Word association games are fun! What is the first word that comes to your mind when you hear the word “music!” Almost always, you do not have to “work” at word association, for almost every word in your 42,000-word vocabulary is linked to an impression, experience, or tidbit of knowledge. We are an opinionated and passionate people! That is great in conversation, but first associations or “first takes” are often wrong spiritually, as we saw in the first post. We usually react naturally, not supernaturally, and with our views, not necessarily God’s. But God gives grace in the form of supernatural sight, allowing us to reevaluate and change our views. Here is another example from the Bible, an example from our lives, and three tips for getting to “second.”
Scared First Take
Surely, we can sympathize with the first take of Elijah’s servant: “When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do” (2 Kings 6:15 ESV)? It is easy to understand the servant’s word association: “Enemy army” = “panic!” But he did not see, by faith, what was actually true until Elijah asked for supernatural sight for him: “Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So, the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (verse 17). Elijah was never afraid that morning because his “first take” was intuitive by faith. He knew that that day, as always, God was with him: “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (verse 16): “The opening of the eyes, which Elisha prayed for, were those of the Spirit, not of the body - the eye of faith sees the reality of the divine presence and protection where all is vacancy or darkness to the ordinary eye.”1 May we learn to follow the Lord so closely with such great trust that our first impression is the right one, and if not, may we recognize it and repent, changing our minds and our hearts!
Lust and Coveting are Sinful First Takes
When tempted with lustful and coveting thoughts, those temptations so quickly become sins. Jesus made the dividing line for lust “intent,” which can develop quickly. Christians are to fight against sin, and that involves fleeing from the initial temptations, just as Jesus immediately dispatched them by quoting from Deuteronomy three times (Matthew 4:1-11). Martin Luther famously quipped, “You cannot prevent the birds from flying over your head, but you can certainly keep them from building a nest in your hair.”2 You must drive away those foul birds of initial, immortal thoughts and embrace the supernatural, second sight of God’s truths!
Three Tips for Getting to the Supernatural Second Take
First Take ≠ Hot Take!
Too often, we either spout off our first take or spread it through conversations and social media. Scarcely does an event occur before newscasts, church hallways, and social media streams are filled with knee-jerk reactions and personal commentaries. Do not fall into that trap! If you think that God has given you a word to say about an event, write it down and wait. Give yourself time to pray about your response, and let God impart to you wisdom through his word and prayer. One of my strategies as a pastor is to immediately write an email response to something negative to which I must respond. Then, I save it as a draft. After a day or so of prayer, I reread my first take, and by the grace of God, I can delete any unbalanced hot takes! Sometimes, the draft of a “first take” email was spot on, but how much wiser to reflect before hitting that send button! Yet, for the grace of God, go our unbalanced and unhealthy hot-take emails, texts, and social media posts!
Developed Discernment ≠ Wrong Take!
Sometimes, you do not have much time to respond. You cannot always spend an hour in prayer. Would it not be reassuring to discover that, over time, your first take aligns more quickly with the right response? Growing in wisdom and discernment comes from a commitment to healthy Bible intake and prayer, especially meditation and memorization. The more you take God’s thoughts into your mind reflectively, the more often they will guard and guide your initial responses. That is one of the reasons that Jesus wanted us to abide in him as his words abide in us (John 15:7).
Zeal without Knowledge = Wrong Take!
Thinking about the example of David and the ark from the last post is a reminder that zeal and passion, apart from knowledge, do not please God (Romans 10:2). Despite the cultural obsession with authenticity and following your heart, you must let God’s word inform you. Do not react or speak until you are sure you have God’s perspective on something! It is okay to tell someone that you are still praying about the right response.
Also, remember that one of the reasons that the Bible honors the aged is that for God’s children, wisdom should grow over time. Be quick to heed the advice of your older advisors over younger ones, and be cautious not to rely on your own thoughts too soon. King Rehoboam learned that too late to save his united kingdom (1 Kings 12:1-16)! An older pastor once cautioned me not to publish a book until I was older than forty, admitting that he regretted much of what he had written in books published in his less seasoned thirties. May God guide us forward to godlier takes on life until that great day in heaven when our first take of the glory of God in the face of Christ will be our forever take!
Here is a helpful, related article:
"When You Hear of a Scandal" by Darryl Dash
1Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 1, Logos ed. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 234.
2Marin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I. Ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan et al., vol. 42, Fortress Press, 1999), 73.