I was a little discouraged one night a few months ago. I was discouraged that my wife was very stressed about the move, getting the house set up, getting kids to school. I was feeling unappreciated, feeling like she was ungrateful for everything I’ve done. Bottom line: I was meditating. Mediating on her faults, my “wonderful strengths,” and having a pity party for myself. You see we all meditate. We ruminate. I was feeling unappreciated and was “stuck” meditating on that. So I turned to this verse in Luke 6:35.
But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.
Jesus is saying I should love everyone, including my enemies. Obviously my wife is not my enemy, but if I am supposed to love my enemies, it probably includes my family. As I read, it says, “Hope for nothing in return.” I’ve been thinking, paying attention to that phrase for 2 months now. Rather than, “Beth owes me,” or “I deserve,” I’ve been catching myself in the moments of thinking that way to say to myself, “Hope for nothing in return.” But how? How can I do that? The next part of the verse says, “Your Reward Will Be Great!” Meaning, I will be rewarded By God. I can hope for “nothing now” knowing I will be rewarded later. This moves me -not perfectly-, but moves me from loving, helping, serving my wife to “get something out of it,” to REALLY loving her, helping her, and serving her. What about when I feel like she is being ungrateful? What about when she thinks I am being ungrateful? How does this verse teach me to handle an ungrateful person? “God is kind to the ungrateful.” I’ve been thinking and meditating on that. Even if I could be objective (which I really can’t), and Beth or I were 100% wrong or ungrateful in a situation, how does God respond? “Kindness.” Wow! I have been really struck, thinking about this, meditating on this, Paying Attention to this for 2 months. I am making this part of me. That’s what meditation looks like. Often it’s accompanied by prayer, “God help me see my self pity.” God forgive me my selfishness. God help me to “get this” deep into my mind.
Behind every decision was a thought. If we don’t pay attention to what we think about, some thought will grab your attention. You’ll use alcohol to medicate, allow busyness to take over your life, apathy to disintegrate your marriage… all because you let thought grab your attention instead of paying attention.
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things
How different would your life and mine be if someone choose to “pay attention” vs have something “grab their attention?” If your parents had paid attention to their marriage… If your pastor had paid attention to his wife… If you had paid attention to your spending… If you had paid attention to your savings… How many years of regret would you have avoided if you had paid attention to your faith, to wisdom, or to good advice? Imagine thinking about what you’re thinking about, and Giving Your Attention to things that are true. Prayer is about Giving Attention to God. Prayer is about talking to God instead of talking to ourselves.
Prayer: Give Attention to Who You’re Talking To
Perhaps you are not sure if there is a God, or if there is, you are not sure He or she isn’t some cosmic watch maker who wound up the universe and leaves us alone to figure it out. While that is a possibility, let me ask you this…When you worry or fear or fret, who are you talking to? Aren’t you talking to yourself? When you hold onto bitterness or a grudge, aren’t you “telling yourself” how bad that thing was that was done to you? It may seem psychologically silly to talk to the “great imaginary spaghetti monster in the sky,” but isn’t talking to yourself equally as silly? We all talk to someone. It may be ourself, our psychologist, or a buddy over golf? But if your child has cancer, if you are worried about the future, or if you need direction, doesn’t it make more sense to talk to a being who made everything and has all power and knowledge rather than talking to yourself?
Phil 4:6 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
Paul puts Prayer and Anxiety in the same sentence. Why? Because when we are anxious or worried, we talk to ourselves. Instead Paul says, Talk to God. Talk to God when you are worried, talk to Him when you need some “supplication.” Let your requests be known to God… You already made them known to yourself…Do you see how simple prayer is? It’s GIVING ATTENTION to WHO you are talking to. So let’s Give Attention to Who We are talking to. Talk to God about your life, instead of talking to yourself.
An Elder’s wife was leading a Bible study a few years ago. In the process of that small group, several women began to realize that their default communication and mediation in life was to worry. When something happened, they worried about it (communicated to themselves “worse case scenarios” and “what-if’s”). They also “meditated,” which means to focus on or mix a thought around and around in your head. A woman in that group shared with us a few years ago that this Bible study helped her to stop “meditating” or thinking on worry… and instead she learned to “meditate” or communicate to God in prayer. She first learned to “pay attention to her worrying” and then learned to “pay attention” to what/who she was meditating/communicating with.
I was chatting with a business friend a few years ago. I was talking to him about meditation. He said, “I don’t meditate.” I told him that everybody meditates. It’s whatever you think about, whatever your mind focuses on, that’s meditation. He said, “I don’t think about… what I think about.” He was going through a divorce at the time. He and his wife had multimillion dollar homes, cars, etc. But they were constantly allowing the fault of the other to “grab their attention.” They were constantly meditating on their spouse’s failures. They were meditating, just not on anything good. And that meditation was grabbing them and steering them into a ditch.
STRONG CHALLENGE: This week’s habit is Strong COMMUNICATION. It’s two disciplines that great patriarchs of faith have called, “PRAYER and MEDITATION.” There is a “suit” in your STRONG deck of cards called “Pray.” Take a card out each day for 10-15 minutes and do it. It will challenge you to Pay attention to your thinking, and Give attention to your talking.
The Cost of PAYING and GIVING Attention.
The discipline of praying and mediating require a cost. The cost of time. The cost of energy. The cost of discipline. And most of us can think of many objections to trying this… We don’t want to Pay the cost of our time, energy, habit changes, etc. We don’t think the benefit would be worthy what we pay… It will cost… You will have to “pay” to change your habits and be strong. But, the cost of Paying attention is so much cheaper than the COST OF NOT paying attention. However, right now, instead of the cost of prayer which leads to inner peace. Instead of the cost of getting up earlier and studying/meditating on the Bible, we have the cost of worry, anxiety, lies steering our thoughts into a ditch throughout the day.
OBJECTION #1: Perhaps, you are saying, “Meditation!?”…“on the Bible?” Perhaps you think, “The Bible was written by men…so I won’t read it…I don’t believe it.” A few thoughts to think about… First, if you decided that your criteria for reading books is “I don’t read books written by men,” then you’d never read anything. Right? So let’s not use the “men wrote it” argument… you read stuff written by humans all the time. Whether you think God wrote it or not, read it. Try it. Dig into it. Give it a try.
OBJECTION #2: The cost of reading the Bible. We are all plenty busy. Taking more time to pay attention to our Bible in the morning or at night is time we don’t have. You may say,
“We don’t have time to pay attention.” There is a cost of time that we can’t afford. And we’ve heard that it’s hard to understand, so who wants to take the time to figure out the thing anyway?
Here is the tension. The phrase “Pay Attention” tells us that you will “have to PAY”. There will be a cost. It will require a payment. It will require time. But, the lie is this…paying attention costs something, but having something “grab my attention” is free. No no no…
PAYING ATTENTION WILL COST YOU LESS
THAN SOMETHING GRABBING YOUR ATTENTION.
Meditation: Pay Attention To What You Think About
Prayer: Give Attention to Who You’re Talking To