Clear Minded and Self-Controlled- 1 Peter 4:7

Peter has already told us, in this chapter, that we are to arm ourselves with the same attitude as Christ, and that this attitude change will cause us to think and behave in ways which are dramatically different from the world around us, and that this will cause the world to “heap abuse” upon us, to revile, slander and mock us. We are, however, not to mock, revile and slander in return, but merely to continue living with this attitude in spite of the abuse and leave the “abusers” in God’s hands. Peter then tells us, in verse seven, how we can learn to survive in a world which is in opposition to us, and the way we are to do so is through prayer. In essence, prayer is communication with God, speaking with Him, and, more importantly, listening to Him. Prayer is not merely giving God our wish list and going on about our business, and the type of prayer which Peter has in mind here involves much more listening than speaking. The prayer Peter has in mind here requires focus, for it is more about hearing from God than talking to Him, and this is the kind of prayer which provides us with the strength, comfort and encouragement needed to survive in a world which is openly hostile toward those who believe. According to Peter, this type of prayer involves two prerequisites, rendered as being “clear minded” and “self-controlled” in the NIV. As a deeper examination of these two requirements will reveal, the common element between the two is focus. The Greek word translated as “clear minded” is sophroneo, literally “of sound mind”. It can be defined as “to exercise discretion as moderation, discipline and self-control”. This discipline and self-control is to be practiced here primarily in reference to distractions. The teaching of the New Testament is that we must be sophroneo in order to see and hear from God. As we have seen, this sophroneo refers primarily to the mind, that we must train our minds to be focused on God, and to move beyond distractions which cause our minds to wander and place our focus on something other than God. This is why we are sometimes told to fast and pray, because fasting can serve as a means of training our minds to focus on God and not be led astray by distractions, can teach us to overlook our grumbling stomachs and focus on God and not the distraction. Whenever we earnestly seek to pray and hear from God, we can be sure our enemy will use many things to try to distract us, to get us to think about and focus on work, church, money, etc., anything which will take our focus off of God and put it on something else. So we see that the first prerequisite given for prayer is the ability to overlook distractions and remain focused upon God. The Greek word translated as “self-controlled” is nepho, literally to be sober. This word is also used figuratively, as it is here, to refer to the choice to recognize that God is God and we are not. It involves seeing and understanding this clearly, not in the fuzziness of worldly thinking which results from setting the human ego in the place which belongs to God alone. So while sophroneo has to do primarily with focus, nepho has to do primarily with attitude. It involves a clear and sober recognition of who we are and who God is, and that we approach Him as those understanding that He is in charge and we are not, that He is the one giving the orders and we are the ones receiving them. This attitude then, goes hand in hand with the focus of sophroneo, for it is only with this attitude that we will be able to take our eyes off of ourselves long enough to truly focus upon God. We live in world filled with distractions, filled with things which take our focus off of God and put it on something else(mainly ourselves), a world which will be openly hostile to those who possess the clear mindedness and self-control described here, a world controlled by an enemy who will do everything possible to keep us from the type of prayer necessary to be what God desires us to be in a world such as this. It is, then, very important that we put forth the effort required to learn to be clear minded and self-controlled, on order that we can pray in the manner necessary to overcome distractions and focus on the one who can give us what we need to serve God in a world which will continue to heap abuse upon us.

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