By Aaron Brown, Crosswalk.com
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. – 2 Timothy 1:7
One peek into the dictionary and you will discover that the definition of a sound mind is the “state of a man’s mind which is adequate to reason and comes to a judgment upon ordinary subjects, like other rational men.”
Thus, psychologically speaking, a sound mind allows for someone to be rational in all ordinary decision making. Those who struggle to be rational in normal circumstances: deciding what to do, what to say, what to eat, do not have sound minds.
This may sound like very few people, but an increasing amount of people are suffering from mental illnesses that make rationality more difficult. These illnesses include depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideations. In fact, over 1.5 million more adults are suffering from mental illnesses since 2018.
While the data is startling and undesired, God has already provided a recipe for a sound mind. Much like the dictionary’s definition, the Bible defines how Christians can be rational in their judgments, too.
Biblically speaking, there are three components to have a sound mind, and all three are captured in the aforementioned verse from 2 Timothy. Fear. Power. Love.
The term sound mind originates from the Greek word sophroneo, which indicates a person’s “total frame of thinking” and a mind that is “delivered, rescued, revived.”
If you've been wondering: what does it mean to be of sound mind, then keep reading. We will dive further into this verse’s meaning and the real-world application.
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The Context of a ‘Sound Mind’
The verse 2 Timothy 1:7 appears in a chapter authored by Paul, and issued to fellow evangelist Timothy. This chapter captures Paul telling his fellow believer to feel encouraged by their faith, not defeated. At the time, Paul is imprisoned for his faith, but he finds the motivation within himself to rejoice within his suffering.
As Paul remains encouraged, Paul wants Timothy to also remain encouraged and not ashamed (2 Timothy 1:12).
Paul is clearly aware that fear diminishes a believer’s ability to be faithful, and their ability to share the gospel with others. Instead of growing fearful, he wants Timothy to keep his faith bright. Paul directly asks Timothy to “rekindle” his faith so that he can make use of the gifts God has bestowed upon him (2 Timothy 1:6).
Paul’s letter not only comes at a time of imprisonment, but he specifically mentions those who abandoned him. Hermogenes and Phygelus are both mentioned as having done this, fellow Christians. And Paul also mentions Onesiphorus who did not.
With Paul’s words of affirmation, Timothy was given a choice about how to respond to spreading the Gospel in spite of Paul’s imprisonment. Would he give into faith or into fear? Ultimately, he gave into faith.
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How Does Fear Relate to a ‘Sound Mind?'
Without using the word, Paul is admonishing Timothy to maintain the correct perspective of God. Being a dutiful Christian means having the correct perspective on life. We live life not for ourselves, or for others, or idols, but for the glory of God.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31
When God is the focal point of our lives, everything else revolves around that unchanging fact. When our lives focus on God, the weight of fear, suicidal ideations, and depression have less power over us.
Each of those are thoughts based in feelings, not in truth. Scripture gives us truth to meditate on and believe. When we separate ourselves from the truth we are susceptible to other ideas.
This is especially important when life does not go as we planned. Instead of being bogged down when we don’t get what we think we deserve, we can maintain a different perspective. God is unchanging no matter my circumstances.
If God doesn’t change, and our Bible tells us God did not give us a spirit of fear, then we know fear is not the right choice. Fear is separate from God. Separate from truth.
Fear has the ability to manipulate our perspective on a given situation. People who are anxious are consumed with what if instead of what is and act accordingly. This alteration of reality distorts the Christian perspective. This allows struggles to appear bigger than God.
Fear has often been labeled as an acronym meaning: False Expectations Appearing Real.
This means that fear is not rooted in truth, but rather a lie either from the enemy or ourselves. With the right perspective, we can keep our eyes locked on the truth. And the truth is God.
How Does Love Relate to a ‘Sound Mind’?
The correct perspective of God naturally leads us to one inevitable conclusion—God loves us.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? – Romans 8:31
Recognizing God’s love for his children has the ability to take away fear of all external or internal circumstances. God knows what we face and he cares.
Any father who cares about his children, cares about the ordeals and circumstances they find themselves in. The Bible speaks multiple times to moments where God delivered his followers from calamity, and delivered them into something greater.
Today, this includes those mental illnesses that plague adults and children alike. If God is for us then who can be against us?
This question also applies to ourselves. If God is for us then why would we be against ourselves?
We can choose not to give into worries and fears, knowing that not only will God help us overcome, he will guide us into a better frame of mind.
God wants to support us in becoming better people day by day. When we know that he loves us, our ability to keep a rational and sound mind is much more possible.
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How Does Power Relate to a ‘Sound Mind’?
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. – Romans 12:2
The verb renewing is in the present tense because we are constantly being renewed.
God does not work within us one day or for a single season of our lives. As followers of Christ, we are to actively pursue him every day in every moment. As we pursue Christ, we become more like Christ.
In the instances our situations do not change, we still become new creations. God renews our minds into something different and we begin to see our problems from different angles. We will begin to control our illnesses instead of our illnesses controlling us.
With the correct perspective in mind, and recognizing God’s love, we will feel empowered in living lives devoted to Christ. Instead of being weighed down by the mental angst that we believe will overtake us, we see a new reality. We see the truth.
Jesus did not promise a life free of trouble, but through him all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). Fostering a sound mind is possible.
The next time anxiety tells you another lie, remind yourself of God’s provision. The next time suicidal ideation says you are worthless, remind yourself of God’s love. The next time depression says stay in bed, remember God is empowering you daily.
A sound mind is available to us. We have to allow God to work within us, see God for who he is, and not see our problems as the truth. God is the truth. He is the only truth.
A Modern Day ‘Sound Mind’
With the ever-increasing number of adults and youth suffering from mental illnesses like anxiety, Christians have a choice much like Timothy did when hearing from Paul.
The Bible reminds us that God’s gift does not include fear. He gives us power, love, and a sound mind.
With that in mind, we can choose to lean on faith and make use of God’s gifts for us, or lean into fear and not make use of God’s gifts.
The decision might feel difficult, but the benefits of choosing faith are stated throughout Scripture. What decision will you make today?
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Aaron Brown is a freelance writer, dance teacher, and visual artist. He currently contributes articles to GodUpdates, GodTube, iBelieve, and Crosswalk. Aaron also supports clients through the freelance platform Upwork.
This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.