In the game of chess, one does not arbitrarily move pieces to win the game but rather plan ahead many steps to eventually checkmate their opponent’s king piece. Chess masters are known to plan up to 15–20 steps ahead! I enjoyed playing the game here and there as a kid, but I have a deeper appreciation for the nuances of the game as an adult. There’s real beauty within the long-term strategies used in achieving victory; small battles that are seemingly lost early on can actually contribute to victory in the long run. Likewise, moves that seem good at the moment, may contribute to your loss at the end.
Interestingly, the strategies of chess offer us some insight in life. The philosopher Plato had some wise words that apply to us today:
“Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.”– Plato
Perhaps Plato was reading through the book of Proverbs, as the authors teach the same truth:
A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man promotes folly. (Proverbs 14:29)
When words are many, sin is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise. (Proverbs 10:19)
He who is slow to anger is better than a warrior, and he who controls his temper is greater than one who captures a city. (Proverbs 16:32)
The apostle James offers the same advice:
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; (James 1:19)
Do you see the pattern here? There is wisdom in taking time to assess a situation and to not come to hasty conclusions. What seems good, appealing, and even godly today may not actually be from the Lord. Additionally, what is enjoyable today (perhaps because of the quick, feel-good results) may have long lasting consequences we do not see in the moment.
Here’s the problem though—this takes time and effort. Not only that, perhaps the combination of busy schedules, FOMO (fear of missing out), and our society’s general leaning toward instant-gratification, we don’t want to take the time to process everything fairly. We want the facts now.
There are ramifications to this lifestyle however. To disregard proper assessment to life’s circumstances by default means, we are entrusting our information and facts to someone else. This isn’t always a bad thing if the person is trustworthy and has the best intentions for you, but when we consider many people receiving their news from biased news sources, celebrities that have no expertise on a topic, or from people with hidden agendas, you can see the concern. Not only that, from what I’ve observed is the lack of stability in one’s life. Their minds are constantly worried about the latest issue, that they don’t even have time to process or resolve the previous one. They are tossed to and fro by the waves of every latest narrative or schemes of men (Eph. 4:14).
There’s a better way.
I love Christ’s warning against having two masters in one’s life (Matthew 6:24). It isn’t just a caution against the love of money, but it teaches us that our hearts and minds are limited by nature. No matter how hard we try or believe, we have a limited capacity of devotion we can offer to a person or thing. Therefore, let’s consider the following:
1. Lower the amount of information we consume.
FOMO is a false idol. It claims you need to be up to date with the latest news or else you’re a failure. The reality is, Christ has not called us to be the saviors of everything nor has gifted us to be so (1 Corinthians 12). Let us be faithful to what has been given to us, for that is already enough work as it is (Matthew 6:34). Let’s not fall into the trap of believing we must have an opinion on everything lest we believe we are the saviors and not Christ.
2. Change what we consume.
Paul warns Timothy in his first epistle to beware of false teachers. These false teachers were overly obsessed with genealogies, myths, and vain discussions. These pursuits lead to divisions, envy, slander. and evil suspicions. Christians, on the other hand, should seek godliness with contentment. Why? Because we didn’t bring anything into this world, nor will we take anything out of it when we pass. (1 Timothy 6:7) What do we do to pursue godliness with contentment in our lives? What do we do to pursue godly training? (1 Timothy 4:8)
3. Seek advice on what to consume.
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-13)
Earlier we mentioned those who are constantly tossed to and fro by the latest trends and doctrines. In that same chapter, the apostle Paul shows us the proper response to guard ourselves from that lifestyle and that is to seek the wisdom of our pastors and Christian mentors! The author of Hebrews encourages us to consider the faith of our leaders and remember they have been called to watch over our souls (Hebrews 13:7, 17). Consider reaching out to your pastors, especially during this time, for any suggestions on what to read.
4. Consume slowly.
Inevitably, we will hear about the latest issues or crises from others, and we will become mentally and emotionally invested. For these times, let’s reflect on the wisdom of the proverbs offered above. As tempting as it may be, let us be slow to judge and quick to listen. Try not to come to a conclusion until hearing from different, multiple sources. The more we practice this, we will eventually find ourselves becoming more discerning in what we actually eat, or take in. We realize more and more that certain things are not worth our time while others are. Not only that, we see again and again the eternalness of God’s word apply to all of life’s circumstances.
Here are two rules of thumbs:
- Do not come to a conclusion until you have a biblical basis for your reason.
- Ask yourself—how and does this influence my overall understanding and view of Jesus? If it doesn’t, then is it worth pursuing?
As we continue to go through this COVID-19 quarantine, let’s pray and work toward an increased understanding of how God is working throughout all seasons in life. He is working. Let us not lose sight of Him among the numerous fleeting distractions that do exist today. He is worthy of our attention.