The Mental Energy of Christian Life
The life of a Christian demands mental energy that comes from commitment and focus. Consider these NT words:
Strive (agonizomai) – “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Lk 13:24). Of this word Vine says, “to strive as in a contest for a prize, straining every nerve to attain to the object, Lk 13:24; to put forth every effort, involving toil, Col. 1:29.”
Labor (kopos) – “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor 15:58). Vine: “Toil resulting in weariness, laborious toil, trouble …”
Diligence (spoude) – “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end” (Heb 6:11). This word means “earnestness, zeal, or sometimes the haste accompanying this” (Vine).
Concepts such as casual, convenient, comfortable, sporadic and other words that suggest half-hearted effort or distracted attention are not descriptive of the Christian’s service to God. Think of it this way: Would you say that Satan is intensely focused on capturing your soul by any means he can (1 Pet 5:8-9)? If so, will you effectively defend yourself with weak, haphazard effort?
Here are some areas where supreme mental energy is required:
The Study of Scripture. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). We should aspire to a thorough knowledge of God’s word for a variety of reasons: to gain an intimate knowledge of God and His will; to counteract false teaching; to learn how to analyze and deal with the problems of life; to offer sound counsel to others; to respond to attacks against God’s existence and scripture. Gaining such understanding is a lifetime endeavor and requires a great deal of mental energy.
This is why on a collective basis we offer Bible classes from 6 months through adulthood. We meet twice a week to study together and inspire each other in our learning, but individual classes and conversations also take place. Regular sermons aim to equip our knowledge and strengthen our moral and spiritual fiber. Other exhortative talks, bulletin articles, gospel meetings, etc. also seek to promote growth in knowledge.
Bible study is a holistic endeavor weaving together history, culture, politics, warfare, linguistics, poetry, worship, psychology, science, geography, biography, romance, family dynamics, etc. All of these disciplines are threads of the tapestry of human and divine relations. There is no higher objective of learning, or more fascinating or meaningful. Such is a lifetime endeavor, one that demands supreme mental industry.
Serving and Supporting Others. The NT is full of examples and exhortations to serve others and supply their needs. Just consider Rom 12:9-21:
Let love be without hypocrisy / be kindly affectionate to one another / give preference to one another / not lagging in diligence / fervent in spirit / patient in tribulation / continuing steadfastly in prayer / distributing to the needs of the saints / given to hospitality / bless those who persecute you / rejoice, weep with others / be of the same mind toward one another / associate with the humble / repay no one evil for evil / if possible live peaceably with all men / overcome evil with good.
There’s no escaping it: to be a faithful Christian is to be engaged with others on a deep level. This does not come naturally to everyone. Some are introverts and devoid of social attraction; others lack empathy and are unmoved by the needs of their neighbor. Some feel too insecure to seriously involve themselves with their fellows; others are consumed by their own lives and too busy or overwhelmed to engage with others.
But NT scripture makes it clear that our service to others is not optional; it is a vital component to our service to the Lord Himself:
“He who loves God must love his brother also” – 1 Jn 4:21.
“Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” – Mt 25:40 (and vice versa, 20:45).
“Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being” – 1 Cor 10:24.
But there is another facet of this service and support that is equally benevolent but mentally harder to implement: the correction of one another when we are in sinful error. Unless we find perverted satisfaction in confronting others, it is uncomfortable to discuss where someone has fallen short. We are anxious about pushback (and denial or argumentation); we don’t want to appear to be overstepping our bounds; we don’t want to create a permanent breach of goodwill, etc. So, it is often easier just to let things slide and not address them.
There are other mental stressors to be noted, but these suffice to illustrate the challenge of what we took on when we became Christians. If we want to belong to the local Art and Garden Club, we can miss meetings, remain aloof from other members, concentrate on only our own interests, etc. It is a casual association with little emotional overhead. But such is not the case in serving the Lord, for we’re engaged in a life and death struggle for our soul and the souls of our brethren. Casual just won’t get it done.