The “Brave New World” of the 21st Century requires a “Brave New Discipleship” strategy.

Shed the Past, Embrace the Future

Posted on: June 20, 2017


The story is often told of how domesticated baby elephants are trained. It is said that when they are still small, they tie a their foot with a rope to a large stake in the ground. When the baby elephants try to break free, the stake and rope are too strong.  Through failure, they learn that resistance is futile. Eventually, their mind gives up on the idea of freedom, shrinks to accept the “inevitable,” and they no longer consider resisting.

As the elephant grows, it becomes much more powerful and could easily break the rope, but it doesn’t even try. In fact, the elephant becomes so accustomed to being restrained by the rope that some elephants stand passively with a rope around their foot that isn’t even tied to anything else.

The Invisible Rope Syndrome

Of course, this is a powerful metaphor for the fact that early experiences shape humans, and often needlessly limit our potential. It is not uncommon for individuals to be held back in life, not by external factors, but by the lies we believe and the unnecessary limitations we accept. We are often limited, not by reality, but by our perception of reality.

A clever mathematician once observed:

1,000 compliments + 1 insult = 1 insult!

1,000 successes + 1 failure = 1 failure!

1,000 things we are good at + 1 thing we are not good at = 1 thing we are not good at.

As a result of this false math, our mind shrinks to accept false limitations, leading us to stand passively, tied by an invisible rope that we could easily break if we simply decided to. I call this the “Invisible Rope Syndrome”.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we can choose to do anything we want. It just means that we don’t have to be defined by an insult, failure or limitation. We can try again. Or try something different. Probably try something better. We may not be able to succeed at that thing we originally failed at, but we can succeed at something else.

To combat the “Invisible Rope Syndrome”, we need two things:

we need to know the truth, and we need to reinforce the truth.

First, we need to know the truth:

  1. We are created in the image of God, with inherent and infinite value (Genesis 1:27).
  2. God loves us, not for what we do, but merely for who we are. (1 John 4:19)
  3. We are spiritually gifted by God to do whatever He asks of us. (1 Peter 4:10)
  4. God has prepared many good works that He wants to do through us. (Ephesians 2:10)
  5. God rewards us, not for results, but for faithfulness to doing what He asks of us. (Matthew 25:23)

Because these things are true, we need not define ourselves by insults or failures or limitations. God loves us, He has gifted us for impact, He has a storehouse of “works” that He has prepared for us to do, and He rewards faithfulness, not success.

In addition, there is forgiveness with God. If we are unfaithful, or rebellious or careless, we can repent, be forgiven, and move on. (1 John 1:9)

Second, we need to reinforce the truth:

We need to reinforce truth because of how the brain works. The brain does not believe what is right or wrong, true or false, good or bad. Rather, the brain believes what it is told most often. So, we have to tell ourselves the truth, over and over again, to counteract the lies that we have heard or believed over and over again.

Perhaps the best way to do this is to find Scripture verses that speak to the issues we struggle with, memorize them so deeply we can say them as fast as an auctioneer, and then recite them daily.

As God’s truth goes through our minds over and over, the truth wears new neurological pathways in our brain, making it easier and easier to think those new thoughts.

Then, as neurological pathways for the old thoughts deteriorate through neglect, we reach a tipping point at which it is easier for the brain to think the new thoughts than the old thoughts, and we experience a spurt of spiritual growth not possible any other way.

We can also reinforce Scripture by reviewing quotes from others, or affirmations of truth that may summarize biblical concepts. As truth washes through our minds, creating new neurological pathways, the truth sinks deeply into our subconscious where it begins to profoundly transform our attitudes, values and behavior.

This is an example of the point Paul makes in Romans 12:2 when he said that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds.

Wrapping it Up

Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32). When we know the truth about who we are, how much God values us, and what His plan is for using us, it can set us free from limitations that are only in our heads.

  • What would you like to know that you do not currently know?
  • What would you like to be that you currently are not?
  • What would you like to do that you currently do not, or cannot, do?

Chances are, God has put those desires in your heart. Chances are, you can know it, become it, and do it! Just reject the idea that you cannot, or that you are not worthy of it. Chances are, you can – in the words of Nike – “Just do it!”

In the process, you may have to revise, refine, or in some cases even give up on a given goal. So revise, refine, or choose a different goal. Then do that one!

Henry Ford once famously said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t — you are right.”

What we believe about ourselves defines us. So, by telling ourselves the truth — over and over again, our minds can be renewed and our lives transformed. (Romans 12:2)

Stop believing lies about yourself. Start believing truth. Break the “Invisible Rope Syndrome”.


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