Updated: Apr 20, 2022
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds on what the Spirit desires. (Romans 8:5 NIV)
I struggle a lot with mental conflict. It is not at all uncommon for me to agonize over something or get worked up for seemingly no reason at all. Most often this is the result of approaching something with the wrong state of mind. While I can usually keep outbursts to a minimum, the anguish or frustration I feel is nonetheless counterproductive and disturbing to anyone who may be around me.
Even simple things in life can be misconstrued with the wrong mentality. I am a die-hard Mariners fan, and with their unexpected playoff push (which realistically has grown very dim at this writing), I can get charged up easily while watching games if I do not remind myself beforehand that it is only a game. Similarly, while I like most types of movies, I might find myself unable to watch if I am in the wrong mood. (If you want an infamous case in point, ask me about Moulin Rouge.)
With everything going on in the world right now, it is easy to be overcome by disbelief, frustration and anger. In so doing, our first reaction is all too often to assign blame somewhere, and want to see that party held accountable for the negative results some action(s) of theirs has somehow brought about. Why is it seemingly so hard so seek God first? In the face of mass suffering and death from COVID-19, natural disasters and events abroad, why does our human nature so often demand tangible answers and justice over trusting in the Holy Spirit to work through them toward resolution and helping others?
This too is a matter of approach with the right state of mind. Regardless of the surrounding life circumstances, approaching God requires surrendering our minds to Him and allowing Him to fill us with His presence, speak to us and direct us. Without some degree of relaxation and preparation, we cannot be fully diverted from our distractions, which to say the least, is problematic. It is very difficult, if not downright impossible, to truly accept a calling or absorb the full impact and meaning of scripture if we are still half focused on the latest political debate on school or foreign policy!
I find myself distracted all the time, and admittedly do not spend nearly as much time seeking God as I should, which probably explains at least a good portion of the negative rants I have to myself. In order to enter the right mindset to focus on God, I often have to remind myself of a few things:
We actually have to make the effort. God is always there to guide and provide for us, but we have to take the action of looking for and calling out to Him. Jesus didn’t say, “I am the bread of life. I feed everyone and no one goes hungry.” He said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry” (John 6:35 NIV). The action is up to us. This is true with all of the I AM’s except “I am the good shepherd.” Only here does Jesus place the action on Himself, saying “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11 NIV).
God is the one true judge. If we judge ourselves or others as we are so quickly and often apt to do, we are only harming ourselves by adding to the negative atmosphere. Jesus said it Himself – “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1 NIV). I admittedly forget this myself far too often – and no doubt the planks hurt my eyes.
People in the Bible are the exceptions, not the rule. It is all too easy to think that we cannot possibly duplicate the ways of those mentioned in the Bible who had a positive encounter with Jesus. But these people are written examples because they had extreme circumstances. Not everybody can do what Peter or Paul did, but thankfully we probably won’t have to. Like countless others before us, we can live in Christ by simply acknowledging and accepting Him, and letting ourselves by guided by scripture and His spirit. This after all reflects our mission statement at Creekside – to be ordinary people living the extraordinary way of Christ.
It can all be summed up by one of my favorite verses, Matthew 6:33: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.” Even in these times, is that really so difficult?