Staying Alert

1 Kings 4:29-34; Proverbs 2:1-10; 4:5-7; Isaiah 26:3; Romans 8:5-11; 12:2

Your mind is a muscle. It needs to be stretched to stay sharp. It needs to be prodded and pushed to perform. Let it get idle and lazy on you, and that muscle will become a pitiful mass of flab in an incredibly brief period of time.

How can you stretch your mind? What are some good mental exercises that will keep the cobwebs away? I offer three suggestions:

READ. You may be too crippled and too poor to travel—but between the covers of a book are ideas and insights that await the joy of discovery. William Tyndale was up in years when he was imprisoned. Shortly before his martyrdom he wrote to the governor asking for:

A warmer cap, a candle, a piece of cloth to patch my leggings. . . . But above all, I beseech and entreat your clemency to . . . permit me to have my Hebrew Bible, Hebrew grammar and Hebrew Dictionary, that I may spend time . . . in study.1William Tyndale, as quoted in J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 101.

The powers of your perception will be magnified through reading. Read wisely. Read widely. Read slowly. Scan. Read history as well as current events . . . magazines and periodicals as well as classics and poetry . . . biographies and novels as well as the daily news and devotionals.

Don’t have much time? Neither did John Wesley. But his passion for reading was so severe he made it a part of his schedule—he read mostly on horseback. He rode between fifty and ninety miles a day with the book propped up in his saddle . . . and got through thousands of volumes during his lifetime. Knowing that reading attacks thickness of thought, Wesley told many a younger minister either to read—or get out of the ministry.

TALK. Conversation adds the oil needed to keep our mental machinery running smoothly. The give-and-take involved in rap sessions, the question-answer dialogue connected to discussion, provides the grinding wheel needed to keep us keen.

Far too much of our talk is surface jargon . . . shallow, predictable, obvious, pointless. Talk is too valuable to waste. Leave the discussion of people and weather to the newscasters! Delve into issues, ideas, controversial subjects, things that really matter. Ask and answer “why” and “how” . . . rather than “what” and “when.” Probe. Question. Socrates was considered wise—not because he knew all the answers, but because he knew how to ask the right questions. Few experiences are more stimulating than eyeball-to-eyeball, soul-to-soul talks that force us to think and reason through specifics. For the sheer excitement of learning, talk!

WRITE. Thoughts disentangle themselves over the lips . . . and through the fingertips. How true! The old gray matter increases its creases when you put it down on paper. Start a journal. A journal isn’t a diary. It’s more. A journal doesn’t record what you do—it records what you think. It spells out your ideas, your feelings, your struggles, your discoveries, your dreams. In short, it helps you articulate who you are.

Who knows? Your memoirs might make the bestseller list in the future. And speaking of that, why not try writing an article for your favorite magazine? Editors are on a constant safari for rare species like you.

Taken from Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life by Charles R. Swindoll. Copyright © 1983, 1994, 2007 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. Used by permission of Zondervan.

1 William Tyndale, as quoted in J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 101.
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Accuracy, clarity, and practicality all describe the Bible-teaching ministry of Charles R. Swindoll. Chuck is the chairman of the board at Insight for Living and the chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary. Chuck also serves as the senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, where he is able to do what he loves most—teach the Bible to willing hearts. His focus on practical Bible application has been heard on the Insight for Living radio broadcast since 1979.