Setting Our Affections on Things Above
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If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.—Colossians 3:1–3
What has been, and is now, one of the strongest feelings in the human heart? Is it not to find some better place, some lovelier spot, than we have now? It is for this that men are seeking everywhere; and they can have it if they will; but instead of looking down, they must look up to find it. As men grow in knowledge, they vie with each other more and more in making their homes attractive, but the brightest home on earth is but an empty barn, compared with the mansions in the skies.
What is it that we look for at the decline and close of life? Is it not some sheltered place, some quiet spot, where, if we cannot have constant rest, we may at least have a foretaste of the rest that is to be? What was it that led Columbus, not knowing what would be his fate, across the unsailed western seas, if it were not the hope of finding a better country?
This it was that sustained the hearts of the Pilgrim Fathers, driven from their native land by persecution, as they faced an iron-bound, savage coast, with an unexplored territory beyond. They were cheered and upheld by the hope of reaching a free and fruitful country, where they could be at rest and worship God in peace. Somewhat similar is the Christian’s hope of heaven, only it is not an undiscovered country, and in attractions cannot be compared with anything we know on earth. ...
It is said by travelers that in climbing the Alps the houses of far distant villages can be seen with great distinctness, so that sometimes the number of panes of glass in a church window can be counted. The distance looks so short that the place to which the traveler is journeying appears almost at hand, but after hours and hours of climbing, it seems no nearer yet. This is because of the clearness of the atmosphere. By perseverance, however, the place is reached at last, and the tired traveler finds rest.
So sometimes we dwell in high altitudes of grace; heaven seems very near, and the hills of Beulah are in full view. At other times the clouds and fogs caused by suffering and sin cut off our sight. We are just as near heaven in the one case as we are in the other. …
When a man is going up in a balloon, he takes in sand as ballast, and when he wants to mount a little higher, he throws out some of it, and then he will mount a little higher ... and the more he throws out, the higher he gets, and so the more we throw out of the things of this world, the nearer we get to God. Let go of them; let us not set our hearts and affections on them, but do what the Master tells us—lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven.—Dwight L. Moody1
What are the things above?
In Colossians 3:2, the words “set your affection on things above” means to place your mind and thoughts on them, to show favor towards them, and to be affectionately desirous of them. For example, because I have affection toward my family, my thoughts are occupied with them as well.
What kind of things consume your thoughts? If you deeply ponder the answer, you’ll know where your real affections lie. … It’s a good thing to love our family and friends, but beyond our loved ones, what consumes our minds most of the time?
Today, the world has many things that consume their minds: Money, Electronics, Food, Entertainment, TV Programs, Travel, Clothing, … Sports and more.
None of these earthly things will we get to take with us to Heaven. We are certainly to enjoy the life that God’s granted us here on earth, but without setting our affections on things above, our mind, thoughts and actions will only be on the temporary things. Setting our affections on the “here and now” of what we can get out of life will profit us NOTHING in our future in Heaven.
What are the things above?
- Our Heavenly Father; our Savior, Jesus Christ
- Our eternal home
- Our Christian loved ones who have passed on before us
- A place of no pain, suffering, sorrow, nor tears
- A place of rest and peace
- A place without sin and evil
When we start to set our affections on things above, the “here and now” hardships aren’t so dreadful … the “here and now” becomes more “temporary” in our minds. The suffering, the sorrow, the pain, the tears … they’re temporary.
Our goals are no longer to work more for here on earth, but to please our Heavenly Father above. Your affection as a child of God should be on things above … things eternal.—Rhonda White2
Some days can feel like a struggle. We get weary in the battles, stuck in tough places, or feel pressure in the heat of hard times. And though it’s true, we can never fully escape all the mess this world may bring our way because we live in a fallen place, we can choose to rise above. And right in the midst of whatever we face, we can remain steadfast, strong, and faithful. Not because we are strong in ourselves, but because He is strong, and as believers, God’s Spirit lives powerfully within us.
Being able to rise above the fear, temptations, and hard places of this life is wrapped around the truth of who we are in Christ. We are redeemed. We are set free. We are being renewed day by day. We are His workmanship in Christ Jesus. We are a new creation. …
In the book of Colossians, Paul reminds us that we have everything we need when we have Christ. He is all-sufficient, He is the head over all, He is supreme, He is greater than any other power or authority. Because of this, as Christ followers, we have His Spirit within us to equip and empower us to walk in freedom and light.
The Greek word used for “set” in this verse means “to seek after, strive for, be intent on.” It tells us this must be a way we choose to live, not something that just occurs one time and we can forget about it. It’s a way of living that allows us to be set free from the things of this world that would seek to hold us back and keep us down.
To “set your minds on things above” is to: Look at life from God’s perspective. And to seek after what He desires. …
The number one way to begin to see things from God’s perspective is to come before Him daily, or many times through each day, learning to walk with Him and recognize His power and presence in our lives. God loves us more than we could ever fully know. He longs to help us and is always there. His words of life remind us that He is our strong tower. He promises to draw near to those who are seeking Him and is faithful to see us through the struggles of this world. …
God never asks us to figure it all out on our own or to live in our own strength. He just asks us to trust Him, to recognize His leadership and sovereignty in our lives, and to set our minds and attention on Him. And He promises to fill our lives with the power of His Spirit, to go before us, and to make our footsteps firm. …
His Truth reminds us that He’s with us, always. Our “with us” God will never leave us or turn away. He holds us through the fiercest struggles and brings peace to uncertain times.—Debbie McDaniel3
Keeping the heavenly vision
In His Word, the Lord tells us that if we’ll look ahead more, if we’ll step back and see the big picture more, if we’ll keep our eyes on heaven more, we’ll have an easier time with the difficulties of today. It’s about perspective. If you’re only looking at what’s happening around you right now, things can seem pretty rough. That’s true for everyone.
Paul said something that we’d do well to take note of: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Corinthians 15:19). In other words, we have to look beyond what we’re going through today to the long term: the rewards, the eternal joy, the surcease from life’s battles. We have to look to the time when we will be with the Lord forever, and that will give us the strength to keep going. All of that is part of keeping the heavenly vision.
We have so much to look forward to, and if we stay focused on that, the little day-to-day bumps in the road will be easier to bear.—Maria Fontaine
Keeping the heavenly vision means stepping back from the small, day-to-day tasks and to-dos and remembering the big picture of why you’re on earth. It’s remembering that you are on earth for a very short time, and that soon you will come to the place where all the struggles, difficulties, and problems won’t matter anymore, and only the eternal and lasting things will come with you.
Don’t lose the heavenly vision by becoming too wrapped up in the cares and trials of earth. Your present existence is such a fleeting thing; your life is but a vapor. Soon, so many of the things that seem so difficult for you are going to be wiped away, and in their place you will receive a crown of life and everlasting rewards for having kept the faith.
In the next life, you’re truly going to be glad that you lived for Me. You’re going to shine as the stars if you’ve been wise and turned many to righteousness (Daniel 12:3). You’re going to be eternally glad for all the times that you laid down your own will so that My will could be done. You’re going to someday count the things of this earth as dung compared to the eternal riches of heaven (Philippians 3:8).—Jesus
Published on Anchor September 2023. Read by Gabriel Garcia Valdivieso. Music by John Listen.
1 Dwight L. Moody, Heaven (first published 1887).
- Living in God’s Word
- God’s Healing Balm in Times of Grief
- Hurry and Worry
- One Thing Before All Things
- Faith Like Gold
- Learning About God’s Mercy
- Trusting Through the Silence
- A Life Well Lived, Today and for the Future
- How God Gave Me a Home
- Setting Our Affections on Things Above