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Mind Games

“Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Romans 12:2

Mind games are acts or series of acts of calculated psychological manipulation, especially to confuse or intimidate.  Some exercises are only activities that provide entertainment and challenge the intellect.  For example, solve these brain teasers on the left:

Our mind (nous) is the intellectual capacity which allows us to register information, analyze data, form opinions, develop sentiments and make decisions.  Famous minds like those of Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Wernher Von Braun and even Adolf Hitler captivate us because they show the distant reaches to which the mind can go.  Every aspect of the human character, both good and bad, comes into being in the mind.  The mind plays the major role in our relationship with God and the direction of our lives.  But—-and this gets scary—-imagination, creativity, dreaming and virtual reality also proceed from mental machinations.  Somewhere, in the vortex between conformation and transformation, the mind discovers its own reality.  This is where the games begin.

Brain teasers may be fun, but serious mind games comprise the social and psychological agenda for all facets of human relations:  courtship, engagement, marriage, parenting, buying and selling, working, schooling, playing, conversing and the list goes on.  People lie, deceive, fib, distort, shade, exaggerate, downplay, hide, distract and gloss over because they have agendas.  There are things we want to do and we don’t want to be told no.  There are things we don’t want to do and we don’t want to be forced to do them.  There are things we want others to do…or that we don’t want others to do.  There are things we want to know, and things we don’t want others to know.  We play mind games to get our way.

Look at the many acts of deception in the Bible:  Satan deceived Eve.  Eve deceived Adam.  Both Adam and Eve tried to deceive God.  Jacob deceived Esau and got his birthright.  Jacob deceived Isaac and stole Esau’s blessing.  Laban deceived Jacob and made him work seven more years.  David deceived Uriah to cover his own adultery and sent him to his death.  Joab deceived Abner and assassinated him.  Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Apostles and to the Holy Ghost.  Simon the Sorcerer deceived the people.

Satan has perfected mind games to an art, but much of our anguish and anxiety in our relationship with God does not result from Satan’s lies, but by constantly playing mind games with ourselves.  How?  By questioning, doubting, surmising, speculating, figuring, hashing and rehashing, jumping to conclusions, rushing to judgment, guessing and trying to play everything “by ear.”  Consider these mind games that lead to discouragement and spiritual stagnation: 

Doting on the past.  “I wish I could go back to the way I used to be.”     Lost innocence, lost relationships, lost perspectives will never be recovered.  Don’t place an impossible burden on yourself to recreate who you used to be.  Your present “you” is just as valuable as your past “you”.  Start now—-with where you are and who you are.  This is the meaning of the new birth.

Overestimating the opposition.  “This is too hard.”    Do not grant omnipotence to the devil.  In all of his wiles, he is a grand failure, a defeated foe.  God always provides you with an escape.

Misunderstanding the miracle.  “God has to do this for me.”  Or else, what?  Or else God isn’t God?  Don’t be foolish.  God will never give you permission to commit suicide, spiritual or otherwise.  If you pray for a miracle outside of the will of God, be thankful that he doesn’t answer your prayer!  When you define what you think God must do, you never get it right.  Remember, the miracle for the three Hebrews was salvation out of the fire, not from the fire.  Then, there was Daniel in the lion’s den and Paul and Silas in prison.  When God doesn’t do what you think he ought to do, Satan always turns it into an attack on your faith.

Fear of failure.  “I will think less of myself if I fail, so I won’t risk it.”     Don’t quit before you even start.  It’s like the athlete who says “I probably won’t make the basket, so I won’t take the shot”, or “I’ll probably just swing and miss, so I won’t swing.”  Fear of failure is already failure. 

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think.”  Romans 12:1-2.  TLB.  “When an archer misses his mark, he turns and looks for the fault within himself. He never considers that failure to hit the bull’s-eye is the fault of the target. If you want to improve your aim, improve yourself.”  That means letting the mind of Christ dwell in you.  He plays no games.  (Answers: Upright piano; unfinished business; headquarters; season ticket.)

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