In part one we examined the principle: where you stare matters. When we take time to look at, consider or observe something, that particular thing captivates our attention. Without exercising great caution, whatever it is that captivates your attention will inevitably influence your thinking and acting. Part one demonstrated with a variety of case studies in the biblical text how this influence works. In Part two of this blog, we will help you understand how to protect your eyes and live in victory.
Wrestling with Your Thoughts
Considering Psalm 73 and the struggle of Asaph, the major transition spiritually took place when he changed his focus. He initially saw the prosperity of the wicked (73:4-12). It was not as simple as looking over and seeing their clothes, homes, or pay stubs. Instead, he watched them, made careful observations, and compared what they had to his own portion in life (73:13-14). In his estimation, Asaph was convinced that his effort to keep a pure heart and a holy lifestyle was all for naught. He concluded that God disciplined him all day long just for the fun of it. Asaph is restless, conflicted, angry, bitter, condescending toward God, and jealous of others (73:15-16).
That is, “until he went into the sanctuary of God” (73:17). What happened to Asaph? He changed his focus which impacted his conclusions. He received God’s perspective. His eyes moved from the prosperity of the wicked to the character, presence, and plan of God. Here we find the transformation of his outlook: a turning from self-interest and self-pity eventually to satisfaction and gratitude with God.
Like Asaph, it is essential to wrestle with your thoughts. Be aware of what you are rehearsing in your heart. What are you saying to yourself? You will need to stop listening to yourself and begin to speak the truth of the Scriptures, the gospel of Jesus Christ, to yourself. Does what you are thinking honor God? Does it reflect a heart with God’s priorities? Does it reflect the humility of a Christ-follower? Are you thoughts full of discontentment? Anger? Bitterness? Confess these thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes as sin, repent where necessary, and become aware of your weaknesses (73:21-22, 26). Seek to be as practical and specific in your gratitude as you are in your complaints.
The key to wrestling your thoughts is to understand the power of the conclusions you make. Your conclusions shape your agenda for life-lived. Your conclusions provide the lens through which you view God, your circumstances, others, and yourself. If you perceive something you see as better than what God has given you, then you will view God as less than good, Christ less than sufficient, and grace less than adequate, as your conclusion affects your entire view of life.
Protect Your Eyes
Let me suggest there are at least three ways you can protect your eyes.
First, recognize the lures and traps that typically influence your heart. James wrote, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:13). Your desires – whatever it is that you want – are what draw you and entice you. Just realizing this helps you begin to understand how easy it is to be captivated. When you want something, it is hard to keep from looking at it. There is a natural draw from your heart to focus on what you want. So you begin to identify your desires as the key to know what captivates you.
Second, when you want something that you do not have, you begin to see God’s gifts to you as less than good. This is why James immediately warns his readers: “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:16-17). Essentially James is helping his readers know that what they have now is as much God’s gift as what they do not have. Although what you want may be seemingly better, more helpful, or needful, what you have is just as much from God. Therefore, we must be content with what we have.
Third, help your eyes focus on what is right by feeding your thoughts with God’s perspective. James continues, “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25). The idea of the term looks is stooping over to get a good look, to examine. As followers of Christ, our good look needs to linger in God’s Word – to continue in it. When we do, it will help direct our thoughts toward what is right and helpful. It will direct our hearts. As we look, God’s Word becomes a guardrail to keep our hearts from chasing our various desires that can distract us. This of course begins with Bible reading, but also includes intentional Bible memorization, listening to messages, reading quality blogs, listening to quality music with God-honoring lyrics, and participating in godly conversations.
Live in Victory
As you learn to protect your eyes and be more careful with what you see, you will find victory is possible. As James writes, you will be blessed in what you do. You will find that you find joy in Christ’s presence, satisfaction in God’s gifts, and a growing appreciation for your present circumstances. This process begins with the simple step of becoming aware of where you look, what you see, where you place your focus. “Oh be careful little eye what you see…”
Join the Conversation: What are some practical ways that you suggest to keep your eyes focused on God and godliness?