Discipline. It is the one area of life where there simply are not any shortcuts to victory. And as with our bodies, regular training of our mind is crucial if we are to get the best out of what we have been given.
How and what we think affects how we act. Ideas have consequences. What we believe informs what we will do so it is crucial that we spend time thinking, shaping our ideas, forming and, when necessary, destroying beliefs.
We live in a culture where instantaneous is only just on time. We demand instant results, instant decisions and instant action. Our statements are barely conceived before they are tweeted, sent by text, emailed or spoken aloud. Our minds are playing catch up with our mouths. Some celebrities fall foul of this, many of the rest of us get away with it.
Rational thinking has been relegated, replaced with the seemingly fresh ideas of spontaneity and living by impulse. This attitude has left a charged atmosphere where deep thinking is associated with snobbery and feeling has surpassed reason. Os Guinness describes this as “anti-intellectualism”.
“Anti-intellectualism is a disposition to discount the importance of truth and the life of the mind.” (Fit Bodies, Fat Minds).
The worrying thing is that it could now be said that it is becoming fashionable to be anti-intellectual. So, it turns out, if you want to be a counter-cultural Christian, start thinking. Guinness goes on to say,
“Anti-intellectualism is quite simply a sin. Evangelicals must address it as such, beyond all excuses, evasions, or rationalizations of false piety.”
The Buddy System
Back to discipline. My local gym have posters up highlighting the benefits of training with a friend. And aside from the fact that if I bring a friend they make a new member (and I receive a smoothie maker – ooo) they are right. It is easier to train in companionship with others.
So what does this have to do with training our minds? Quite simple: get a buddy, form a group, centre it around a topic and get on with it.
It doesn’t need to be complicated. It could be deciding to spend a year studying a theme and going through a few books together. Get together periodically, have a drink and talk through the ideas. Bounce thoughts off of each other. Give yourself and the group freedom and permission to really think.
Wrestle with passages of the Bible. Look at a period of history. Examine contemporary culture. Look at the arts, the music, films, poems, popular art of today and yesterday. Think it through on your own and think it through with friends. Not only does the accountability help, different brains with different ideas will challenge you. They will test the robustness of your ideas and provide inspiration for new thoughts.
Our minds are a great tool given to us. We can ignore them, we can use them selfishly, or we can use them in worship to God. Thinking well enables us to love better, as John Piper explains in talking about his book on this subject:
We have a responsibility to look after both our minds and our bodies to use both well.
The Royal Marines physical trainers use the phrase mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body). I like that.