Losing the Battle in the Brain

Proverbs 22:13 – The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!”

I was having a discussion with my young son about math recently. He was trying to do his math, and I could see he really was struggling to keep going on it. He was working on multiplication problems, and he was just going downhill mentally and emotionally. He had gotten himself worked up to where he didn’t remember 3×7, which he had used over and over. This wasn’t a knowledge problem, it was a battle of the brain problem.

When I began to look at his work, overall he had done 90 percent of it right. But he was telling himself stories, like “I don’t like Math.” “This is too hard.” “I don’t want to do this.” “I need help.” “I can’t figure it out.” Yet he had done most of the work perfectly all by himself. But now he was at the brink of tears and unable to do a simply 3×7 because of the stories he was telling himself. He was shutting down.

So, I held him close to me and hugged him and told him that he wasn’t losing the battle in the math workbook, he was losing the battle in his mind. I had him look at all the right things he had done on that page, and I had him say positive things about himself when it came to those he did right. “I am smart. I can do math. Look at all I did right. I can figure this out.” By the way, brothers and sisters in Christ, do not disregard the power of meditating on the positive and telling yourselves hopeful things (Philippians 4:8). Paul says think about what is “true,” so God does not want us to tell lies to ourselves.

You see, with this son, if he is doing art or building Legos, there is nothing too hard for him. He is designing his own amazing and complex things out of Legos (good grief he is making his own Transformers out of Legos). His artwork for a young kid is just incredible. There is nothing too hard for him there. He certainly has a gift with art and designing things.

Maybe his “gift” will never be that he excels in Calculus or Nuclear Physics, and that is fine! We would not want to push him in a direction other than his natural talents and strengths. But what we do want for all of our kids is for them to learn to win the battle of the brain.

Don’t defeat yourself before you even begin something by telling yourself I can’t do this, or it’s just too hard, or I’m just not able to figure it out. Maybe it isn’t possible for you to do that task. That might be true. For example, the only way I’m ever going to dunk a basketball is if I use a step ladder or if the rim is adjusted to 7 feet! So there are limits to what we can do, no doubt. But that’s not what I’m talking about. My point here in this article is to discuss how we can defeat ourselves from the beginning just by how we think and what we say.

I know I’ve lost that battle repeatedly, and I can see in my kids when they begin to go down that road. Look at that above passage from Proverbs, a person can tell himself there is a lion in the streets when no such lion exists. There is no real lion! The man did not step out to work because he told himself a wrong story in his brain.

What stories are you telling yourself? Are you losing the battle of the brain because of what you are saying to yourself?

The Sluggard

Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!” As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth. The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.
(Proverbs 26:12-16)

What do we learn about the lazy man (the sluggard) in this section of Proverbs?

A sluggard makes excuses, finds the craziest reasons not to get out and work. But those excuses must be really believable to the sluggard. He has really convinced himself that the lion is out there…he just can’t leave right now because that lion will eat him up!

The sluggard is inventive – He is always coming up with a new excuse!

A sluggard is like a door on its hinges. The only “movement” he makes is to flip from one side to the other on his bed. Sometimes you have to force yourself to get up and get going. You don’t feel like getting up, and you don’t feel like trying, but you have to push through it. Many times when doing the right thing, your feelings will not agree with you. You may not have the first feeling to agree with you, but you have to get up and do the right thing anyway.

The sluggard is active – He flips sides on the bed, but he ain’t going anywhere!

A sluggard is so lazy, he won’t even lift his hand from the bowl to his mouth. This is connected to gluttony…he is tied to his couch, binge-watching TV and stuffing junk down his throat. He’s worn out all right, but not from working hard. He’s so tired, tired from being lazy, tired from not getting out there and trying and doing.

The sluggard is creative – He creates more and more tired-ness for himself. 

A sluggard is really smart and has all the best answers…at least in his own eyes. If you want know how to do something, or if you want to know all the answers to all the questions, ask the lazy sluggard. They know all the info, but they don’t do a thing about it. The lazy sluggard will be more than happy to advise you on all the things you should do, but is he doing it himself? Nope.

The sluggard is full of answers- He just never listens to his own advice!

Working Hard to Dig Holes

But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.
(Matthew 25:18)

We were listening to Matthew 25 today and we heard the story Jesus told about the talents. Three servants were each given money by the Master, but only two went and did something good with it. The third servant took his talent, found a good hiding place, and he dug a hole and hid that money.

It’s interesting that the Master called him wicked and lazy, but look at the work the servant did in order NOT to work. Think of the effort it took to go, dig a hole and hide that talent. Consider the amount of mental energy he expended to convince himself that he made the right decision. He even convinced himself that it was the Master’s own fault for why he didn’t grow his talent (Matthew 25:24-25). If he would have taken half the effort, gone down to the bank and invested it, he would have doubled his money (Matthew 25:26-27).

I remember an older man in Ohio once saying that it is amazing how hard people work not to work. This came to my mind as I thought about this third servant working to hide his talent.

So, how hard are we working not to work? Are we expending too much effort convincing ourselves that we can’t use the talents, opportunities and energy God gave us?

For example, the people in the days of Haggai had convinced themselves it was not “time” to build the Lord’s house, but were working awful hard at building their own homes (Haggai 1). The Lord expected them to use their time, money, talents and energy to build His house, but they were expending it on making their own places nice. So God poked holes in their bags of wages (Haggai 1:6). If they wouldn’t use their talents for Him, then they would be taken away. Very similar to what we see in Matthew 25.

Are you working hard to dig holes and hide your talents, or are you taking them and using them for the Master?

Through sloth the roof sinks in

Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks.
(Ecclesiastes 10:18)

Some people are too lazy to fix a leaky roof– then the house falls in.
(Ecclesiastes 10:18, Contemporary English Version)

Have you ever let that project on the house go too long, and it ended up costing you more later because the problem got worse? Well apparently 3,000 years ago people did the same thing. Painfully, Solomon points out the main reason those projects don’t get finished. Sloth. Laziness (which means aversion of activity or exertion). That hole in the roof will only get bigger, the gutters will only get more full of leaves, and the leak under the sink did not get better because you put a bucket under it and shut the cabinet door!

As leaders in churches, we can also learn a thing or two from this principle. Sometimes our neglect and slothfulness can lead to a huge problem down the road. What may have been a simple repair a year ago turned into a church divided a year later.

Every Christian is to pay attention to each other “daily,” because big spiritual problems can spring up fast (Hebrews 3:12,13).

Shepherds (elders) are to watch out with diligence for the flock (Acts 20:28-29; 1 Peter 5:1-4). Wolves don’t take a day off, do they?

How did the church at Ephesus lose its first love? How did the church at Sardis slowly die? How did the church at Thyatira let in false teachers that led many astray? I think in some way the answer is the same…neglect. The strong and the wise ignored the signs that problems were arising and did not attend to them.

It would be nice to coast as a Christian, but we really don’t have that luxury. We as a culture are working toward “self-driving” vehicles, but there isn’t such a thing in God’s church. Pay attention. Get on that roof and fix that problem right away.

I know that roofs are easier to “fix” than people, but the principle still applies. A little attention now, and some hard work now, just may well save a whole new roof job down the road.

When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose,
(Acts 11:23)

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;
(Hebrews 12:15)

Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations?
(Proverbs 27:23-24)