Biblical Keys to Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Growth Part 4 of 4
by Pastor Dan White
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“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind”(2 Timothy 1:7 KJV).
You can define mental, emotional, and spiritual strength by identifying the things that mentally strong individuals don’t do. Emotionally strong people have learned healthy skills that they have made into healthy habits. They manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that set them up for success in life. Check out these things that mentally strong people don’t do so that you too can become more mentally strong with a sound mind.
1. Mentally, Emotionally, and Spiritually Strong People Don’t Fear Alone Time. Mentally strong people enjoy and even treasure the time they spend alone. They use their downtime to reflect, to plan, and to be productive. Most importantly, they don’t depend on others to shore up their happiness and moods. They can be happy with others, and they can also be happy alone.
The key here is that mentally, emotionally, and spiritually strong people don’t depend on others to shore up their happiness and moods.
I have a friend whose wife left him for another man, and they divorced. It’s like Charles Shultz, the Peanuts cartoonist whose wisdom was displayed in his characters, wrote, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it sure makes the rest of you lonely.”
My friend was lonely. At first, he was dating different women two or three times a week. He settled on one lady thinking and hoping that maybe things might work out for a marriage. But, that relationship didn’t last long. He broke it off after a few months. “I found out she had issues that I didn’t want to deal with,” he told me. He went on the hunt again.
After several months, my friend told me that he was beginning to adjust being alone and even liked coming home after work to an empty house. “It sure beats the stress and tension I had with my ex,” he said. “It’s like the Bible says, ‘It’s better to live in a corner on the roof than inside the house with a quarreling wife’” (Proverbs 21:9 NCV).
It took my friend over a year to really adjust to being alone and being OK with it, but he did.
That’s the mark of strength.
A strong mentally, emotionally, and spiritually person doesn’t depend on others to shore up their happiness and moods. You’ll never hear them say, “If I don’t have him/her, then I’ll never be happy.” Such a desire is idolatry in that you look for happiness in someone else other than in a love relationship with Jesus.
Yes, it’s hard because you can’t see Jesus and talk with Him as you talk to a flesh and blood person because God created you to be social. Having others in your life fills a void. Having a spouse or significant other fills a need. That’s the way God created us. You need a friend or family member to understand you, accept you, and be with you.
In the loss of a vital relationship through divorce, death, or a prolonged separation, an important part of you dies too. For one reason or another, valued people leave. When they do, you feel lonely and all alone. That’s not good.
God said that it is not good for man to live alone (Genesis 2:18). God made us for companionship. Relationships fill this purpose for companionship and friendship.
Loneliness or the feeling of rejection and being all alone is not healthy. Elijah felt so alone he wanted to run away and die. "He went a day's journey into the desert and sat down under a juniper tree. Under it, he prayed that he might die. “I have had enough [rejection], Lord,” he said. 'Take my life.” (1 Kings 19:3-5).
You need interaction with others. You need to especially be around other Christians to be encouraged, strengthened, and edified in your walk with God. That’s why Jesus created the church. A true, healthy church accepts you, understands you, and provides companionship.
An unhealthy church abandons you in your time of loneliness and need.
I heard about the son of an elderly lady whose husband had died. Even worse, she could barely see. She devoted her life to serving her church and kept the nursery for decades. However, no one from her church visited her in her lonely darkness. Her children who live out of town are there for her on a rotating schedule. But not the church. Her son saw a lady in the church who is a leader in the ladies mission group at the store one day. He told her, “I am very disappointed. Not one person from my mother’s church or one person from the ladies mission group has visited my mother or even taken her a pot of chili since my dad’s funeral several months ago. I’m very disappointed.”
Now, a true, loving church will minister to the lonely. This is the kind of church that Christ created - not the other kind that forgets you in your time of loneliness and need.
That’s why it’s important to choose a loving, ministering church. After all, the church IS the body of Christ to bring companionship and love to the lonely in His name. You need the companionship of a true, healthy church especially when you are suddenly left alone.
Then there is another type of loneliness. This is what I call “alone time.” You need “alone time” to recharge your battery. If you are a social butterfly who can’t stand to be alone, learn and practice to make take time alone with you and the Lord. To unwind and recharge is a necessary discipline for mental, emotional, and spiritual strength.
Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually strong people enjoy and even treasure the time they spend alone. They use their downtime to reflect, to plan, and to be productive.
Jesus enjoyed the company of others and of his disciples. But sometimes, He wanted to and needed to be alone to ponder, prayer, and recharge. Yes, He is God, but then, He was very much human too. The gospels record that Jesus “Got up very early in the morning, while it was still dark and went off to a solitary place where he prayed" (Mark 1:35).
David experienced peace and rest in times of solitude with the Lord. “My soul finds rest in God alone” (Psalm 62:1 NIV).
Your body is constantly being renewed. New cells are grown. Damaged cells are replaced.
When your body is sick, it often forces you to take time to heal itself.
In the same way, your mind, emotions, and spirit need renewal. Stress and anxiety can make you mentally and emotionally weak and sick. You have to get alone for your inner self to heal, There in your quiet time alone with Jesus and alone with yourself in your thoughts and reflection, healing comes.
Your spirit is renewed and refreshed. A sense of peace floods your soul.
Loneliness? Not good. Taking time to be alone in prayer and meditation? Good.
Alone with yourself and alone with the Lord is where mental, emotional, and spiritual strength are developed.
2. Mentally, Emotionally, and Spiritually Strong People Don’t Feel the World Owes Them Anything. Particularly in the current economy, executives and employees at every level are gaining the realization that the world does not owe them a salary, a benefits package, and a comfortable life, regardless of their preparation and schooling. Mentally strong people enter the world prepared to work and succeed on their merits, at every stage of the game.
The entitlement mentality pervades our nation and culture. Entitlement is “the feeling of having a right to have, do, or get something.”
The federal government has inverted the work ethic from “you earn what you have by the sweat of your brow” into “give me what you have.” I deserve it. I’m entitled to it. You have too much, and I don’t have as much as you do. That’s not fair! I demand that you give me what is yours!”
Total entitlement spending by the government comes to about 62 percent of total spending. In addition, The Department of Agriculture gives billions of dollars to farmers. The departments of Energy and Commerce give billions of dollars and subsidized loans to corporations. In fact, every Cabinet-level department in Washington is in charge of handing out at least one kind of subsidy or special privilege.
This entitlement mentality worms its way into the fabric of every level and institution of our society.
The entitlement mentality infiltrates education. My daughter teaches at a technical college. She often relates stories of students who feel entitled to good grades. Their Hope Scholarship and other grants depend on academic achievement. Students who don’t study and perform as they should and feel entitled to good grades will argue with her about their poor grades. They complain and blame her for their poor grades. Some have even reported her to the dean. But, she is not the only one. It is a real problem for most, if not every teacher, from elementary school to the university.
The entitlement mentality creeps into business. Entitlement mentality employees feel they have a right to more pay, more benefits, and higher positions. They are jealous of the pay of their supervisors or the owner of the company who makes more and sometimes much more than they do. The entitlement mentality creates a bad working environment with bitter employees who have a sour attitude.
Families are not immune to the entitlement mentality either. An adult child may feel he/she has a right to immediately have all that his/her parents have worked almost a lifetime to acquire.
I knew of a couple who put their son through college. He squandered his education. Couldn’t keep a job. Ran up huge debts. His wife divorced him. Instead of accepting responsibility for his failed life, he loaded up his parents with guilt and shame. “If you really loved me, you would help me out of my mess.” This couple quit counting after they had given their son, an only child, over $50,000. Sadly, the son never improved his life. His dad predeceased his mom who continue pouring money to fund his irresponsibility. She died. He got their nice house, moved in, mortgaged it, and promptly lost it.
This sad family scene is repeated countless times in our entitlement mentality culture.
That’s a far cry from just a generation or two ago. My grandfather used to say, “If you make your bed hard, you have to lie in it.”
My dad told me when I was a teenager that if I wanted spending money, I had to get a job. “Nobody owes you anything, son.” I started working at age 14 at Mr. Perry’s Food Town bagging groceries and sweeping the floor. Even after I earned a Master’s
Degree, I often worked two and sometimes three jobs.
In his autobiography, Mark Twain wrote, “Any man who is satisfied to be fed by another man rather than by the honest sweat of his own brow should be shot.” Twain recalled numerous occasions in his life when he was taken advantage of while trying to do a good deed which typically consisted of giving money to people who claimed to be down on their luck. He said that almost without exception that the person “helped” did not appreciate the help, did not pay back loans he made. and did not change his profligate ways.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t help people in need There are many references in both the Old and New Testament about helping the poor, widowed, and fatherless. It is more blessed to give than receive.
But, you need to beware of the person or family member who is infected with the entitlement mentality. You are not helping him/her. You are enabling him/her to continue behaving irresponsibility. Remember that the father didn’t bail out his prodigal son. His son wallowed around in the pig pen until he came to his senses, came home, offered to be his father’s servant, and then his father restored him.
The Scriptures teaches that God intended for us to work from the very beginning. “The Lord God took Adam and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15 ESV)
In the New Testament, the church is given this rule. “If a man will not work, he shall not eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually strong people enter the world prepared to work and succeed on their merits, at every stage of the game. They are thankful for what they have and don’t covet the blessings of others who have more than they do.
Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually strong people don’t feel the world owes them anything.
III. Mentally, Emotionally, and Spiritually Strong People Don’t Expect Immediate Results. Whether it’s a workout plan, a nutritional regimen, or starting a business, mentally strong people are “in it for the long haul”. They know better than to expect immediate results. They apply their energy and time in measured doses and they celebrate each milestone and increment of success on the way. They have “staying power.” And they understand that genuine changes take time.
You have to remember that God’s time is not your time. “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:9).
After the Hebrews were enslaved by Pharaoh, they prayed 400 years in Egypt for freedom before the Lord sent Moses to deliver and lead them to the Promised Land. That’s longer than the United States has been a nation.
God works when He is ready to work. There is no “instant God” for you. True, sometimes God works immediately in answer to your prayer. But then there are those seasons of delay. In fact, some of your prayers may not be answered affirmatively until after your death.
There are those who try to make God do something. They will give money to the church or TV evangelist who preaches that giving unleashes the power of God for you. These donors believe that their giving obligates God to answer their prayers. I suppose there are more prayers that go up on the night of the big lottery drawing than any other night of the week. Praying lottery players promise the Lord a huge sum of money for kingdom causes if He will only let them win the lottery.
Others promise to change their lives and live for Christ is only He would heal them or a loved one.
The truth is that we can’t manipulate God to do anything. His positive answer to your prayers is solely coming from His mercy.
The Father didn’t even answer the prayer of His Son when He agonizingly prayed in the Garden for “this cup to pass from me.” Then our Lord added, “If it be Thy will. Not my will but Thine.” Within a matter of hours, Jesus was being nailed to the cross.
But out of the cross came the glorious victory of the resurrection. Sometimes, this is the way God answers your prayers. He is always working to create the image of Christ in you for your good and His glory. His answer to your prayer may come in ways that you never expected.
The Apostle Paul even prayed to know the “fellowship of sharing in Christ’s suffering” (Philippians 3:10). He knew “that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-5).
Waiting on the Lord to answer your prayers sometimes takes a long time. A long, long time. Sometimes, His answer may be suffering.
It takes a long time as well for genuine changes to take place in your life. There are no shortcuts. You can’t grow an oak tree over night. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
It takes time and persistence to lose weight and get in shape.
It takes a long time after a wedding ceremony to make a marriage.
It takes about four years to earn a college degree.
It takes a long time to raise a new born into a self-sufficient adult.
It takes a long time to heal from a disease. Often, long term intensive treatment is required for a cure.
It takes a long time to make it to the Major League. Baseball players spend a large part of their childhood and youth their practicing and playing ball in various leagues until the time they are called up to the Big Leagues. And, only a small percentage make it.
It takes time for a business to start making money.
The late Steve Jobs, one of the founders of Apple, sold his Volkswagen van to get the necessary $1,000 to start building his first computer in his garage. That was 1976. Today Apple is known for its iPhone, iPad, computers, and multitudinous other technological marvels. Today, Apple’s brand is worth $98.3 billion. It didn’t happen over night.
Very few new start-up companies expect immediate results and more fail than succeed. But, entrepreneurs are in it for the long haul and work long hours to make it happen.
Genuine changes take time. Success takes time. Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually strong people know that. They don’t expect immediate results.
It takes time to acquire wisdom too. That’s why the Bible says, “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness” (Proverbs 16:31). I can tell you that I am a lot wiser and smarter today at age 62 than I was at 19! It’s taken a lifetime to become wise, and I still have a long way to go!
The same is true for emotional and spiritual maturity. There is a long timespan to go from drinking the milk of the Word to eating the meat of the Word.
The Apostle Paul said, “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready” (1 Corinthians 3:2).
The Apostle Peter adds, “Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment” (1 Peter 2:2 NLT).
Spiritual maturity takes time. It is closely aligned with emotional maturity. Peter’s progression towards maturity demonstrates this.
Peter was impetuous, quick-tempered, and impulsive. He was raw. Immature.
Peter is the one who cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest. He’s the one who denied Christ and cursed as he did it.
Peter was immature and weak. But, Jesus saw this diamond in the rough and eventually, Peter matured into a priceless rock of faith.
Peter grew emotionally learning patience, perseverance, love, and kindness. It didn’t happen over night. It takes time for the Lord to work out the flaws in your emotions and spirit. It takes time for the Holy Spirit to produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in your mind, emotions, and spirit.
Salvation may happen in an instant but sanctification takes a life time.
Genuine changes for the better take time in all aspects of life, and this is true in your spiritual and emotional growth is well.
Peter ended his second letter with this advice. “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
The key is don’t stop. Don’t stop growing. Work at it. Work at it by the power of Christ living in and through you. Fight off discouragement. Don’t quit. Keep believing. Keep praying. Keep studying the Word of God and reading good books on Christian growth. Keep going to church and grow in worship and fellowship. Don’t stop. You can and will grow into the person you want to be and the person God intends for you to be as He forms the image of Christ in you!
You can have mental strength and know when you have moved from weakness to strength.
Suppose I set a benchmark for me getting into shape and that benchmark is running a mile. Right now, I don’t have the strength or endurance to run a mile. I would have to begin walking regularly. Then jogging a few minutes and walking. I would know I could run a mile when I actually run a mile. I would have made the mark I set for myself.
In the same way, you can know you’ve achieved important benchmarks or milestones in your mental, emotional, and mental strength too. Here are the three milestones again.
You’ve achieved a mile marker when you don’t fear loneliness or time alone. In fact, you cherish moments alone with your thoughts and with the Lord.
You’ve achieved a mile marker when you don’t feel the world owes you anything. You don’t covet the blessings and prosperity of others who have more than you. You don’t expect something for nothing.
You’ve achieved a mile marker when you don’t expect immediate results. You are in it for the long haul. You know significant, positive change takes time, sometimes a long time, and sometimes a lifetime.
In closing, I am sure of this, that “Christ who began a good work in you will bring it to completion” (Philippians 1:6).†
Rev. Dan White is founder and pastor of North Columbia Church, Appling, GA and a free-lance writer having been published in Christian and secular print media and ezines.
Check out and subscribe to my blog at http://www.revdanwhite.blogspot.com
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Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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