No matter the situation or context, no matter the “craziness” going on around us, the Christian is that person who sets themselves to still thinking about and focusing on the things of the Spirit. Are there distractions? Yes! There will always be distractions…perhaps it is our focus on God in the midst of distraction which is so necessary for our growth and faith and life.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
I first wrote these meditations in the early months of the COVID pandemic when everyone was isolated at home, and it struck me how much I and other brothers and sisters needed to meditate deeply upon God’s word. Essentially, I was attempting to help my church and anyone else who would read these do precisely what Paul says Christians do in Romans 8:5 – setting our minds on the things of the Spirit. Even now, this reminds me of a famous sermon C.S. Lewis preached in Oxford in 1939, right at the outset of WW2 and during the German blitzkrieg where German bombs were continually dropping on England day and night. Lewis, asking what should students do in the midst of such turmoil, when the world was seemingly coming to an end, answered thus:
“The peculiar difficulty imposed on you by the war is another matter, and of it I would again repeat what I have been saying in one form or another ever since I started—do not let your nerves and emotions lead you into thinking your predicament more abnormal than it really is. Perhaps it may be useful to mention the three mental exercises which may serve as defenses against the three enemies which war raises up against the scholar.
The first enemy is excitement—the tendency to think and feel about the war when we had intended to think about our work. The best defense is a recognition that in this, as in everything else, the war has not really raised up a new enemy but only aggravated an old one. There are always plenty of rivals to our work. We are always falling in love or quarrelling, looking for jobs or fearing to lose them, getting ill and recovering, following public affairs. If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable.
Favorable conditions never come. There are, of course, moments when the pressure of the excitement is so great that only superhuman self-control could resist it. They come both in war and peace. We must do the best we can.”
In essence, Lewis maintains that we should give our minds and effort to business as usual, as best we can. I think this is right in line with what Paul is getting at in Romans 8, verses 5-6. No matter the situation or context, no matter the “craziness” going on around us, the Christian is that person who sets themselves to still thinking about and focusing on the things of the Spirit. Are there distractions? Yes! There will always be distractions – some certainly greater than others. But perhaps it is our focus on God in the midst of distraction which is so necessary for our growth and faith and life. Isn’t this what Paul says in verse 6?