The Discipline of Vertical Concentration

Todd Stiles   -  

An old adage warns us not to be so heavenly minded that we’re of no earthly good. But that’s a false proposition. Frankly, it’s precisely the opposite—we think too little about heavenly things. As a result, we often do less good than we should.

This is the core command of Colossians 3:1-2, where Paul beautifully exhorts us to “seek the things that are above” and to “set your mind on things that are above.” Without any ambiguity, the call is to live with vertical concentration. A heavenward gaze. A settled view towards our eternal home. This type of thinking—vertical concentration—is a key way believers deepen their affections for Christ.

Why? Because, generally and eventually, our feelings follow our focus. Thus, when our thoughts are intentionally set on Christ and heaven, our emotions and behavior will ultimately be impacted, and we will begin to “feel” and “do” what we “know.” When we “seek” and “set,” we will start seeing both our desires and deeds change.

In fact, this is how the next section of Colossians 3 unfolds. Paul follows his exhortation to live with vertical concentration by showing the result: horizontal sanctification. Specifically, we begin to experience the transforming power of God to put off the old self (vs 5-11) and put on the new one (vs 12-17). He even concludes with an umbrella-like statement, reminding his fellow believers that whatever they do, whether in word or deed, to “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus” (v 17). Now that’s vertical concentration!

Nestled within this portion of Scripture are two threads I don’t want you to miss; common go-to themes that will help us “seek” and “set” so that our affections for Christ are strengthened. Those threads are 1) God’s Word and 2) gratefulness.

I’ll be the first to tell you you can mine much more out of this text. But you dare not miss these these two elements at the least. For without a doubt, God’s Word and a grateful spirit are essential building blocks to developing a life of vertical concentration.

Scripture stands as our solely sufficient source for “learning Christ” (Ephesians 4:20), the One on whom our eyes should be fixed (Hebrews 12:1-2). And thankfulness in all things based on the sovereignty of God over all things enables us to get through all things because we see them from a different perspective—a divinely vertical one. So let each day be drenched with God’s Word and a grateful heart.

As you engage in these two central components of vertical concentration, you’ll discover your longings and affections for Christ deepening. You’ll experience a focus that is increasingly heavenly, a mind gradually becoming more and more occupied and satisfied—renewed—with the treasure of Christ and dissatisfied with the trappings of this world.

So look up, my brother or sister. Settle your sights on the loveliness of our Lord. Cast your eyes to the kingdom of God. This is the kind of vertical concentration that feeds our inner affections.

Pastor Todd