With my youngest starting nursery I have found that even though I am still busy with many things to get done in the day I am now, for a couple of hours at least, less distracted. But now a new distraction has arisen. My mind is now more freely allowed to think and meditate on things. But there is a problem: trial and temptation. None of us as Christians are ever beyond trials or being tempted. It can happen suddenly. When we are faced with a trial it follows that we are tempted to contemplate ways out, to find our comforts from the world or even slip into self pity. If we don’t begin to restrain our thoughts then we can be sure the enemy will draw us away from the Lord.
I have found in a place of testing and with moments of less distraction I have been thinking more on earthly things such as "contact such and such person for a chat (knowing it will lead to grumbling about the situation!)," "treat yourself to such a thing (even when you don‘t have the money!), you deserve it because you're going through such a hard time." By allowing myself to meditate on thoughts such as these I can easily be led to act on them which would be unwise and even sinful. John Owen writes:
We should make every effort to think carefully about our trials and temptations. Anyone who is ill will want to find out about the illness and how it can be cured. Should we not be equally concerned about spiritual ill-health? There is a problem here: the more we think about the things that tempt us, the more likely we are to be tempted, for temptations gain strength over us when we continually think about them.
Such thoughts may seem innocent to an undiscerning mind but they are the beginnings of being led astray. As Proverbs 14:12 tells us:
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.
It’s much like a root. We can have very seemingly innocent thoughts but on closer examination they are in fact roots of something far more sinister. So what can we do to take these thoughts captive and shut the door, so to speak? Well, the Word tells us that we are to set our minds on things above not on the things on the earth, Colossians 3:2. Looking at this verse we see where we ought to be setting our minds. But when we look at the KJV of that verse it says:
Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
This then would imply that where we set our minds we also set our affections. Well, then, I must ask myself now, where are my affections? Do I worry a lot? Under worry could come an almost immeasurable number of things such as aging, what our house looks like, money,and so on. Do I contemplate how I have been wronged and slip into self pity? Do I think a lot about getting a new job and yet neglect to help out in church? If so then my affections are not on things above but the of the earth. Matthew Henry writes:
Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. Observe, to seek heavenly things is to set our affections upon them, to love them and let our desires be towards them. Upon the wings of affection the heart soars upwards, and is carried forth towards spiritual and divine objects. We must acquaint ourselves with them, esteem them above all other things, and lay out ourselves in preparation for the enjoyment of them. David gave this proof of his loving the house of God, that he diligently sought after it, and prepared for it, Ps. 27:4. This is to be spiritually minded (Rom. 8:6), and to seek and desire a better country, that is, a heavenly, Heb. 11:14, Things on earth are here set in opposition to things above. We must not dote upon them, nor expect too much from them, that we may set our affections on heaven; for heaven and earth are contrary one to the other, and a supreme regard to both is inconsistent; and the prevalence of our affection to one will proportionably weaken and abate our affection to the other.
We must always be vigilant especially in our thought life taking extra care to be more diligent in the times of testing and trial. We live in this world so to some degree we will have hold of things in this world but our grip on them must be loose and not so tight. We must be able to easily let go of those things that will only perish. If they have our affections then we are holding too tightly! Hold fast to the heavenly. Let our thoughts and meditations be of the Beauty and Glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. I love the following analogy by Owen:
Several advantages are to be expected from regularly thinking about heaven. In the same way as when one looks at the bright light and the image of that brightness afterwards blinds one to other sights for a while, so whoever meditates on heavenly glories will find desire for earthly things lessened.
Ways we can do this is to make sure we have our daily times with God in prayer and through the reading of His Word. Quoting John Owen again:
As another rule, let me ask whether spiritual thoughts flow in those times when we are quiet and free from our usual activities? Even the busiest persons have some times of quiet, whether they want to or not. Moments after waking, or before sleeping; journeying times; times when circumstances compel them to be alone. If we are spiritually minded, then spiritual thoughts will automatically and regularly claim such time for themselves. If they do not, is that not evidence that spiritual things are of little interest to our minds?
In conclusion then we can see that it is of utmost importance to fill our minds and thoughts on things above especially in our modern culture where we are bombarded with what the world says we should be concerning ourselves with. So next time you find yourself worrying and being distracted too much by the earthly take time out and focus on the heavenly. Let our thoughts glorify God and pray for more of His Grace when we feel weak.
John Owen, Thinking Spiritually.