Finding Peace Amid Strife: A Christ-minded Orientation
by Contributing Author Ryan Reynolds
Have you wondered about the lone Christian who struggles within a family as they try to live out their faith amid strife? Maybe you’re one. These Christians feel alone. They struggle to be strong in a home that continues to breed discord, pain, and unsettled rest to everyone. There can be many different factors why the Christian is the only Christ-lover. There are many different situations that can take place to make this Christian look to God.
You might have known the single mom who has trusted in Christ while her husband remains antagonistic to the faith, ridiculing and belittling her every chance he gets. Years go by as his harsh word break her down to an insecure, broken woman. There is the little girl that lays frozen in her bed praying to her lover Jesus, hoping her drunk father won’t come into her room tonight. A young boy hurriedly reads over his Bible on the bus ride home to find verses that talk about God being a Savior as he contemplates his dad’s next blow to the face for a minor mishap. The single mom tries to find comfort in Christ as her children rise up against her in rebellion, bringing shame and deep pain as she watches her children bring destruction upon themselves. A sixteen year old is on his knees as his parents yell and fight. He, as the only Christian in the family, wonders why his parents hate each other and the God whom he has come to love. The college students goes to school with no support from her parents, for she denied Allah by trusting in Christ; they have disowned her. These and many more situations are a reality.
Living in a fallen world where Satan roams to devour and sin seeks to destruct, we have many opportunities where we are trying to find peace amid strife. Families are made of many different belief systems, and therefore many outlooks on life. Your outlook on life (your worldview) will drive the way you behave and think within your family’s context. And when you have many different worldviews, you have different dynamics within the home that will easily cause strife and unrest, especially for the Christian.
Your outlook on life (your worldview) will drive the way you behave and think within your family’s context. And when you have many different worldviews, you have different dynamics within the home that will easily cause strife and unrest...
How do you find peace in chaos? Where do you go for comfort and how do you maintain your sanity as a Christian living in a family who is not in line with your faith? Though there are many different ways to handle various situations from a Christian perspective, we will focus on one spiritual discipline to employ when living in such circumstances. This is a Christian exercise that is often overlooked, and if not overlooked, misunderstood. At the same time it is a common practice we all use, but just not to the capacity and necessity we should in order to maintain such disposition. I believe out of all our Christian behavior or disciplines—prayer, study, personal devotion—this is the most difficult to be constant in. We will talk about being spiritually minded. (Granted, this is focusing on individuals and not families, but lone Christian individuals in non-Christian families is so prevalent that I believe I must address them too. However, every Christian in every family must practice being spiritually minded.)
Finding peace amid strife can come by having a Christ-minded orientation. Or, in other words, we can find satisfaction in an undesirable place by having our minds steadfast on the things of the Spirit. The Bible refers to this as setting are minds on things above (Col. 3:2) or on things of the Spirit (Rom. 8:6). But what exactly does this mean? A lot of us think that this is an uninvolved process to where the Spirit takes over and we have no control, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Some assume it is just thinking about heavenly or spiritual things, making up things as we go along, but the Bible doesn’t allow us that, for sin ruins our best thoughts of what heaven is like(and anything spiritual for that matter), thereby leading us astray into superficial imaginations that breed false hope.
Our text will be Romans 8:6: “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” What does this mean? And how do I do it? I will explain briefly what it means and what it does not mean. Then we will get some insight from John Owen. He is where I have drawn inspiration to further my understanding on being spiritually minded.1
...we can find satisfaction in an undesirable place by having our minds steadfast on the things of the Spirit. The Bible refers to this as setting are minds on things above (Col. 3:2) or on things of the Spirit (Rom. 8:6).
The first thing we must notice is that only a Christian can be spiritually minded in the sense that I am using the adjective, spiritually. Paul is addressing Christians in his letter to Rome. He just finished his lecture on prevailing sin in believers (Rom. 7); and in 8:1 he makes it clear that it is Christians who have no condemnation in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). This is because “the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (8:2). And this was accomplished by God sending His Son to fulfill the law on our behalf, and in which we received His Spirit so that we would walk according to our new life in Christ, not our old life in the flesh (8:3-4). Paul then makes it clear that those who have the Spirit will set their minds on the things of the Spirit (8:5). Let us stop.
Paul makes it plain that those who have the Spirit will show evidence of it by what they set their mind on. “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit”(Rom 8:5). In Greek, the phrase set their minds to comes from the verb φρονέω (phroneo), which has more of habitual meaning of a constant worldview, a mind-setting intent that is ongoing in one’s life.2The believer has their mind set on the things of the Spirit. What are the things of the Spirit? Do you think about whatever you assume applies to the Holy Spirit?
The things of the Spirit is that which proceeds from Him as laid down in His Word. How do we know what is agreeable to the Spirit? The Word of God tells us. We cannot say we should think on Buddha and a state of nirvana because we think that is spiritual; therefore that is being spiritually minded. Buddha is a false god, and we don’t worship false gods, or find what is spiritual from them. What is right and spiritual (there can be wrong and spiritual; hence demonic spirits) comes from the only Spirit, the Holy Spirit. And everything we know about the person of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is laid down in Scripture. We didn’t even have the Holy Spirit until we have repented of our sins and trusted in Christ, and we only knew about Christ because of God’s Word. You can’t even know the Holy Spirit apart from God’s Word working in you (James 1:18; see also Romans 10:14-15).
Therefore we find what the things of the Spirit are by going to God’s Word, the Bible. A good place to start is in Galatians. We know that the Holy Spirit will produce fruit in one’s life. We find that the fruit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23 ESV). These come from the Spirit as He works them in our hearts. It’s safe to say that these are from Him, so we learn about these characteristics as the Bible lays them out in accordance with the Holy Spirit. For instance, Jesus tells us that what He has spoken in His Word is for the benefit of His joy being in us, and, therefore, our joy being made full (John 15:11). And in John 14:26 He said that the Father sent the Holy Spirit to be with us. This tells us to mediate on the words of Christ, which will make our joy full, and to focus on the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives.
In the context of chapter 8, Jesus says twice that the Holy Spirit is our helper. The Greek word (παράκλητος) comes with the meaning of advocate or intercessor, one who pleads the cause of another. Therefore we turn our minds to Him as such, knowing that He is there to lead and direct us in this life. He is called the Spirit of truth (John 14:17). We can conclude that He will not teach what is false. Truth comes from Scripture (John 17:17). As such, we must orient our minds around the Word of God constantly, asking the Holy Spirit to intercede for us so that we may understand the things freely given to us by God (1 Cor. 2:12). This is hard work. It takes time meditating on His Word, seeking out the role of His Spirit in our lives, and then applying that every day as we lead a life of busyness and strife.
...we must orient our minds around the Word of God constantly, asking the Holy Spirit to intercede for us so that we may understand the things freely given to us by God (1 Cor. 2:12).
What is the benefit? What is the outcome? “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom 8:6 ESV). The overarching meaning is that the one who sets his mind on the flesh is the non-believer and will die in his sins, but the one who sets his mind on the Spirit is the believer and will live. For we already saw that the true Christian will set their minds on the things of the Spirit (Rom. 8:5); that must be an evident fruit, for “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:8 ESV). The practical implication is that you will have life and peace.
True life and true peace as it exists only in Christ. It’s the peace that comes from knowing Christ Jesus, in which Paul tells us we attain by having our minds fixed on what is pleasant (Philp. 4:8). And we need this when living in difficult circumstances. Furthermore, to have a Christ-minded orientation is one of the most difficult things you can do. Having a correct state of mind in trying situations is problematic because your focus is tuned in to what is discomforting you. It is like a bad pain in your side. You dwell on it because of the constant unpleasant pressure being applied there. But the rewards are great, the rewards are life and peace.
Before we turn to Owen, let me tell you want being spiritually minded is not. Being spiritually minded is not absent mindedness. You are not in a state of mind to where you are tuned out of this world, constantly day dreaming about superficial, imaginative ideas. You have to function in this world. We must learn to do this in such a way that our whole life is directed in seeing everything through the Word of God, recalling it to mind as we are doing our necessary tasks. And to stress it again, being spiritually minded is not what we imagine spiritual things to be like. That won’t give you life and peace, because the Bible says that which comes from the Spirit is life and peace. If you are imagining something spiritual that is not in accordance with the Spirit, and therefore the Word of God, you will only receive a false satisfaction. Our aim is to glorify and enjoy God forever. We do that by spending time with Him in prayer and His Word, which is made satisfying by His Spirit. If we direct our affections on that which is false, we will receive a false gratification. So it is important we let the Word of God guide us in our thoughts on being spiritually minded.
It is important we don’t use our hearts as a guide to what we think is good in the spiritual sense. The Bible says the heart is deceitful above all else (Jer. 17:9). And Paul just finished saying, one chapter back, “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rom 7:15 ESV). Paul is a Christian, and is saying this. He is an Apostle who wrote Scripture. Why would we think this doesn’t apply to us? Why would we think that just because we have the Holy Spirit we cannot be deceived into thinking something is good when it is not, or even have the desire to carry it out? Sin still dwells in us, and is powerful! We cannot forget that. We must go to the Word of God to find what pleases Him (Rom. 12:2). To find satisfaction in God in knowing, believing, and obeying Him throughout our day, our life must be filled with thoughts on His ways and works. We find that in the Bible.
Let us listen to John Owen for a moment on the subject of being spiritually minded. “It is our duty, under all our sufferings, reproaches, persecutions, troubles, and sorrows, to rise up our minds to the contemplation of the state wherein we shall be freed from the all. It is a blessed notion of Heaven, that God shall therein’ wipe away all tears from our eyes,’ or remove far from us all causes of sorrow.”3 He is saying that in our difficult times it is necessary to think about our heavenly glory that will be ours. We think on this because it raises our minds above and off what is secondary, what is earthly. We will one day be free from all our troubles and calamities that befall us, but until then they still come relentlessly and we must find comfort in the hope that awaits us.
Owen goes on to talk about a greater enemy we have than our earthly troubles; whether that is living in a family of strife or living in a family of relative peace. He says that this adversary alone, whom we touched on, should give us cause to remain in a Christ-minded orientation, a heavenly or spiritual mindset. This beast is our remaining sin. And a believer that is growing ever so holy will know ever so more that they are not so; they will see more of their sin as they draw near to God. What happened to Isaiah when He approached the throne? He didn’t say, “Oh…wow! I am so holy;” but, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" (Isa 6:5 ESV)
We read from Owen, “He is no true believer to whom sin is not the greatest burden, sorrow, and trouble.”3 Why would this be so? Is it true? He goes on to explain why. “The consideration of the grace and love of God, of the blood of Christ, of the purity and holiness of that good Spirit that dwelleth in them, of the light, grace, and mercy which they have attained through the promises of the gospel, are those which make the remainders of sin most grievous and burdensome to them.”4 He is saying that for the Christian who understands the greatness of God’s salvation to them, they will be undone by the remaining sin in their lives. This is related to being spiritually minded because this is a cause for us to have our minds fixated on God’s Word. And not only that, but it makes us remember how quick we are to wonder. For we can sing, Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.
Whether you are a Christian amid strife or one in relative comfort, may you continue to perfect the art of having a Christ-minded orientation. Exercise your mind on the things of the Spirit, so that your heart may enflame with the love of Christ. A family is improved as their hearts align with God’s will in Christ. A family must take hold of God with their whole being. And since we all have wondering hearts and minds, Lord, may You teach us to love You will all our heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:37).
1. A lot of my ideas are coming from his book The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded. John Owen was a 17th century theologian in England. You can find where I reference my quotes from.
2. The Net Study Bible gave me this insight in their commentary on Romans 8:5
Ryan Reynolds was born in Houston, Texas and has spent most of his life residing in Houston and the surrounding suburban areas. He grew up in a tightly knit family of six who have encouraged and helped push him along his desired path of advancing God's kingdom.
In a powerful encounter with Jesus Christ through the Word of God, Ryan was graciously saved at the age of twenty-two. Since then he has made it his aim to thoroughly understand the Bible, so that he can help re-insert sound teaching into a culture that has lost sight of godliness.
Ryan is a third year student at Sangre de Cristo Seminary in Westcliffe, Colorado. He is studying for a Master of Divinity, which he hopes to attain after completion of an undergraduate degree in biblical studies.
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