This summer we are taking 10 weeks to read together David Mathis' book Habits of Grace. Each week different people will post their thoughts and reflections following our reading schedule. This week Mike Stone shares some reflections on Chapter 5 and 6. You can download a PDF of the 10-week reading schedule here.
An Idle Mind
There is a saying, “idle hands are the devil’s tools.” How much more dangerous, then, would an idle mind be? Hands, after all, will only do what the mind tells them to.
Speaking from volumes of personal experience, times of idle-mindedness are not fruitful times. They are not productive or even really enjoyable. I am an expert at wasting hours lamenting that things are not other than they are. I imagine what life would be if I had made different decisions in the past, or if some challenge I’m facing was to magically disappear. I compare myself to others. I puff myself up and tear others down. Our minds, when left unchecked, are petri dishes of sin. If idle hands are the devil’s tools, an idle mind is the devil’s blank canvas.
Standing in stark contrast to idle-mindedness are times and seasons when, through intentional effort, I am growing and transforming my mind; keeping it occupied and engaged. Looking back, there is something absolutely special about the times I have been engaged in training my mind to be more like Jesus’. During those times, when I’m filling my mind with the things of God, there is a noticeable difference in the entire tenor and trajectory of my life.
In chapter 5 of Habits of Grace, David Mathis outlines the discipline of Bible memorization. He offers some very helpful, very practical tips on how to make something that often seems out of reach to me appear more like something I can tackle and grow in. In chapter 6, Mathis makes the case for becoming a lifelong learner, continuously saturating our minds with teaching that increases our understanding and appreciation of God - who He is and what He’s done.
These two disciplines come together to form a life that is marked by something very specific. A follower of Jesus who knows the Bible deeply and who studies the wisdom and learning God has given others, will display a degree of wisdom and Christlikeness that can be gained no other way.
A Constant Companion
No one has the ability to consciously choose what we think about at every moment. We are reflexive and reactive thinkers. How, then, can we change our minds so that the thoughts that pop into our heads, seemingly on their own, will look more like God’s thoughts?
I have a close friend that I spent most every day of middle school, high school and the years after with. One of our favorite activities was watching the classic TV show The Simpsons. We can quote, line for line, just about every single episode that aired from 1990 through 2002. When we’re together, about half of our conversation is original thought and the other half is Simpsons' quotes. We see things or think of things that immediately bring to mind a scene from the show and the dialogue just flows out. (A note to young men: this type of skill will not impress your future wives.)
We can have this same relationship to the words and thoughts of God. By spending time immersed in the Bible, meditating on it, committing it to memory and consuming teaching that helps us apply it to our lives, we can become people whose first impressions and default reactions reflect more and more closely the thoughts, principles, and values of God. What if, instead of Simpsons quotes, or sports stats, or home remedies, or pop psychology, the things that fill our minds and overflow into our interactions with others were the very words of good news God is transforming the world with?
A Light in the Darkness
The world is a dark place. The brokenness wrought by sin can be seen at every turn. A few minutes reading or watching the news will give you ample evidence of the destruction and evil we’re faced with.
God intends that His people, armed with minds saturated in Scripture, will be the bulwark against this tide of evil. Even more, God’s people have been tasked with bringing His gospel-remedy to sin and evil out into the world. God’s wisdom and His salvation are the antidote to human-made problems in the world.
Christians who truly know God through knowing the Bible are the only ones equipped for this monumental task. This gospel-spreading mission comprises more than just memorizing verses, although it certainly starts there. We’ve all met people who can quote verses in various situations, but who do so in a way that comes off as glib or arrogant. When we pair memorization with meditation and learning, we can bring God’s truth to bear on situations in a way that sheds light and brings life. This is how God is changing the world, and as followers of Jesus, it is our duty and our pleasure.
Knowing what the Bible says and understanding what it means are foundational to being a Christian and to being an effective part of God’s plan of redemption.