Giving our attention to the contemplation of God can sound boring. In an age when our minds are constantly bombarded with information and our attention spans are growing shorter, slowing down to give deep, intentional thought to theology can seem incomprehensible, impractical even with all of the practical problems that we face each day.
On January 7, 1855, Charles Spurgeon stood behind the pulpit of New Park Street Chapel in London to deliver a sermon from Malachi 3:6. His topic from the passage would be God’s immutability, or his changelessness. With the pressing troubles that so many in attendance were facing—poverty, overwhelming sin, dying family members—why would Spurgeon focus on such an abstract concept?
Before diving into the text, the Prince of Preachers answered that very question. He told the congregation about the effect of contemplating the Divine. Spurgeon knew that the greatest aim of his ministry is to give his people a vision of God that would dwarf whatever issues they may be facing on a daily basis. His exhortation is one that we need to hear, as well. The Baptist preacher explains three effects of giving our minds to contemplating God’s character, nature, and essence.
Spurgeon writes, “It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity.” To consider the Lord of the universe is to consider the infinite and eternal One who has life in himself. Mankind is prone to make God in our own image, a being that we can manage and fully comprehend. When we meet the triune God, we meet a divine Being whose essence our finite minds cannot fully grasp, and the only proper response is humility. We, like our brother Isaiah, can only exclaim, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
An Expanded Mind
Christians are often seen as some of the most narrow-minded people, so an expanded mind seems to run contradictory to the study of God. But Spurgeon explains, “He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe…Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity.”
In the broader context, Spurgeon has in mind those who study science with a naturalistic understanding of the world. While there is a benefit in studying the sciences, studying all things in light of the Lord broadens our understanding of reality. It gives us a lens through which to view the world. Likewise, contemplating God forces us to look beyond the material world to the spiritual forces that are at work around us.
Most of us fill our minds with insignificant details: the latest celebrity gossip, our favorite team’s stat sheet, or the plotline of the Netflix show we just binge watched last weekend. They’re the sugary dessert of thinking. We would all benefit from chewing on the protein-rich doctrine of God.
While it may not be obvious that the study of God touches our emotional needs, Spurgeon argues otherwise. He exclaims, “Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore.” When we are in the valley of despair, those are the very times that we need to turn our gaze upon the One who is seated high and exalted. In the gospel, we encounter the sovereign Lord of the universe who has drawn near to you in his Son. We meet the God who is both exalted and imminent.
Are you dealing with depression and suffering? Consider Jesus, the Savior who is well acquainted with suffering and grief. Are you being crushed by the weight of finding your identity in your work? Spend time gazing at the Savior whose righteousness is our identity. The study of God brings consolation because we realize there is an eternal hope, and that Hope has a name.
Filling our minds with the knowledge of God does something in us. It changes us. It brings hope to the gloomiest of situations. If you’re looking for a place to start, consider picking J.I. Packer’s Knowing God or Ray Ortlund’s The Gospel.
What are some other resources you would recommend for those who are wanting to spend time contemplating God?