A Word of Exhortation

This topic has been on my mind and heart for some time now, so here it is. It is a gentle word to my many Christian friends, whether close friends or those only known from afar. I trust it will be received in the spirit I am giving it in: one of loving concern, hopefully reflecting Father God’s heart on this.

I have in mind particularly what I see on some social networking sites such as Facebook. I only joined FB a few years ago when I was told it would be a good way to catch up with old YWAM friends. So now I use it for that, and for doing the work of the Kingdom. I see it as another means to get truth in the public arena, to encourage other believers, to share biblical texts or articles, and to fight the good fight of faith.

I now have quite a few friends on FB, and perhaps 98 percent of them are Christian. A few things have bothered me a bit over the past few years however. So hear me out on this, and read the entire article before rushing to judgment. Often various FB games are played by many, and we are told of how many points were won or what new high score was achieved.

As I will mention below, there is certainly a place for relaxing games and the like. But my experience (and I am sure the experience of other believers) has been mixed on all this. For example, several times now I (or another Christian worker) has posted something on FB – a real plea from the heart, and/or an urgent request for prayer and spiritual warfare.

Of course no one knows how many people read these, or respond to such requests. Perhaps many would, without informing the one beseeching such aid. So firstly, many thanks to all those who do respond, and pray, or perform other requested actions. Many thanks indeed.

However, I get very little feedback often. Yes we are all busy, and yes there may be many good reasons why we don’t respond. But I have found that even the smallest bits of encouragement, or even the briefest of replies, can be a really heartening and uplifting blessing.

Thus I often will click on the ‘like’ button when someone has shared a verse of Scripture or mentioned some Christian teaching or truth on FB. It only takes a split second, but may well be a great encouragement and blessing to others. And the Bible of course speaks so much about the need to encourage and exhort one another. I have written this up elsewhere, eg.: www.billmuehlenberg.com/2007/08/15/in-praise-of-praise/

But perhaps what is most discouraging is when I have poured out my heart for some help needed or prayer requested, I see after my comment one post after another by fellow believers telling me how many points they have just won or some such thing.

I am tempted at those times to throw down a challenge to these folk: for every hour a day you play online games, will you also spend that amount of time praying, reading God’s word, doing spiritual intercession and spiritual battle? It seems that if we can find several hours a day to play games, surely we can find several hours a day in the spiritual disciplines.

Now I was recently told that these game results are automatically sent out. OK, fair enough. But it is the time being spent on these games that I am questioning. It seems that for some believers, the only time I hear from them on FB is when another game announcement is being made. My point is we should be just as keen to use something like FB for the Kingdom.

Now, is there a place for rest, relaxation, recreation, hobbies and some fun? Of course. We all need time out. We all need some harmless hobbies or recreational activities to engage in. The question of course has to do with the right amount of time being spent on this, and the proper sorts of activities.

People can relax and chill out after a stressful situation by getting drunk, for example. But that is clearly not a Christian option. Nor too would be a perfectly legitimate option, such as doing Sudoku or crossword puzzles, if it ends up consuming ten hours a day of our time.

Balance and prayerful consideration are needed here. For what it is worth, I have a few ways to relax and unwind. Reading is my favourite activity, but that is as much a part of my work and ministry as it is of my leisure. Thus I can easily read eight or ten hours a day, but that is the backbone of my calling and the work of CultureWatch.

But I do have a few other forms of light relief. Every Christmas I will ask my family to buy me one or two 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles, which will give me a few days of brainless relaxation and pleasure. OK, so now you all know how strange I am!

And on occasion I might do some online jigsaw puzzles. But the truth is, the older I get, the more I see with Joshua that “there remains yet very much land to be possessed” (Josh 13:1). I am getting old and will not be around much longer. So much remains to be done for Christ and His Kingdom, and I have done so little in my Christian life.

Indeed, I look back and feel I wasted so much time over the years. I have been far too complacent, far too laid back, far too selfish, and far too lukewarm in my devotion to Christ. I sense urgency, and the need to redouble my efforts for the Lord’s work.

Everywhere those opposed to the faith are working overtime to push their agendas and silence the church. How can we sit back and allow this to happen? The writer to the Hebrews said this about the urgency of the hour:

“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion’.” (Heb 3:12-15)

A similar thought is found in Romans 13:11-14: “And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

The day is almost over, and the night is descending. As Jesus said in John 9:4: “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” These and other passages speak to a sense of urgency, of getting our priorities right, of reordering our world so that we can make a real difference for Christ and His Kingdom.

By all means, spend some time in relaxing leisure and hobbies, but make sure that is done in a balanced fashion, and with a view to utilising it for his good purposes. But we all need to do regular spiritual check-ups of ourselves. We need to see if we are as fervent and devoted to the Lord as we can be, or if we have allowed things to slide, our passion to cool, and the world to too strongly crowd into our lives.

Such routine spiritual evaluations are always worthwhile to engage in. So consider this to be a word of encouragement as part of the spiritual tune-up process. And treat it like a fish dinner: enjoy the meat but reject the bones. If what I have said is used by God to touch your hearts, then fine. If not, then just ignore this and get on with your life.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. . . . And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. (1 Thess 5:11, 14)

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