Emotions, State Management and the Will of God

By Mike Davis, Th.D.

Have you ever given much thought to the role that managing your emotional states play in living the Christian life?

In the Christian community I grew up in faith and feelings were often contrasted and stood in eternal opposition to each other. “We walk by faith not by sight” (II Corinthians 5:7) was an oft quoted passage and interpreted as meaning “We live by trust and confidence in God’s word… and pay NO attention to how we feel!” I was taught that feelings and emotions, or, how I felt was irrelevant to my Christian life and walk. What was most important was obedience – how one felt was just not factored in the equation.

Or if feelings and emotions were discussed they were regulated to an unimportant and non-supportive role. Often this was explained by the “train and caboose model” of the Christian life: Facts, Faith and Feelings were compared to a train. The facts or truths of Scripture were the fuel; Faith was the engine that was fueled by the facts/truths of Scripture. Feelings were the caboose. They were pulled along by facts and faith but they added nothing to the forward movement of the train. What moved the “train” of the Christian’s life was the believer’s faith in and obedience to the facts of Scripture. If the believer walked and lived faithfully regardless of how they felt then eventually, at a time known only to God, their feelings and emotions would “catch up” to the facts and feelings.

Understood in this way feelings and emotions were seen as something that was outside of our control and not much we could do anything about. Most of the books I read at the time on renewing the mind focused on thoughts/intellect, will and behavior as the key elements of change. Feelings and emotions were never mention (except to say “change your thoughts, will, and behavior and eventually your emotions will change”). Feelings and emotions were seen as the enemy, as dangerous. Early in my Christian life I wanted to be like Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame: rational and feeling little or nothing. I thought this was the key to victory over sin in the Christian life.

I remember how shocked I was when I began studying the subject of renewing the mind. One day while looking up the word “mind” as in “be ye transformed by the renewing of your MIND” in the Strong’s concordance I came across this definition “ Mind (Greek nous) as in intellect will and feeling” ! I was shocked! Part of the definition of mind included the emotions! This meant that to renew and change the mind included a change in emotions and feelings! It meant that there was no true renewal of the mind that did not include the emotions!

This was later confirmed for me as I was studying Romans 8:5 one day: “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh and they that are after the Spirit [do mind] the things of the Spirit” The word translated as “mind” in Greek means to “incline the intellect, will and affections or emotions towards””. To walk in the Spirit involves the intellect will and feelings. Our whole being, including our emotional aspect, is involved in the change and transformation process; in living a victorious Christian life!

The more I studied the Scriptures the more convinced I became that the emotions were an integral part of living the Christian life and something we could exercise control over to our benefit.

“Serve the Lord WITH gladness!” (Psalms 100:2).

“In this world you shall have tribulations (trials and distress) but be of good cheer (confident, certain, undaunted) I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

“Peace I leave with you…let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

The question then became for me, ”How do you include the emotions in the change process?”. How does one affect emotional states so that they contribute to change and transformation, to the renewing of the mind? How do you exercise this control consistently? This was something I researched and studied for years and God in His grace brought me the answers I was looking for in the form of NLP and later Neuro-semantics.

In NLP and in Neuro-Semantics I learned the principles, processes and patterns that enabled me to exercise and develop the emotional management and control that I believe the Scriptures taught and God gave us. I learn to make my emotional states my allies rather than them being my enemies in the service of God. I learned how to include my whole being in the renewing the mind process. I learned to do what Scripture showed to be the will of God: I learned to manage my states. This was more than just NOT acting on “negative” feelings and emotions. It meant knowing how to channel my states and direct them in the service of God. For me this has resulted in the experience of the freedom that Christ came to bring and freedom for others as I have taught them what I have learned.

I have seen people set free from years of emotional and behavioral problems as they learned to manage their states and renew their mind to the truth of God (the truth that sets us free).

2007 Mike Davis, All rights reserved.