The phrase mind over matter is typically used as a motivation to overcome difficult obstacles: the idea is that, if you put your mind to it, you can do anything. Of course, there are limitations to this encouragement, including the laws of nature. No matter how much a person “believes” he can fly by flapping his arms, the laws of nature will prove otherwise. Reality has a way of intruding.
Some people try to apply the concept of “mind over matter” to Scripture in an attempt to explain some of the events recorded there. For example, some might say that, when Peter walked on water for a short distance to go to Jesus, who was also walking on the water (Matthew 14:22–33), Peter was able to do so because Jesus was teaching him to put mind over matter. It’s true that Peter walked on water, but it had nothing to do with “mind over matter.”
The Bible does not countenance the idea of mind over matter. There is nothing in Scripture to support the idea that the human mind has the power to overcome the laws of nature or that our minds can exert an observable influence over the material world. The Bible gives plenty of examples of God’s mind over matter, but not our minds. In Matthew 14, Jesus walked on the water of the Sea of Galilee as a display of His own supernatural power. When His disciples saw Him, they did not say, “Look at His mental powers!”
Peter asked for the ability to walk on the water to Jesus to confirm it was really Jesus: “Lord, if it’s you, . . . tell me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28). Jesus told Peter to come and, in so doing, gave Peter the ability to do so. Peter took several steps on the water toward the Lord. But then he began to fear the waves and the wind, and he began to sink. Jesus caught Peter before he sank and then questioned Peter’s doubting faith. The problem that led to Peter’s sinking was not a lack of confidence in his own mind but a lack of faith in the Lord who was sustaining him.
When the two men got back in the boat, the winds died down, and everyone in the boat worshiped Jesus, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matthew 14:33). This is a significant detail. No one praised Peter for his ability to put mind over matter; everyone praised Jesus for demonstrating who He was. Walking on the water was no mental feat; it was the supernatural power of God at work.
Skeptics often seek to attribute acts of the supernatural to acts of nature, giving “logical” human explanations for what the Bible calls miracles. The idea of “mind over matter” can’t really be called a “logical” explanation, but at least it avoids having to acknowledge God, and some skeptics will use it, too. Of course, those who claim that Peter walked on water due to his own mental strength fail to provide experiential evidence of someone today accomplishing the same action. There is no person alive today who is walking on water and saying it is due to his or her mind powers. The only people ever to walk on water are Jesus and Peter—the Son of God and the one He had specifically told to come to Him.
In Acts 3, Peter and John healed a man who had been unable to walk since he was born (Acts 3:2). After the healing, a crowd began to gather, and Peter explained what had happened: “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see” (Acts 3:16). In other words, the lame man did not practice “mind over matter” and so overcome his disability; it was faith in Jesus Christ that healed him.
The object of our faith is not our minds; it is the Lord Jesus. The Creator of the universe can speak things into existence or change the course of nature with a thought. We don’t have that power. Simply “putting your mind to it,” focusing on an object and telling it to “move,” or thinking “mind over matter” does not negate reality. We have limitations. Only God has the power to overcome our limitations—even in impossible situations—when we are trusting Him to accomplish His will.