In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus cautioned us concerning focusing all our efforts and attention on the acquisition of material things or goals, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). Along the same line He equally reminded us:
- “For not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).
In other words, physical stuff cannot keep us alive, such things cannot provide any lasting happiness, and they cannot deliver true peace or security. Looking to physical things for my sense of well being will be a mistake. If anything, in this story such things only provided a very temporary and false sense of security (12:19). Instead of thinking that I need a certain level of material goods to be safe or happy (12:13), Jesus reminded us that we need to be right with God.
- “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).
What you cannot see right now, God, Jesus, heaven, etc… is far more real and lasting then what you can see. All earthly things decay and in time the entire universe will simply past away (2 Peter 3:10).
The Pocket Pacifier
Kiley Crossland in an article entiled “The Pocket Pacifier” noted that therapist Mary Piper, in interviewing 100 girls from ages 12 to 19 and their mothers heard teens repeatedly say that they could not live without their smart phones, but that they did not like their lives with them, either. The question Kiley was seeking to raise and answer in the article was “Is the mental health crisis among teens tied to their dependence on technology?” Various experts are battling back and forth on this question. What the article did reveal was the danger for a smart phone to become a constant pacifier rather than a communication device. That a phone loaded with games and the Internet enables young people to be constantly entertained, distracted and lulled, and leaves them with a very low tolerance for distress and discomfort, which leads to anxiety and depression. Crossland quotes licensed marriage and family therapist Melissa Wilson who says, “Pain is a part of life, and if we cannot tolerate pain, we cannot tolerate life” (For the entire article go to www.wng.org). Whether or not you agree with the findings in the article, I thought that the following observations were important for Christians to remember:
The Importance of Face to Face Contact
God designed us to be relational beings, and to be engaged in real relationships that demand one on one, face to face conversation and interaction:
- While Paul wrote letters, it is clear that such letters were no substitute for a face to face interaction. “Longing to see you” (2 Timothy 1:4).
- In addition, the value of face to face instruction: “When we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith” (1 Thess. 3:1-2).
- I believe that most of us would consider the passages which constantly speak of encouraging one another, to often involve more than just sending someone a note (1 Thessalonians 5:12-14; Hebrews 10:24).
The Real Place of Safety
As noted in some of the previous passages, Jesus warned us concerning thinking that physical things can keep us safe and secure or protect bad things from happening to us. Continually He exhorted us to find our place of safety, refuge and well being in a relationship with God:
- “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
- One of the challenges in navigating life is wisely selecting the right place of safety. Because what can look like a place of refuge can end up being a tomb (Deuteronomy 32:37).
Repeatedly the Bible points us to a relationship with God as being the only authentic place of safety and security.
- “My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge” (2 Samuel 22:3).
- “He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him” (2 Samuel 23:31).
- “O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8).
- “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
The idea seems to be like being in the eye of a hurricane where all is calm. The world can be and will be chaotic (just watch the news) and many people around me, friends, co-workers and relatives can be caught up in all sorts of drama, but the Christian remains calm. Maybe this is the idea behind passages such as Psalm 91:7 “A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not approach you”. A situation in which things are crazy in the world around you, particularly in the lives of those who are not obeying God: “You will only look on with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked, for you have made the Lord, my refuge” (Psalm 91:8).
The Importance of Silence
We live in a world of 24/7 news and verbal clutter. The Internet has become increasingly crowded with everyone sharing their opinion. It is easy to get so distracted by the verbal clutter that we do not take the time and examine our own thoughts.
- “My soul waits in silence for God only; from Him is my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken” (Psalm 62:1-2). This is repeated in 62:5.
- “But the Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth be silent before Him” (Habakkuk 2:20).
The first verse seems to suggest that the proper way of waiting for God is to abstain from complaining, murmuring and entertaining all the “what if’s”. The Bible equally endorses the idea of meditating upon the word of God:
- “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).
- “Even though princes sit and talk against me, your servant meditates on Your statutes. Your testimonies also are my delight; they are my counselors” (Psalm 119:23-24).
May I suggest to you that passages such as Psalm1:1-2 are the Old Testament counterpart of verses such as Philippians 4:8 which exhort us to dwell on what is true. Everyone “dwells”, “ponders” or “meditates” upon something. So we all practice this to a degree. The danger is that many people spend their mental energy dwelling upon all the wrong things. They dwell on past slights, or supposed wrongs committed against them. They dwell on sinful or angry thoughts. They dwell in the land of plotting revenge. Others mentally live in a fantasy world in which they are finally happy because suddenly money or some other thing suddenly arrived and changed their life. Unfortunately often the Internet moves us to dwell on all the fearful things that could happen or to postpone our happiness by telling us that we cannot be happy unless we have this or that. The benefit of silence is that when I pick up the Bible and simply read and meditate I suddenly am being reminded of all that is good and true. Of how blessed I am (or could be if I just obeyed God). That if I am right with God, then there is nothing to fear.
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017