“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” —2 Corinthians 10:5
It is easy to become distracted. You are happily listening to your pastor’s online sermon when your smartphone vibrates—a notification tells you that someone tagged you in a Facebook post. You open it, smile, then react with an emoticon. You saw something on someone else’s wall and you begin to scroll down. Forty minutes later, you are watching an “America’s Got Talent” episode of a guy eating swords. By this time, the sermon has already ended and you are left feeling guilty. This is an all too common situation people may experience in this technology age. Perhaps Wesley is right—so long as we live in this world, we cannot be fully delivered from wandering thoughts because we are surrounded by things that compete for our attention.
How many times have we experienced—quite embarrassingly—that even our participation in spiritual activities or attendance in Christian gatherings is merely physical because our minds are somewhere else? “You are physically present but mentally absent,” my mother repeatedly exclaimed to me as a child. Though they are common, there does not need to be any external stimulus to divert our attention to something else. Our minds are prone to wander from one thing to another, even when our eyes are closed in prayer and meditation. Possessing a mind focused on one thing is difficult to achieve. To be distracted seems a part of life.
But there is a kind of wandering of the mind that we must avoid as Christians.
When we became Christians, we were delivered from falsehood, worldly futile thinking, and darkened understanding (Ephesians 4:17-18). We have been transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2), and our constant goal is to have the “mindset of Christ” (Philippians 2:5) or “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). We must be careful not to return to thinking in accordance with the patterns of this world. The consequence of this is dire: “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed” (Ephesians 4:19). We must thus make every effort to remain fixed on Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Our minds are prone to wander because even though we truly love God and have our minds on Him, the world is constantly trying to take our attention away from Him and His pleasing will.
What are some evidences of wandering thoughts? Wesley enumerates a few of these: thinking nothing of God, fighting against God’s will, having unbelieving thoughts, questioning God’s character, proud imaginations about our self-worth, malicious thoughts about others, and sensual thoughts. Of course, this list is not exhaustive. When our minds begin to wander away from God and His holiness, our thoughts begin to be occupied by other things that will eventually compete for supremacy. What we need is to be delivered from these thoughts.
When we repent, the Holy Spirit will cleanse our minds. Then we can heed to Paul’s admonition: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
Dick Eugenio is the academic dean of Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary and discipleship coordinator for the Philippine-Micronesia Field.
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