Our minds are amazing. Using our imaginations, we can go anywhere. I’ve always loved reading, because through stories, I vicariously experience so much I never could in real life. Now video games and the Internet have taken the place of books. Instead of the stimulation of words, people’s minds are visually transported to worlds that seem more reality than fantasy.
What we dwell on becomes our reality, so it’s extremely important we keep our minds in the right place. And where is that right place? Many would argue the Bible and its stories about a supernatural, all-powerful being is a fantasy, but God is the only true reality. We live in a world constantly trying to pull us out of God’s reality into distortions and deceptions, which makes keeping a grip on the truth difficult.
The way to stay firmly in touch with reality is to immerse ourselves in him – in who he is, what he has done and what he is doing now, in this world and in our lives. He is always present with us, but to stay present with him takes some effort. Consider memorizing favorite verses, especially those describing him, such as Colossians 1:15-20 and Philippians 2:5-11.
As we keep our minds on him, he brings the reality of himself into our lives. He becomes our reality and our life. And that’s the best place to be.
A lot of things compete for our attention. We are probably more distracted in 2019 than people have ever been. Our minds often flit from one thing to another throughout the day. If you were asked to catalog how many minutes you spend on each thing you have to think about, would you be able to mark more than 10 minutes on any one thing?
What is on our minds and what we spend time thinking about determines, in large part, the direction of our lives. Those who think about money or fame go in that direction. Those who think about themselves most of the time will naturally be involved in what they want and what pleases them.
Keeping our eyes on Jesus means he is our focus; he is the main thing on our minds, all day, every day. This takes a bit of effort, considering all the distractions we face. But if we make ourselves aware of this, set our minds every morning to turn our thoughts to Jesus several times every hour and pray before every task, we’ll be well on the way to including him in all aspects of our day.
As Brother Laurence said, “The most holy and important practice in the spiritual life is the presence of God – that is, every moment to take great pleasure that God is with you.”
Like me, you’ve probably experienced times when you haven’t known what to do. Sometimes it’s a tough decision; sometimes it’s a fork in the road with no indication of which way to take. A long time ago, during one of those times when I was frustrated, feeling a little hopeless and had no idea which way to go, I found a verse in a book I rarely read, that provided not the solution, but words of great encouragement to my soul. I don’t know why I turned to 2 Chronicles that day – maybe it wasn’t an accident – but that’s where I found a guiding principle for the rest of my life.
Chapter 20 tells the story of when Jehoshaphat faced a huge army and was understandably alarmed (NIV). Other translations say he was afraid. He admitted he didn’t know what to do, but he did know who to turn to. In his prayer in verse 12, he said, “…we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” Then God spoke through Jahaziel, telling them the battle was God’s, not theirs. Their response was to worship God, who gave them victory over their enemies.
Perhaps admitting we don’t know what to do is a good first step, as the admission causes us to stop relying on our own power, turn our eyes to Jesus and lean on him. Following the advice of the psalmist in 46:10, we can be still, know he’s God, praise him and let him win the battle for us.
The third basic guideline to keep in mind when hearing from God is to be humble, but not, as Dallas Willard reminds us, to be humbly arrogant. This attitude mistakenly asserts we aren’t important or good enough to hear from him. But the truth is, we are important enough – so much that God gave his son’s life for us and chooses to inhabit us as a living temple. “Obviously then we are important enough for him to guide us and speak to us whenever that is appropriate.”
Alternatively, Dallas reminds us, “his speaking to us does not in itself make us important.” It doesn’t make us righteous or right. It doesn’t even mean we have heard him correctly. Rather, “his speaking to us only gives us greater opportunity to be and to do good and greater responsibility for the care and guidance of others.”
If we are all hearing from him regularly as part of a mature, loving, relational, conversational relationship, it will be normal. We won’t feel the need to share it with everyone, because as with most of us, what happens in relationships stays private. We won’t need to parade his communication to others, as if it’s unusual or a badge, or that he somehow singled us out.
“In seeking and receiving God’s word to us therefore, we must at the same time seek and receive the grace of humility. God will gladly give it to us if, trusting and waiting on him to act, we refrain from pretending we are what we know we are not, from presuming a favorable position for ourselves in any respect and from pushing or trying to override the will of others in our context. (This is a failsafe recipe for humility. Try it for one month. Money-back guarantee if it doesn’t work!)”
I highly encourage you to read this book – it contains many more valuable insights on hearing from and listening to God.