In Part One, I focused on what being sober minded could mean for those who believe they are saved but are not. Our focus will now turn to being sober minded as followers of Christ.
The term here is mostly used as an encouragement to wake up and remember what is true. I have been a Christian now for over 25 years, but I remember the early years when everything was new and seeing Gods grace for the first time led me to drop to my knees and brought tears to my eyes. I had epiphanies frequently as I was seeing paradigm shifts happening in my life. For the first time I saw that my sin was horrible and the chance to repent and be forgiven drove me to worship. All of that is still happening 25 years later but there have been seasons of discouragement, doubt, trials, and a turning to myself. I know this is the case for many others as well and the “dry seasons” can be severe for some. The New Testament Epistles contain a large amount of content that is meant to dispel incorrect thinking and remind us of what is true, this is an exhortation to be sober minded. Being sober minded is a way to escape from the droughts of doubt and spiritual depression as long as we are in this world and waiting to be glorified.
What leads to discouragement, spiritual depression, and doubt? I believe this occurs when people either lose sight of what they first believed or they were taught the Gospel incorrectly.. Both have the same cure which is to align your thinking with that of Scripture. This of course does not take away the pain and suffering we endure but it puts it into perspective so that we have a desire to turn to God, die to self, and allow fellow believers to encourage and help us in times of trouble instead of turning into ourselves.
- Being Disillusioned – An improper teaching of the Gospel leads to wrong expectations which in turn leads to discouragement. The most obvious perpetrators of this disillusionment are the prosperity teachers who falsely teach that the redemption of sin on the Cross also brings about healing for health and wealth. There is however an American Gospel which is a subtle version of this, and it implies that life gets better in this world as a Christian, more freedom, more happiness, more, more, more. There are many other forms of this that would take a book to cover but these false gospels are all man centered and not God centered. They teach that the Bible is a road map for man to be successful and that Jesus wants you to be happy. Jesus wants you to have peace while in the world but that is very different from having happiness while pursuing the world. Scripture teaches us that this world is not our home and we should expect suffering.
- Being Overwhelmed – A proper teaching of the Gospel and of following Jesus can also lead to discouragement and spiritual depression when we lose sight of what we were first taught. It is one thing to expect suffering, but we also bring along with that an expectation of how God will work and save us in our troubles. This is a truth we should hang on to tightly, knowing that God is a good Father and will save us to eternity, but our timing can be off. We can head into a trial full of Gods promises, having run through the various possible scenarios in our minds with a hope in how God will work and when He will do it. Our hope then becomes the outcome of salvation and not in God who is our great reward. Even without having these expectations, the waiting can become overwhelming and we can begin to doubt that God is working. This is much like the Israelites in Exodus 32, who waited for Moses but when he did not return as expected they assumed, he was not coming back and took matters into their own hands. Moses was Gods representative so without Moses, they believed they also did not have God. I am sure they gave God a grace period and waited for Him much longer than they meant to, perhaps even extending the deadline a couple of times but eventually they could wait no longer. It is this scene in our lives that feels familiar, the waiting can even be a lifetime. David had the same struggle and wrote of it in Psalm 13
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
This feeling that God is not present, and working is very common and must be actively battled.
Both of these troubling scenarios can be cut short by being sober minded and bringing to mind what is true. Peter gives us some very profound truths to remember in his first letter.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:3–9
We see here that if we have been saved, it is God who saves us and keeps saving us and will guarantee that salvation to eternity. God has worked, He is working, and will keep working and He has the power to save. It is following this amazing set of truths that Peter tells us to be ready for action and to be sober minded.
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. 1 Peter 1:13–21
How can being sober minded help from being discouraged? It starts with knowing and hanging on to the truth of what God has completed and remembering that we are exiles in this world. Don’t forget that God is all powerful and rescued you from your former ignorance, when things get hard don’t go back!
- Expect Suffering – We do not need to go looking for suffering but when we follow Jesus, we should just expect that suffering comes along with being hated by the world. Jesus warned the disciples that they would all fall away due to discouragement, confusion and doubt (Matthew 26:30–35) and He again warns them that the world will hate them and tells them to expect it so they do not fall away (John 16:1–4).
- Know that God is working – Jesus does not just stop with telling the disciples to expect trouble, He continues to teach them in chapter 16 that they will have help from the Spirit and that they can ask God for help and receive it. Then finally, at the end of this beautiful exchange, Jesus tells them again that they will have trouble in this world, but that he has overcome!
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Jn 16:33
It is with these hearing and trusting these words that we can have peace in this world that hates us. It is these words that remind us that God is and has always been in control and has saved us and is saving us and will save us to the end.
- Be Humble – The suffering we endure from sin does not just come from the world; it also comes from within. It is our own sin that can often cause us the most suffering as we make attempts to exalt ourselves. It is that fallen nature that sprang from the garden that lies within and tells us that we are the ones that have the right to chose between good and evil, what is right and wrong and how things ought to look. When we go down that dangerous road, we begin to discover that we do not have the power to back up those decisions and this thinking brings suffering upon us. Peter knew the reality of this trap and warns us to humble ourselves, especially when you are anxious. Trust in God and do not take matters into your own hands or you may fall into the same trap that Adam did. Being humble also prevents us from pushing others out of our lives and instead helps us ask for help from other believers when we need it the most.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:6–8
Its time to wake up! Know what you believe and start acting on it!
Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.