COVID-19 has not only created new problems for the church, but it has also exacerbated old ones. Before COVID-19 entered our vocabulary, we were already inundated with massive amounts of information. And now, despite the changes to our pace of life, we still find ourselves swamped with the same flood of information. We are just as distracted and overwhelmed as ever. Although now, the information we take in threatens to capture us all the more into anxiety’s snare.
Thankfully, the Scripture is not silent, even on what seems to be a “modern” problem. God’s people have always had to grapple with what their minds and hearts consume. Technology may change the way we consume information, but the fight to guard our thoughts against things that are not good for us is hardly a new battle. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is instructive for us:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (4:8-9).
These verses are likely convicting as we consider our thoughts from the past several weeks. However, God is gracious and wants to instruct us in our thought life.
Here are four truths to glean from this passage as you consider how you take in information this week:
- Our problem is less about how much we consume and more about what we are consuming.
Paul is not at all aiming to be restrictive. Just look at how long his list is! Christian, God wants you to consume lots of good things. As you consider what you are consuming, don’t aim to consume less. Instead, seek to replace unhealthy information with good information. Spend less time mindlessly scrolling through social media and more time in God’s word. Reduce time spent catching up on headlines and more time outside in God’s creation. Pick up that book you’ve always wanted to read. Listen to music filled with the truth of the Scriptures. Don’t consume less, but feast your thoughts on what is good.
- Our circumstances do not excuse us from dwelling on what is good.
Paul penned this letter as he was under house arrest, unable to leave the four walls of his home. How relatable! Paul understood something of what it was like to be confined to his home, unable to gather with the church and to see his friends. Yet, Paul did not stop dwelling on what is good, even in an extremely isolating and difficult situation. His isolation only heightened his need to meditate on good things. Church, we can’t make excuses. We too have all the more need to fix our thoughts on what is good.
- The focus of our minds becomes the focus of our hands.
Paul first tells us what to think and then what to practice. This is because what our minds are set on informs what our hands then seek to do. Even as you practice social distancing and staying home, find opportunities to do good. Don’t just consume good things, but realize that your thoughts will overflow into the fruit of good works. Offer to get groceries for someone. Call up a non-Christian friend you haven’t spoken to in years and share the gospel with them. Write a letter to another church member. There is much good to be done, even from the four walls of our home.
- We are not left without a promise.
As we think about and do what is good, Paul gives us a promise: “And the God of peace will be with you.” In the end, we are not merely aiming to perform mental exercises. We are aiming to get God himself. Christian, you may feel lonely, but you are never truly alone. God himself is with you, even as you are far away from friends and family. Even more than that, he brings with him peace, and that peace is objective, regardless of what you may feel. Perhaps as you think about good things this week, think about this reality the most.
Church, may we see COVID-19 not as a curse but an opportunity. We are more free than ever to focus on what our minds and hearts consume. May we labor well together in this season, feasting on what is good and enjoying the God of peace who is ever with us.