Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth — Colossians 3:2 (NRSV)
“Set your mind minds on things above” sounds like something that should be so easy to do and fairly simple to incorporate into our daily lives. Yet it is something that I struggle with daily. Why is that?
Life kicks in and the daily grind starts to overwhelm me and my focus becomes fixed on my problems or aspirations in this world.
All of my intentions of setting my thoughts on things above, heavenly things, God’s plans for me, or being in relationship with God, become lofty ambitions. The things that I will get around to AFTER I have dealt with the business of living. Why is that?
Our culture is one that puts tremendous importance on things like survival of the fittest, self sufficiency, self-reliance and self-help. Societal norms have left us with expectations that we need to be constantly improving ourselves both materially and personally, physically and mentally. Just grab a magazine and look at the photos inside of them.
Is there something I want? Work to earn it.
Is there something I am struggling with inside? Find a self-help book and become more in tune with myself.
I want to be all that I can be and as well-rounded as my peers. I want to have all of the nice things I see in the homes of others and on the television commercials and shows that I watch. The culture around me tells me that I am entitled to all of this if I just work hard enough.
Eventually this idea became so ingrained in me that I started to have a prosperity gospel kind of outlook. Surely with all the good works I do at church, God will bless me with all of these wants! He will surely see that I am deserving of a comfortable lifestyle and bless me with the means to have one.
No matter how much I earned or what I was able to get it was never enough. The list of wants continued to grow. My life didn’t leave me with a sense of contentment or peace or joy in my life. Why is that? If all of this stuff I am acquiring is a blessing from God for all of my hard work and self-reliance, shouldn’t I be filled with these things?
Perhaps this isn’t God’s plans for me after all. All of this focus on what I want and never being truly happy with what I have could be a distraction ploy of the Evil One instead. Could he be blinding me and others in our cultures with all that glitters in this world?
The weakness of so many modern Christians is that they feel too much at home in the world. — A.W. Tozer
I know that I have fallen into this trap many times. I would become preoccupied with things like getting a better promotion in order to have financial security and end up losing track of spiritual things. All of these things that I viewed as blessings from God as an indication of his pleasure or displeasure with me kept me focused on the things of this earth. Each time I have been distracted by the things of this earth, I lost sight of the God who loves me and seeks obedience and humility from me.
God is always patient with me and lovingly calls me back to him. It is never to late to come back to his welcoming embrace. The more that I turn to this God of love, the more I find myself wanting to walk in complete submission to his plan for me.
Don’t get me wrong. To walk in complete submission to God’s will, I have to choose to do so every day. It requires me to be intentional about quiet times of prayer as well as time of soaking myself in his Word. Just because it is intentional doesn’t mean that it is a chore. The more I submit in prayer and soak up his words of life, the more I find myself wanting to do just that. These small changes in my life have brought about immense amounts of peace into my life.
For the first time ever I am finding my way and establishing healthy boundaries in many areas of my life that up until now have not had any. This has helped me to stop being the overwhelmed people-pleaser with no time for myself or my family who was very stressed all of the time.
The most amazing part of all of this is that as I have been changing my attitude about prayer and actively seeking a relationship with God, he has been changing my heart to that of a servant. His servant. Sent to do the work he has specifically equipped me for.
The tone of my prayers has changed from requests for things that I want that are things of this earth to requests that he change my heart so that I might know him better and know how best to use the gifts he has given me.
Not my will be done, but his will be done.
The material things just don’t seem to be all that important after all. Maybe focusing on the things are above aren’t such lofty ambitions after all.
If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. — C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Instead of waiting to “find my calling” or “a way to be used in ministry” I must simply place my trust in him and start being God’s light right where I currently am. I can show the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ in my home, in my church and in my workplace.
God only asks for me to be obedient and humble in doing his will. He will take care of the rest. As C.S. Lewis says in The Joyful Christian, “Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’: aim at Earth and you will get neither.” My eyes need only be fixed on Heaven to successfully travel my path on Earth. My eyes are fixed on the treasures of above.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. — Matt. 6:19-21 (NSRV)
Shannon Martin is an active member of Midway Mennonite Church in Columbiana, Ohio, and a Fellow with The C.S. Lewis Institute of Northeast Ohio Fellows Program. She writes at Wisdom Wanderings, where this post first appeared.