In reflecting on the past several years of my life, I look back and ask myself what sparked in me the hunger to learn more about God; a hunger which continues to grow both exponentially and unexplainably? I believe God had lit the pilot light in my heart a good decade ago, yet I never fed the furnace of my heart any fuel, though I earnestly desired to. I would pray for wisdom and learning, but never put into action those necessary habits that God would, in fact, later on use to begin to answer that prayer. I had the desire, but not the ability to carry it out (Romans 7:18). My natural desires and the Spirit’s desires were opposed, and so I kept myself from doing what I want (Galatians 5:17). I was quasi-diligent in having a bit of quiet time with God and His Word, but only every now and then. I would rise early before the rest of the family, get myself and my Bible situated on the couch, only to jump awake half an hour later. So what transpired between those tired times and the present, where I cannot seem to get enough time to fit in all the reading I would love to do? What is responsible for my everyday thought life being consumed by God? First though, let's look at scripture and 'thinking on God'.
What does it mean to ‘think on God’ then, or as the Apostle Paul states it, to ‘set your mind on things above’? The inspiration behind using the former as a website title comes from the letter Paul wrote to the church in Colossae:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at
the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you
We see many places in Paul’s writings that instruct us on what to set our minds on. We are to set our minds on things of the Spirit, not of the flesh (Romans 8:5-6). We are to think on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise (Philipians 4:8). We are to be mature in our thinking, not childlike (1 Corinthians 14:20). We are to arm ourselves with the way of thinking that focuses not on human passions but on the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2). Ultimately, we even see Christ, in his own words, rebuke Peter for not doing just that:
But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not
setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matthew 16:23)
We have seen what thinking on God is. Now on to the 'how' of the issue. I can only speak for myself as to what it looked like to have the Holy Spirit begin leading me to set my mind on things above. This is no formula for every person, but simply how the Spirit moved and grew in my thoughts and actions. I must also give human credit where due. My beautiful wife had been praying for many years that I would fill fully the leadership role in the family I was called to in God’s Word. Up to this time I had been very lackadaisical in my leading, to say the least.
One evening I was on my smartphone looking for a devotional app in the iTunes store. I came across one app called ‘Ask Pastor John’ (APJ), from Desiring God. It was a podcast of daily questions sent in by listeners and answered by Pastor John Piper. The somewhat randomness of the questions made it fun, and no topic seemed off limits. Many of the questions were ones I had myself and hearing sound, scriptural answers was great. At least while I listened to the episodes and pondered them for a few minutes afterwards, my mind was, albeit ever so briefly, set on things above. One episode was more of a challenge from Pastor Piper on memorizing scripture for specific use as ministry, as all scripture is useful for many things (2 Timothy 3:16-17). He recommended starting with Romans 8, of course. I will be the first to admit my memory is not very good. I forget tasks at work, things my wife said, dates of church events, etc. My memory does not discriminate in its forgetfulness. As I began to slowly memorize verses, I realized that maybe, through God’s grace (Philipians 4:13), I might be able to actually finish this daunting challenge. 5 verses, 10 verses, 20 verses in, I could not stop reciting them in my head (or out loud, just ask my kids).
While this was taking shape I was in a weekly men’s Bible study, and because of our small church size, I was teaching young college kids during Sunday School, and youth group on Sunday evenings. I began to see incredible connections between Romans 8 and my scripture material I was going over for my other endeavors. Light bulbs illuminated, overarching concepts clicked. The Holy Spirit began to stir. I made the choice to begin using Twitter intentionally to follow Desiring God and John Piper. Slowly, I found other great resources to follow like The Gospel Coalition and Rooted Youth Ministry, and many others. My Twitter feed is now this great funnel of Gospel goodness. As my heart was stirred, so was my mind. I began wanting to get up early in the mornings for quiet time again, and I would no longer have to battle nodding off. As I read from His Word in the mornings and continued to listen to the APJ app, which often referenced theologically historical figures like C.S. Lewis and Jonathan Edwards, my curiosity was piqued. A whole new area of learning had presented itself.
Fast forward to present day. I do not say all this to give the impression that any of this could have happened without God’s intervention, nor do I want anyone still reading down this far to believe I am now perfect and think on God 100% of my day. I trip. I fail. I let people down. Thankfully, because of God’s grace and Christ’s work on the cross, when I do these things there is repentance and forgiveness. Be warned too, as learning about God can become an idol when put ahead of knowing God. Keep it in check, priority wise, for the family’s sake also.
In concluding this inaugural post, my final encouragement would be to pray that God would instill and grow your desire to get to know Him and have that time with Him. We know that a person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven (John 3:27). If He stirs in you, act on it. Pray that He would help you make it a habit. Once it feels like part of your routine, pray that He would help you keep it that way. God is faithful!
I find myself now questioning all things, big and small, in reference to God’s Word, and my thoughts wander towards things above much more often than they ever used to.