Have you ever noticed, dear friends and readers, how tricky it can be sometimes to put God first in our lives?
I have been deliberately trying to do just that for several years. I started with the obvious stuff, like giving thanks to God before each meal. That one took a year to become a consistent practice. It was much more difficult than I thought it would be to remember to give God thanks for my nourishment. I felt embarrassed that I would often forget to do such a simple thing. And I began to understand how strongly tied I had become to earthly things, to my material body, to my own immediate satisfaction. When I finally managed to acknowledge God’s role in providing for me, and started to thank Him regularly for His kindness and care for me, I began to take more notice of my spiritual life. As I grew more aware of what I would come to view as my real existence, my eternal spiritual existence, my life began to change in ways I could never have anticipated.
As I turned my thoughts to God, my focus turned away from me and toward others. That’s when the real joy of living started kicking in. Not only were my own goals easier to reach, but I began to experience genuine joy in the accomplishments of people around me. I wanted to help them reach their goals. I find now, three years later, that my favorite activity in life is encouraging others. God is good! He is mysterious, powerful, loving, and wants to be personally involved in our lives with our best interests at heart.
Even knowing all that, I still sometimes take the first bite of an eagerly anticipated sandwich before I remember to thank Him. Actually, that happens more often than I care to admit. Maybe three times out of five during the school week. Yet, I continue to try to be a better, more grateful servant of my God. I suppose that is a never-ceasing enterprise for all of us.
This brings me to my latest surprising new understanding which should never have surprised me at all; Christian music totally rocks, even in situations I swore it wouldn’t.
I have the very good fortune to live in a region which receives the Christian contemporary radio station, K-LOVE. If you have the station available in your area, or can stream the station via the internet, I suggest you give it a listen. There is something very special about that station. Their tagline is “positive, encouraging,” and that is an exactly apt description. The bands and artists creating the music on the K-LOVE playlist are truly being led by our mercy-filled Lord. The staff is as well. I have stopped counting the number of times that I have heard on K-LOVE exactly what I needed to hear at a particular moment to get me over a particular struggle.
Until recently, I listened to Christian music only in my car.
When I write, or do math, I listen to music. I have always preferred a mixture of electronic styles, primarily instrumentals, with a moderately slow, repetitive, steady phrasing. I was speaking to a Christian friend a few weeks ago, telling him of my music preferences. He is a fellow mathematics student, and also a musician in a Christian contemporary band. He agreed that he used to think that the lyrics of his favorite Christian songs would distract him while studying, but that his experience turned out differently.
That night, I changed my Pandora station from ambient chill to Christian contemporary. And you know what? My friend was right. Not only did the lyrics (which I sing at the top of my lungs in the car) not distract me, but the music lifted me up and helped me to be more productive.
Wow! God is so good!
I think that the reason it is difficult for us to make Godly changes which are clearly beneficial to us, is that we are tied to the material world. As humans, as creatures born into a fallen creation, we must actively seek to pull ourselves free of the brambles that constantly wind around our ankles trying to pull us deeper into the material world — into the consumer-oriented, gratification-driven, pride-structured, world. Jesus gave us the answer to pulling out of the mire and drawing closer to God. During the Sermon of the Mount, in clear language, among a rich list of instructions for living a life which is pleasing to God, Jesus said:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” – Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)
Go ahead: seek, knock, ask. I guaranteed you that at the very least it will do you no harm.