January 9, 2014

Undivided and stable-minded

Attention deficit has been labeled an illness, a mental problem, an issue of socialization, a chemical imbalance, and even the sin of an undisciplined mind. As a person easily distracted, I’ve considered all of these. I’ve even been told, “You are likely a genius and easily bored” and “people with the gift of teaching like yours are interested in everything and often struggle to focus.”

Whatever of these is true (even all of them), I often feel unstable. I can be sincerely praying about a serious issue and in mid-sentence, my mind flips to total trivia. The Holy Spirit can keep me focused, but this is always in a childlike helplessness. He enables me to focus on praising God, yet I still struggle with consistency in any other cerebral endeavors.

On the topic of “No other gods” my devotional booklet points to the problem of being double-minded. While this is not exactly the same as being easily distracted, they do share some elements.

But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he (Jesus) said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? (Matthew 12:24–26)

In context, this is about the attitude of the Pharisees against the healing Jesus did and the power behind that healing. However, it gives another important principle. If my easily turned thoughts are pitted against each other, something has to give. That is, I cannot hold to kingdom principles and at the same time hold to anything worldly or sinful. This kind of double-mindedness creates chaos and confusion. God did not create us to think that way.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5–8)

The principle behind such instability is this: if the flip flops are opposing values such as honesty/deceit, purity/immorality, trust/doubt and so on, then my spiritual life will be unstable. Steadfast faithfulness will be difficult if not impossible, and consistency cannot happen.

Jesus talked about the love of money and said that if “your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:23–24)

This principle is true for the flip flops previous mentioned, but also true for a long list of similar opposing spirit vs. flesh values. Christians will struggle a lifetime with some of these back and forth matters. The best we can do is to stay as long as possible in the faith side of the equation.

However, this isn’t the point of today’s reading. The point is that no one can do both at the same time. As a recent television show illustrated, true multitasking is impossible. The mind flips back and forth because it cannot think of two things at the same time. While some admire those who can do that flip flop with skill, God doesn’t -- at least when it comes to faith and no faith, or pure thoughts and impure thoughts, or love for others and disregard for others. He wants stability of thought and action.

This is so serious that the Bible indicates that those flip flop fleshy thoughts can even be a form of serving Satan. He opposes faith, purity, honesty, and all virtue by encouraging doubt, sin, and lies. If I flip flop between these opposites, then I cannot be stable-minded.

You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. (1 Corinthians 10:21)

The answer to this battle is always the grace of God and the Word of God. By the power of Jesus Christ, I can put off that old self (which belongs to my old way of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires) and be renewed in the spirit of my mind. By that same power, I can put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22–24)  

Regardless of what is at the root of ADD or any other form of mental instability, Christ is sufficient. He is able to stabilize the most unstable mind because of His amazing grace.

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