According to a TIME magazine article in 2015, "The average attention span for the notoriously ill-focused goldfish is nine seconds, but according to a new study from Microsoft Corp., people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, highlighting the affects of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain." The article goes on to cite a dubious upside to this: "On the positive side, the report says our ability to multitask has drastically improved in the mobile age."
I fear, for myself and for others, that this also affects our study of God's word. A brief passage, or a devotional moment (aka a "devo"), cannot replace more prolonged meditation and application of God's word. Psalm 1 tells us that the way to flourish and bear fruit in the Lord is to meditate on his Law "day and night", and to be rooted in the Scriptures like a tree near a life-giving stream of water. To do otherwise is to let our lives become like chaff before the judgment of God.
The length and depth of concentration should also apply to our application of God's truth to ourselves. Consider just two passages from the Gospel of Luke, where our Lord gave the following illustrations:
"Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built." (Luke 6:47-48 ESV, underlining added)
And from the parable of the four soils (Luke 8:4-15)... "As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience." (8:15, underlining added)
We are to be digging deep rather than dabbling around. Our walk with God requires our full and undivided attention, continued concentration, and a single-minded pursuit in the knowledge and application of biblical truth. May I suggest that before we close our Bibles or Bible app, that we ask ourselves some of these questions...
Digging deep: "Am I really thinking through what this biblical truth has to say about my life and my relationship to God? Am I addressing every area of my life and my relationships with others? Have I put my roots down in this? Am I too hurried, shallow, or hasty in any way? Am I being lazy? What I am reading -- will it actually result in change in my life decisions and behavior? What would it look like if I actually believed this word and acted upon it? Do I plan to do something about what he says?"
Holding fast with an honest and good heart: "Am I committed to holding fast to the principles of Scripture? Am I being truthful -- with God and myself -- in response to these truths? Am I avoiding certain topics or brushing aside the Holy Spirit's conviction? Am I committing these truths to memory, or writing them down, so I won't forget them later? Am I pursuing goodness, namely, the goodness God desires? Will I believe what he says, obey what he commands, and trust what he promises?"
Bearing fruit with patience: "Am I giving up too quickly on application? Am I being impatient with God's plan for my growth into the image of Christ? Do I realize that being fruitful takes time and cultivation? Am I praying that God would bear fruit in me as I abide (remain) in him? How do I plan to deal with obstacles, weariness, and frustrations in my walk with God? Am I willing to apply Scripture again and again, even though I may have failed many times before? Am I in this for the long haul?"
We need to dig deep rather than dabble with the Christian life! In the work of salvation God is not creating us to be goldfish, but rather mature sons and daughters in the image of his Son, the Lord Jesus.