Colossians 3:2-3; New Living Translation (NLT)
2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.
Am I more focused on the things of heaven than the things of this earth? Have I really died to this life?
Many ‘things of earth’ demand my attention – I have family to look after, things to buy, holidays to book, a demanding job, friends to keep up with, a home to try and look after, hobbies, sports, television programmes, mortgages, investments, pensions, insurance, bills to pay, cars to keep road worthy, home improvement projects, books to read …….
When everything is going ok all of the above can consume a lot of my thought life, let alone if there are any problems or issues!
If I am not careful, time to think about the ‘things of heaven’ can end up feeling almost secondary – fitted in if I have time.
Is this really a problem? My conclusion is, ‘Yes’.
The gradual, gentle slope
C.S. Lewis in “The Screwtape Letters” (letters from a senior to a junior devil) writes:
“You will say that these are very small sins: and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts….”
I don’t think any of the ‘things of earth’ I listed above could be described as ‘spectacular wickedness’ but I can see how they can cumulatively ‘edge the man away from the Light’.
To try and redress the balance I have been endeavouring to…
- Lead a simpler life
- Not worry
- Seek first the kingdom of God
I heard a sermon many years ago that spoke about choosing to live a ‘simpler’ life. I couldn’t really understand all that was being said but I discerned there is wisdom in not allowing your life to become more and more complex. I would find it difficult to testify exactly how I have tried to put this into practice but as I make decisions, I try to enquire into my motives for wanting to do something. In particular, I at least try and recognise when a decision is primarily driven by a desire to ‘conform to the pattern of his world’ (Romans 12:2) and will be adding unnecessary complexity.
Worrying about things can also be another great devourer of thought time. Jesus told us not to worry and in Phillipians 4:6 it says “6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” These verses encourage us to dwell on ‘heavenly thoughts’ rather than ‘earthly thoughts’ – to not spend time going round and round in circles worrying about something but lift it in prayer.
Seek first the Kingdom of God
Matthew 6:33 “33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
I have known times in my life where I feel the Lord has really given me things – no stress, little effort – and there are times where I have tried to force things into being – lots of stress, lots of effort and often the end result is strangely unsatisfying.
What I am starting to realise is that to walk this path of ‘Seeking first the Kingdom of God’ I might have to let go of some ‘things of this earth’ that I currently think are really important. They certainly can’t be the focus of my life and dominate my thoughts.
In Galatians 6 vs 14 Paul writes “14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.”
“…my interest in this world has been crucified” – what a powerful statement.
Maybe there are some interests in this world I should nail to a cross.
Mike Wendes, July 2018