The purpose of Christian Mindfulness is to retrain our minds to be absolutely attentive to God, moment by moment. In Matthew 17 Jesus is transfigured as He speaks with Moses and Elijah. Peter’s thoughts scatter immediately, but a bright cloud overshadows them and the Father speaks, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” (Matthew 17:5 NASB) Peter feels a need to do something in response to what he sees; he wants to memorialize the event by creating shelters for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. God says, “listening” is the action Peter should take.
“Listen to Him!” I can’t imagine a simpler, easier to follow command. If you’re like me, you struggle daily with knowing God’s will, having the faith to embrace it and the discipline to walk it out. But listening? Even children will listen to what interests them. Listening is a natural response of engagement; it is attentiveness toward another person’s ideas and instructions. Why then, is stopping and listening to God so difficult?
Listening is much more complicated today than it was for Peter. It really goes without saying that we live in an incredible age. We can communicate with most anyone in the world in real-time through any number of means. Ironically, the ease of communication makes it all the harder to hear. It’s easy to get caught not listening isn’t it? “Sorry… I was on my phone.” “Oops, I was reading email.” “Just a minute, I need to finish this text.”
A couple of years ago, I came to the conclusion that my brain needed regular training to improve my attentiveness to God. Last week I left you with a focusing exercise provided by my friend, Dr. Lorrie Slater. That was to be my last post on mindfulness for a while. As I prepared for this week’s blog, however, I found I just couldn’t let it go. I need to say that although mindfulness exercises can be extremely helpful, the point is not the exercises. The goal is learning to be with God in this moment… and listening.
Quieting ourselves and listening to God can be practiced any number of ways. I walk several miles at lunch each day for health reasons. A co-worker once asked me if I walked to organize my thoughts and solve problems. I laughed. I walk to clear my mind of all those things. I pray and listen to God. I try to force myself to hear every bird and rustling leaf. On a good day, I can tell you where I am on my route by the smells, alone. I try to fully engage my senses so that my mind doesn’t wander and I am forced to stay in the moment with God. This is Christian Mindfulness.
Do you feel as though you’ve never done anything quite “big” enough for God? Do you feel inadequate when you hear of those that have fed millions of starving children or those whose preaching has turned entire nations toward God? We can make the Christian walk so needlessly complicated by our imaginings. Any real service toward God begins with listening. Anything started any other way is a dead work.
Alright, let’s have a show of hands… Presuming we are all Christians, how many of us hope to stand before God someday and hear,
“Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,”? (Matthew 25:34 NASB).
Okay… I see those hands, (just kidding, of course). I’m assuming that those of you who didn’t raise your hands weren’t listening… you guys need to restart the article. 🙂
Our listening in each moment reflects our heart toward God. As we read the entire passage in Matthew 25:31-46, we see that entrance into the kingdom is determined by recognizing Jesus in the people we encounter. That necessitates staying present in the moment, listening to God’s voice. It requires putting one foot in front of the other and ministering to those whom God sends.
“For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35-36 NASB).
Those who are denied entry into the kingdom are believers, as they call Jesus “Lord.” However, they are quite surprised to be refused entry into the kingdom.
“Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?” (Matthew 25:44 NASB).
It might be easy to think of these individuals as evil, hard-hearted or selfish people. What if they are merely too preoccupied to listen for the opportunities Jesus places in their paths. Listening makes all the difference.
King David was a man that practiced listening to God from a very young age. Throughout the Psalms, we see David asking questions of God. Frequently, we see the word, “Selah.” Although there is considerable scholarly discussion about the meaning of “Selah,” the Amplified Bible translates it as “pause and calmly think about that.” I like to think that David was a man that was wise enough to listen to an answer when he spoke with God.
David’s preparations in learning to listen to God bear life changing results. In chapter 30 of the first Book of Samuel, David and his men returned to their homes in Ziklag to find that an enemy had burned their city and kidnaped their wives and children. The men were crushed. The scripture says they “lifted up their voices and wept until there was not strength in them to weep.” (I Samuel 30:4). There was even talk among the men of stoning David. They were so overtaken with grief and anger that there was none among them with the presence of mind to call upon God. Except David.
David was a man who was accustomed to listening to God. “David strengthened himself in God.” (I Samuel 30:6). David spoke with God and was instructed to pursue the enemy.
“But nothing of theirs was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that they had taken for themselves; David brought it all back.” (I Samuel 30:19).
You never know when the ability to quiet yourself and listen to God will change the course of history.
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