reality, we have very little control over our emotions, but we do have control over our thoughts, and our thoughts determine our feelings and our responses. If what we believe does not reflect truth, then what we feel does not reflect reality. When we believe what we feel instead of the truth, how will our ministry of reconciliation be? As inconsistent as our feelings.
The important process of renewing our mind includes managing our emotions by managing our thoughts and perceptions. Satan and his forces are always hurling their fiery darts of fear, doubt and worry in our direction, but the only time they can hit us is when we let our shield of faith down.
A shield deflects; it keeps the darts of the enemy away from our mind, the shield moves with the attack. When we allow doubt to creep in, an actively raised shield of faith prevents this otherwise inhibiting fatigue, so the shield is the first line of defense, the enemy has to get past the shield first.