The Battle for the Mind (1): A Sound Mind

‘For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind’, 2 Tim. 1. 7

We are all now very familiar with the concept of a pandemic. The effects of 2020 and 2021, in a physical sense, were evident for all to see. However, since that time, another more hidden pandemic has been on the rise in relation to the mental health of our nation. Already fragile prior to 2020, the challenges associated with this have only increased since. There are so many things that battle for our minds. As well as the manifold entertainments that are on offer in our world, the pressure of work, the financial challenges of making ends meet, concern for family members, pressure from friends (particularly amongst the young), media images of what makes someone successful or beautiful, the list is endless. Mercifully, our Bible offers much help in relation to the mind. This short series of three studies will look at intensely personal and practical matters, including the mind that should exist between God’s people. A sound mind. A renewed mind. One mind.

The common Greek word that we find for the ‘mind’ in our New Testament is nous, defined by W. E. Vine as ‘the seat of reflective consciousness, comprising the faculties of perception and understanding, and those of feeling, judging and determining’.1 It is true that the battle for the mind is one of Satan’s most potent weapons in modern society, in keeping the unbeliever from Christ, and affecting the testimony of those who love Him. We say, categorically, that the mind of the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is in no way exempt from the challenges faced by the world. In fact, we might say that with the additional challenges of living a life that is worthy of the Lord - dealing with relationships in the local assembly of the Lord’s people; supporting the burdens of others; the trial of some past or besetting sin; sacrificial giving; managing the time pressure of activities and meetings - on top of everything else, the pressures are even more real for the believer.

It seems that some move through these pressures untouched. There are certainly those who confidently assert that the likes of panic attacks, anxiety, stress, and depression are not for the believer. They insinuate that anyone passing through such must be experiencing some degree of spiritual deficiency. This will only serve to exacerbate the feelings that already exist for such believers and cause significant damage. It must be said that such dismissive responses can only be from those who have not walked this way before, and they are certainly not bearing ‘one another’s burdens’, Gal. 6. 2. It would surely be better to listen and love, rather than judge and present as having all the answers.

Challenging statistics

The numbers are perhaps difficult to be certain about, but there is no doubt that there is compelling evidence that this is a significant challenge to our world and to the church. A simple online search will reveal many more statistics than can be provided here - the following is just a sample. One in four people in England will experience mental health issues each year. Mental illness is the largest single source of burden of disease in the UK. The total cost of mental ill health in England is estimated at over £100 billion per year. Mental health conditions increased from seventeen percent in 2021 to twenty-six percent among seventeen to nineteen-year-olds, in 2022. Fifty-eight percent of employees experience anxiety.

It is difficult to find reliable statistics in relation to Christians in this context. However, back in 2018 I jotted down some numbers that I came across in a Christian magazine from the United States. It suggested that approximately three out of four church leaders said that they knew someone diagnosed with clinical depression. More than half (fiftyseven percent) said they knew at least three people who fell into that category. Almost six in ten (fifty-nine percent) said they had counselled at least one person who was eventually diagnosed with an acute mental illness. Almost a quarter indicated they had battled a mental illness of some kind on a personal level. However, nearly half (forty-nine percent) said they rarely, or never, spoke or preached on the subject to their congregations.

Challenging solutions

In terms of facing these challenges, there are many avenues available to find help. This may involve medical and psychological intervention of one kind or another. Some would dismiss these options as unnecessary for a believer, but that is likely to be to the detriment of any who are suffering, perhaps seriously so. There are many believers who have undoubtedly benefitted from such support and intervention, including ongoing medication. Counselling can also be very helpful, although a degree of care is necessary. Some counsellors would make ‘faith’ a part of the problem - they may focus on attributing negative self-worth to the place that sin takes in our thinking. Careful research should enable the identification of a suitably qualified Christian counsellor, or at least one who will be sympathetic towards our faith in Christ, seeing it as part of the answer, rather than the problem. Specialist mental health counselling is not something that assembly elders, or other believers, necessarily have the skills and qualifications for.

Challenging scriptures

Whilst we have dismissed the view that these kinds of challenges of the mind must simply be down to some sort of spiritual deficiency, we say with utter sincerity that the word of God has to be at the centre of all of our thinking. When thinking of the trial of faith that his readers were experiencing, Peter urged them to protect themselves, ‘gird up the loins of your mind’, 1 Pet. 1. 13. Ultimately, we can only do this by being people of the word, reading it, taking it into our minds. Thankfully, the scriptures have a great deal to say about the mind that will be of significant blessing to us all. If it is true, as stated above, that the emotional, mental, and spiritual pressures are harder for the believer than for others, it is certainly true that with the scriptures and the Lord, our resources are greater than any that the world can offer. Hallelujah! More than that, our eternal prospect is of total freedom from the struggles of the mind, ‘God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes’, Rev. 21. 4.

Timothy was likely a middle-aged man, in the thick of the battle in all sorts of ways. He was a great man of God, but there is sufficient evidence to suggest that he was a man who experienced a degree of fear and anxiety (it is possible to experience both). The intensity of the persecution he faced from inside and outside the assembly was likely as fierce as has ever been known in the history of the church - as Paul said, ‘our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears’, 2 Cor. 7. 5.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, ‘Timothy, obviously, was a naturally nervous person, but equally he was a person given to depression. There are certain people who are more prone to depression in a natural sense than others … though we are converted and regenerated, our fundamental personality is not changed … the person who is more given to depression than another person before conversion will still have to fight that after conversion’.2

Yet, praise God, Paul shows him another way. The context of 2 Timothy chapter 1 verse 7 is such that he wants Timothy to pick up the baton and press on, exercising that gift that God has given to him. It is possible for Timothy, when at his lowest, to know the spirit of power (when he feels weak), love (when others hate), and of a sound mind (when the mind can become so confused and downcast). The English expression ‘a sound mind’ is one word in the Greek, sophronismos, and has to do with self-control, moderation, and an admonition or calling to a soundness of mind; also rendered ‘discipline’.3 He needs, as do all the people of God, to hear the word of God and set his mind on those things that are of value for eternity, not just for time. ‘Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth’, Col. 3. 2 NKJV.

There is much that would cause us to fear, but we need not be afraid. We have power, and we have love that we can lay hold of; in times of challenge to the mind, these are two of the things we stand most in need of. Can we lay hold of this gift of God?

Challenging examples

We discover time and again that Timothy was not alone - others went on a similar journey.

Job: ‘My soul is weary of my life; I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul’, Job 10. 1.

David: ‘My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me’, Ps. 55. 4, 5.

Elijah: ‘He requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life’, 1 Kgs. 19. 4.

Jonah: He wished in himself to die, and said, ‘It is better for me to die than to live’, Jonah 4. 8.

We do well to remember the one who was exhorting Timothy, the Apostle Paul. It is easy to forget that he was the one who spoke of being ‘beside ourselves’ and who ‘despaired even of life’, 2 Cor. 5. 13; 1. 8. A fresh reading of 2 Corinthians will enable any to see that this was a time of great pressure for the apostle, that he found hard to bear. The great encouragement, nonetheless, is that he was able to lay hold of truth that benefits us too, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me’, 2 Cor. 12. 9.

Paul had asked the Lord to remove his ‘thorn in the flesh’ - but that was not His intention, v. 7. Rather, He would show Him more grace and strength. It is when our mind is at its most troubled and confused that we learn the most about ourselves and, more importantly, about the God who promises us the spirit ‘of power, and of love, and of a sound mind’. It is a blessing to recognize that it is only when we are deeply conscious of our weakness, when we are at our weakest, that the strength of Christ is seen at its fullest and most complete. What an encouragement to our minds and souls to be able to cast ‘all your care upon him; for he careth for you’, 1 Pet. 5. 7.

‘In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul’, Ps. 94. 19 NKJV.



W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, Nelson.


Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, Its Causes and Cure, Banner of Truth.


W. E. Vine, op. cit.


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