Mental and Spiritual Toughness

Christian living, spiritual toughness No Comments

Mental toughness is essential to successful living.  The mental aspect of the game is perhaps the most important element in sports regardless of the type of sports being played.  Mental and spiritual toughness are essential elements of Christian living.  Mental toughness is often associated with sports or the military, but it has a broader application.  If we desire to be successful in business, in marriage, in parenting, in work, in educational attainments or in Christian living, we need to be mentally and spiritually tough.
What is mental toughness?
Mental toughness is having a psychological edge that enables you to be consistent, confident, focused, and determined during high pressure situations in order to perform at maximum potential (Potential 2 Success, by Ralph Jean-Paul, Aug. 27, 2011).  In short, mental toughness is a disciplined mind.  Here is where spiritual application can be made.  There are demands to Christian living that require us to be mentally tough.  Persecution is an example of a demanding situation.  Dealing with sinful situations can be very demanding.  Overcoming addictions to drugs and alcohol are good examples.  We must be spiritually tough in order to bear up under extreme circumstances.  We must be spiritually disciplined.
Double mindedness undermines spiritual toughness.  “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8).  Double mindedness is duplicity or hypocrisy.  The hypocrite is unstable in all his ways.  Double mindedness produces double standards.  We exhibit double mindedness when we say one thing and do another.  Consistency is undermined and spiritual instability results.  This produces a state of spiritual weakness that makes us vulnerable to Satan’s temptations.  It is a formula for failure.
Spiritual aspects of a disciplined mind involve the following habits of the mind and heart.  First, daily reading and study of God’s Word is essential.  Knowledge of the truth is the foundation for faith.  Faith is both conviction and confidence of heart which are essential elements of being spiritually tough.  Paul warns us about being “tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14).  Doctrinal instability is a sign of spiritual weakness. Second, regular attendance at the worship assemblies is an essential aspect of spiritual training.  In worship, we strengthen the mind and heart in righteousness and godliness.  Righteousness and godliness are essential elements of spiritual toughness.  Moral integrity is connected to godliness.  When we are met with temptations, we need true godliness to resist the devil.  Meeting temptation head-on and saying, “no”, to the lusts of the flesh necessitates spiritual toughness.  “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promnsied to them that love him” (James 1:12).  We can make the devil flee from us.  “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).  Such resistance comes from strength not weakness.  It comes from a disciplined mind and heart.  It comes from spiritual toughness forged in devotion to God.
Here are seven characteristics of spiritual toughness. 
First, there is confidence in yourself.  You must believe in your ability to succeed in living for Jesus.  Paul believed in himself because he trusted in God to supply him with strength.  “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).  Spiritual confidence is based upon faith in God.  Attitudes and actions go together.  Paul’s “I can” translates into positive living.  Paul overcame all types of hardships and persecution because of this strong mental attitude that fueled his powerful actions.
Second, we must have focus.  If a person cannot stay focused, it is easy to collapse mentally in high pressure situations. Christians must stay focused on the goal.  Paul did this.  “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).  The ability to concentrate on the task and stay focused is an essential skill to success.  Obstacles will come.  Keep your eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:1-2) and He will lead you to the prize–eternal life.
Third, we must be motivated.  Motivation is excitement about the goal.  It is desire to accomplish the goal.  Punishment and rewards are motivators.  The desire for excellence is a motivator.  The example of others can motivate us.  However, love is the greatest motivator.  “We love him, because he first loved us” (I John 4:19).  An unfeigned love for the Lord can undergird spiritual toughness and motivate us to pass from ordinary to extraordinary.
Fourth, we must possess courage.  Courage is the ability to face danger or unpleasant circumstances with strength and good emotion.  Courage is fear subdued by love and faith.  We need courage to speak the truth to a hostile audience.  We need courage to face oppression by evil governments or false religions.  We need courage to to overcome our own weaknesses and failures.
Fifth, we must have composure.  Composure is self possession, coolness, self-control.  Spiritual toughness results when we “gird up the loins of your mind” (I Pet. 1:13).  There are times when we must collect ourselves and hold it together.  Stress, pressure, and tension will test the strength of the mind and heart.  There are times when a Christian must be “wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove” (Matt. 10:16).
Sixth, we must be able to see the goal through to the end.  This is resiliency.  Resiliency means that we can bounce back from a setback.  We push through pain and suffering to reach the goal.  Facing failure within ourselves or the failure of a loved one requires resiliency.  Sometimes we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get back to the right pathway for our lives.
The final aspect of mental and spiritual toughness is positivity.  Many are defeated before they ever enter the game.  They accomplish this defeat through negative self-talk.  Negative self-talk is self-defeating.  We sabatoge our own success.  Suppose that the coach asks you to take the final shot that could win the game.  You immediately start negative self-talk, “I can’t make that shot if my life depended on it.”  Or, “don’t give me the ball, let someone else take the shot.”  What if we told ourselves, “take a good look at the basket, see it, feel it, trust it, and shoot it.”   Mental toughness means that we stay positive in stressful situations.  A positive person says, “I can” (Phil. 4:13).  A positive person looks for solutions instead of admiring the problem.  A positive person combines all of the elements of spiritual toughness which makes him/her even more powerful.  You will come across something this week that will test  your mental and spiritual toughness.  Now is the time to prepare for those struggles of the soul that come to all of us.  It is possible to win the ultimate prize and receive the crown of righteousness (II Tim. 4:6-8).