Sober-minded readiness is not something that can be cultivated overnight. It is not even something that we can achieve through our own efforts but is something that the Holy Spirit must form in us. That doesn’t mean that we sit on our hands and do nothing. God has provided us with simple and straightforward means of grace to help us along in our affliction-ridden journey toward heaven. Daily putting those means to use helps us develop a mind—and life—that is anchored to heavenly realities so that we are prepared to face trials and temptations when they come.
Reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on God’s Word are the most powerful weapons that the believer wields. Whether we are up against a familiar temptation or stumbling through an unexpected trial, Scripture is a beacon of light that guides us through darkened waters and helps us to our desired haven.
Sometimes our thinking in the midst of trial is “on the right track,” but we need some further understanding. When I was fifteen and losing my hearing due to a neurological disease that would eventually leave me deaf, I began to harbor an image in my mind of God shooting arrows at me and thought of Him as a taker, removing one by one the things I loved most. This made for a rather emotionally charged relationship with God for some time. In a sense, my understanding was correct. God’s hand was in the painful circumstance. He did take things away. But a mere knowledge of God’s sovereignty was not going to cut it. If I was going to come out of this trial intact, I needed to ask: What else is true? What is His heart toward me? How does Satan fit into this? Should I expect God to sovereignly heal me?
God is sovereign, sin remains, and suffering ought to be expected on this side of heaven. True—but there’s more. Immersing ourselves in God’s Word (and in sound books that explain it) expands and, when necessary, corrects our understanding.
One of the clearest examples of a “ready mind” in Scripture is Jesus’ being tempted in the wilderness. When Satan tried to twist God’s Word, Jesus needed to know in those moments what else was true. And He did. God’s Word was stored up in His heart, and a right understanding of it was an effective weapon in time of temptation. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that in times of temptation, God “will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” We often picture this “way of escape” as some external force grabbing us by the shoulders and removing us from the temptation. More often than not, God’s intended escape is not an extraordinary rescue but a ready recollection of Scripture, which the Holy Spirit powerfully uses to help us stand.
As our minds are trained and harnessed by biblical truth, it affects the way we pray. The freedom to approach God’s throne and pour out our hearts to Him is a great comfort when we are enveloped in the fires of life. If we are not careful, however, our emotionally packed prayers can end up causing us to stumble when they ought to be helping us stand steady. We are often drawn to the prayers of David in the Psalms and the raw honesty he expressed toward God at his lowest lows. He was no stoic with a fake smile plastered on his face. But David’s prayers were more than honest declarations of how he felt or what he desired; they were sober-minded, honest declarations of truth, primarily about God’s character and ways. Truth—not feeling—got the last word. When a mind steeped in Scripture increasingly shapes our fervent prayers, communion with God becomes a safe place of praise, confidence, and comfort rather than a stumbling block of unbiblical expectations and rashly spoken words.
I don’t always desire to be at church on Sundays. Being deaf means that the sermon will be read as captions on my phone, the singing will be silent, and the fellowship will be tiring at best and awkward at worst. Nevertheless, God chose for me to be a pastor’s wife, so I usually show up. As I have navigated the trial of this neurological disease over the last two decades, one of the biggest temptations has been to isolate myself from the body of Christ. They don’t understand. It’s too awkward. I can’t even participate. This may be more comfortable, but it has never been more fruitful. God has given us the gift of corporate worship with the body of Christ as a valuable means of encouragement, growth, and steadiness to spur us on toward heaven.