Prescribing an antidote for a troubled world bombarded by bad news
By Charles Gardner
Previously published October-November 2018
I read this week, with the faintest molecule of sympathy, of a 28-year-old film star who can’t seem to enjoy a day without being bombarded by the world’s troubles. Poor thing! How she would love to be permanently cocooned from reality in her make-believe world.
But yes, we are constantly assaulted by so much bad news, fake news, propaganda and general noise that we scarcely feel able to think. Mind-boggling.
But here is some good news you may not have heard. Amidst the horror of the Indonesian tsunami, I heard of a pilot who, prompted by God, took off from the very epicentre of the disaster three minutes ahead of schedule – not knowing what was about to happen – thereby saving his 140 passengers from certain death.1What made the difference? His mind was in tune with the Holy Spirit.
Sadly, however, that is not the norm. Both children and adults are spending a great part of their waking hours allowing their minds to be filled with so much that is destructive and unedifying. Even Christians have fallen for this. No wonder they are being so ineffective in winning a lost generation for Christ. Is there a way out? Well, switching off and allowing the Creator to speak into their lives would be a start.
Also this week, I was travelling south by train sitting next to a young man reading a book called ‘Mind over Muscle’ or something like that. I could see he was engrossed, so declined to interrupt and got out my Bible, reading through Paul’s letter to the Philippians, which speaks much of the importance of the mind – how we need to focus, concentrate and meditate on the Word of God, the ultimate wisdom for living.
He writes about “being one in spirit and of one mind” and having “the same mindset” as Christ. He also talks of enemies of the cross who have “their mind set on earthly things”. He pleads with those at odds with each other “to be of the same mind in the Lord” and adds that “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 2.2,5; 3.19; 4.2,7)
In his letter to the Roman believers, Paul urges them not to conform to the pattern of the politically-correct world of their day, when homosexuality even among the emperors was particularly prevalent, but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. (Romans 12.2)
The prophet Isaiah says: “You will keep in perfect peace those who minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (Isa 26.3)
My fellow traveller and I were both getting off at the same station, so when he closed his book I asked him if he was a runner. He sure was; in fact, he was an ‘Iron Man’ competing around the world in extraordinarily tough triathlons (taking in a two-mile swim, a marathon and a lengthy cycling course). I have also run many marathons, so there was much to share in the few minutes we had left.
But the point is that we were both reading up on the importance of the mind in our respective commitments. As a runner myself, I know the importance of the mind in determining whether you make it – simply to the finish or to a medal perhaps. You have to jettison the negative thoughts and soak up the positive as you run the race with both body and mind.
It always worked with me – except once, in the Scottish Marathon of 1972, and that disappointment helped to bring me into an encounter with the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Mind over muscle certainly works; I have proved that in my own experience.
But a mind that is filled with negative news, soap operas from which you need spiritual cleansing and endless Radio One music will rob us of peace. God wants to speak into our lives with his words of wisdom, insight and guidance, but most of us are shutting him out and paying the price as we reap the chaotic, meaningless and immoral harvest into which we have sown.
In Hebraic thinking, the heart is the seat of the mind – in other words, that to which we dedicate our souls and desires is what we have been focusing our minds upon. What we have ‘worshipped’ with our time – be it TV, social media or music – will evolve into a ‘golden calf’ (idol or false god) that can offer us neither hope, direction, purpose nor stability in life.
Many of us – even those who sit in church pews – have effectively been brainwashed in our political, ideological and sociological thinking by BBC news bulletins, television dramas and the like rather than having our minds informed, washed and cleansed by the Word of God.
Back to a sporting analogy. I have enjoyed watching the Ryder Cup – and golf is another pursuit very much played out in the mind. Although my older brother Rob hit the ball further than me when we played together as youngsters, I would usually beat him in the end because when it came to the tricky, delicate play around the greens, he was generally not up to it.
At the Ryder Cup in Paris, Europe’s twelve heroes won so convincingly (against the odds) thanks to what I’ve dubbed the ‘Poulter Passion’ – demonstrated by the total commitment and focus of mind of players like Ian Poulter, along with their obvious teamwork. This should not be taken as a reason to avoid Brexit, however!
Today’s church could well do with twelve ‘apostles’ of this sort of calibre, striving together as one with a burning passion to win as many as possible for Christ.
Finally, I was struck by the testimony of a man once heavily involved in Satanism who was released from terrible darkness by an encounter with Jesus. After a difficult period of disappointment later on, he experienced a breakthrough when, on the advice of his pastor, he began ‘renewing his mind’ by immersing himself in God’s Word.2
1Joy! News, South Africa 4th October 2018 – original source godtv.com
2The story of Pastor Greg Hibbins, HEART newspaper, October/November 2018. For more information, see www.heartpublications.co.uk