“I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” (Ps. 16:8, ESV).
With this verse, Holy Spirit is sharing with us a secret that will produce unshakable steadfastness in our lives. If we would like to grow into that place where absolutely nothing can devoid of us peace, we need to dig deep into what He is saying here. What does it mean to “set the Lord always before me?”
I spent much of my childhood in Tucson, Arizona. Surrounding the city are beautiful, majestic mountains. As I was learning to drive, each distinctive set of peaks helped me establish my direction. If I wanted to go north, I would set the Catalinas in front of myself. The mountains never moved; rather, I needed to orient and move myself based on their immovable presence.
Our God of Angel Armies never moves from His position either. He is our True North. He is always on His throne, high and lifted up, with the Name above every name! We can always lift up our inner eyes to His mighty sovereignty and love, and find strength.
He encourages us to set Him before ourselves always. This requires a training of our focus. If left to default mode, our thoughts tend to wander all over the place. Honestly, the human mind nearly seems to have a mind of its own! Teaching our thoughts to continually return to the Lord takes discipline and extensive practice.
The second law of Thermodynamics states that everything in our universe, when left to itself, tends toward more and more disorder. This is exactly the case with our thought life. The thoughts in our head are comparable to a classroom full of small children. If left unsupervised, those little ones are going to get into all sorts of mischief. The chaos in the classroom is going to grow by the minute. Similarly, our thoughts, if allowed to remain unchecked, can get us into boundless trouble.
Here is the flipside: that same classroom, under the tutelage of a dedicated educator, can become one of the most amazing learning environments. Just like that outstanding teacher, you can commit yourself to training your thoughts to regularly focus in on Jesus. In doing so, your mental space will become increasingly full of life and peace.
Let’s go ahead and acknowledge, our hypothetical preschool teacher has a challenging task in front of her every day. Children take a long time to grow up. I am by no means suggesting that the training of our minds can take place quickly or easily. However, with persistence and God’s empowering, you will be amazed at the development that is possible as you persevere.
An excellent schoolteacher employs gentleness and patience in working with her young charges. This is the posture God wants you to take with yourself. Throughout your learning journey, be kind to yourself.
This is what it will look like: You set aside time to pray, and you begin. Two seconds after you sit down, your mind wanders to what you need to get done today. Gently redirect it back onto Jesus. A short while later, you wince as you remember the way you yelled at your kids. Gently redirect. Not long afterwards, the unpaid mortgage bill flits across your thoughts. Gently redirect. Throughout your whole prayer time, as often as your mind wanders, over and over, simply redirect your focus back onto Jesus.
Do not be angry with yourself. Carry out this redirecting with grace and patience. Yes, you might need to do this so many times that it’s tempting to view it as ridiculous. It’s not. You are learning. This is how the process works. With persistence, those little children are going to learn to sit still in their chairs. With perseverance, you are going to become proficient at setting the Lord always before you!
“…to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6, ESV).
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