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.: https://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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35 Replies to “A Word of Exhortation”

  1. Hi Bill,

    Well said. By way of encouragement I might also say that I find your ministry very edifying and very much appreciate your efforts.

    As well as on-line games, there are other time-wasters too which I encourage your readers to evaluate. A few years ago, for instance, I decided to no longer watch television. At first this was very difficult, but now I don’t miss it at all. I was so encouraged that I recently decided not to read any MSM newspapers either. Not only do I now have much more time, but I found the constant repetition of trivia and filth in the MSM really does have an oppressing effect which I was not aware of until I stopped listening to or watching it.

    Mansel Rogerson

  2. Thanks Mansel

    Yes quite right. Probably most Christians need to ditch their TVs. As Leonard Ravenhill once asked, “How can you pull down strongholds of Satan if you don’t even have the strength to turn off your TV?”

    As to the MSM, I obviously must deal with it for my work, and I do want Christians to be aware of what is happening in their world in order to be salt and light. But probably the alternative media today can provide most of what we need to know.

    There is also a place for those who are called to monitor secular trends, the secular media, and what the other side is up to. But I certainly take your point.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  3. Bill,

    You’re quite right. I didn’t mean to imply that every Christian would come to the same conclusion, but the decision to watch the MSM should be evaluated rather than just accepted automatically.

    Michael Pearl of No Greater Joy Ministries (www.nogreaterjoy.org) suggests the following test for deciding whether to watch a particular television program:

    I challenge you to copy this prayer on a card, large enough to be seen from anywhere in the room, and place it over your TV for all who enter to read. Then have the whole family read it out loud before each viewing:

    “Dear Lord, we invite you to come join us in this time of viewing. As your children, we commit this time to you as worthy of our attention. May our family be uplifted by this hour before the screen. And Lord, we pray that families everywhere would have the opportunity to do likewise. We thank you for providing this program for us, and we ask you to bless it to the edification of the Holy Spirit within. Now Lord, bless the men and women who produced this show and those who made it available us. May they have your blessings to do more of the same. In Jesus name, we thank you, Amen.”

    Mansel Rogerson

  4. Great article. At first I became addicted to a couple of these games because a friend asked me to help her. Then I saw how much time I was wasting. Now I see those posts from some really good people. I share your thoughts on the amount of time spent on these games.

    Finding time for prayer is hard but possible only when I will use my act of will to be disciplined in doing this.Now when we need something we are able to find the time to turn to God in prayer.

    However I do feel FB is being used to bombard with so many of the world’s problems that after awhile I ask pick one issue that you can find a solution to. Sin has been around for centuries. It is a great tool for house bound mothers to keep a window on the world, to keep informed and to keep adding my 2 minutes of whatever i asked for support on.

    I do react and do what others ask but I sometimes wonder if it is all worth it when I see the tide of sin that I feel like I am just keeping my head above water.

    Thanks for your great work Bill. So many say great things about you and share your material.

    Bernadette Jee, Mother of 5

  5. Hi Bill, I met you recently at an A.F.A.function and was impressed with your dedication in standing up for the TRUTH of God’s word, like Martin Luther of old: “here i stand I can do no other”. Yes you are head on in the battle, the enemy is relentless and we as true believers need to be ever so vigilant.
    I personally have been challenged of late, falling in the trap of playing an innocent game of solitaire and then becoming hooked (almost).
    Facebook, I had the same sentiments about it, so little “talk” of things that matter.
    We are accountable to God on what we spent our time on. I admire you for not sitting back and taking life easy, but for your passion for this nation’s Godly heritage.You are one of the Lord’s mighty generals in His army.
    May the Lord bless and keep you and continue to prosper you in all that you do.
    I also pray a prayer of protection over your family as you are in the forefront of the battle.
    Mieke Brunt

  6. Bill, You have raised some very valid points in this article. Well done and thanks for sharing your heart. It is much appreciated.
    Mark Nolan

  7. Ignore it and get on with your life?!?!? Is this not what the Lord is saying to so many Christians? Of course it is, I suspect your latter comment was meant to soften the blow of truth, and by it you desire gentle admonishment rather than offence and insult as did Paul in 1 Cor 11:16. But the truth is Bill, you and I and anyone else leading many of God’s people, and in constant hands on work with Christians, are all to aware that these are major issues that have helped turn dreams and callings of God into sleeping beauty’s ice coffin. Too many of God’s people are indeed the frozen chosen. Having a willingness to serve the Lord yet not being able to rise above the culture and habit of fleshly addictions they have for so long sown. I wonder how many people will take your gentle correction and be humble enough to say ‘its true, I have left of my passion for the Lord and I must now change’. Here’s 3 pointers that keep me on fire and committed 1) Accountability, 2) Accountability 3) Accountability. I myself personally account of my times of prayer and study of the Word with the Lord every week, in a relationship diary to one of my Elders, just to ensure that the ‘old man’ doesnt get the better of me and the discovery channel isnt on to much. I also have a strict Internet accountability program which monitors everything I do online as well as on my computer, to ensure that I am not going anywhere I shouldn’t, as well as being able to prove that I am being honourable, I wonder just how many Christians have even one of those things? Personally, I love it! and wouldn’t be without it! And so many other Christians are today living strong, fruitful and powerful lives because of such in their own lives. Its often been said ‘Show me a man who has no accountability, and I will show you a disaster waiting to happen’, Great article, I pray Christians everywhere would spend their time with the Lord in prayer, study, evangelism and service and balance up the recreation, blessings.
    Dorian Ballard

  8. Bill, thankyou for your beautiful words here. You have been in my daily prayers for a long time!
    Jane Petridge

  9. Thanks for the article.
    You probably already do this, but I hide all game notifications from people on facebook when they appear – I rarely see any many at all now.
    I also click the option “Most recent”, instead of looking at “top news”. I don’t know how facebook works out what is top news – maybe the ones with the most comments or likes?
    Malcolm Davey

  10. We have to rebuke each other – well said Bill, and be of one mind. You’re a great Christian soldier for us. We need a dozen more like you.
    Martin Snigg

  11. Great posting Bill. I used to contribute comments to this blog site more often, but since moving job I now often work 10 to 14 hours days. Nevertheless, every few days a take a little time to click into this site and read your articles. Now more than ever I need to really focus on what is important; so I pray the rosary daily, spend evenings with the kids, try to go out with the family at least one a fortnight and spend many a weekend day working in the garden (it really clears my head). So I guess I’ve become one of those silent readers you mentioned, but rest assured there are many of us.

    Being so pressed for time, I often lament that I don’t have time to stay in contact with friends. There are so many that I long to catch up with for a yarn and a drink, but I refuse to use means such as Facebook. My wife is a FB addict, checking multiple times a day to see who is posting what. But knowing what a friend is cooking for dinner is not really the kind of catching up with friends that I mean. It appears to be more like noise as opposed to real conversation.

    Oh well….. I guess I’m falling behind the times and becoming old fashioned.

    Frank Norros

  12. Thanks Frank

    Like so much in life, things like FB can either be used for Christ and the Kingdom, or for that which is unimportant and worthless. I choose to use it for the former.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  13. “Like”

    Definitely one of my biggest challenges – prioritising with tv/internet playing the huge role it does in society today. Didn’t know facebook had non-Kingdom uses? 🙂

    Procrastination and time-wasting are probably one of the biggest sins we as the church should become more serious about fighting. I’m still young and can already look back on some years wasted, so thanks for sending out the call to count every moment as precious.

    Servaas Hofmeyr, South Africa

  14. Once again, Bill, you have totally nailed it. I also get discouraged by the mindless drivel that passes for communication, and it’s not just game updates. We need the conviction of the Holy Spirit that brings change, not only for ourselves but to speak truth to others as well. Love love love your CultureWatch site! I’ll trade you a lonely pink cow for a word of exhortation anyday.
    Amy Bailey

  15. Bill, I agree with your observations re FaceBook. What amazes me is how many of my Christian friends just use it for meaningless drivel and small-talk. I have made some useful Christian and political contacts through FB, and it can be a convenient way to communicate with distant (by geography) friends.

    I also share Mansel’s view of television above. On this my experience is very similar to his. I think David Wilkerson said something to the effect that no Christian in right standing with God can watch TV these days. Certainly one would have to be extremely selective in what they watch.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  16. Unbelievable – This is a very timely article for me as I have just joined Face Book – this week actually – I did it for 1 reason – to catch up with people I used to know when I was young but I prayed to God and asked him to spiritually regulate me when I use it. I also prayed and asked him if I might get opportunities to share the Gospel with people through it. As for you Bill, can you accept me as a friend as I would like to support you in prayer and this would be one very good use of face Book – like you I am not interested in playing games or winning points ad nauseum, but God can work through Face Book if we are prepared to use it for his glory and not our own. I must admit though it can be very addictive as the first day I must have spent at least a good hour just surfing it and this can be a danger so your article is certainly good advice for anyone Christian or not. Once again well done Bill.
    Steve Davis

  17. Very well said Bill. We all need to “number our days, in order that we may present to Father God a heart of wisdom”. I am 61 years now, and I am becoming really aware of the fact that you only get x number of days on God’s earth, then comes the examination. I will be questioned re “every idle word” I have uttered, and all the time and resources I was given to spend, as well as my talents, and how I used or didn’t use them. We must all live each day in the light of this knowledge. To do otherwise would be reckless, foolish, and short-sighted. God bless you and yours.
    Ian Brearley

  18. Thanks Bill

    Can’t think of anything clever to say, so I’ll just say ,”I agree”; to the issue of facebook and to the bigger issue of not redeeming the time.

    Keep up the good work.

    Glenn Christopherson

  19. Even though my business revolves around the Web I resisted FB for a while, however being in online marketing meant that I couldn’t ignore social media for long etc. Being a techy I did get sucked into some of the games and am sorry to say spent far too much time on them for a few months, but found a balance and have enjoyed it as a way to interact at different levels with different people. Some of it is serious and some of it is very light and purely fun.

    I’ve found it a great tool to connect with family and friends around the world, follow Christian ministries such as Bill’s, and, as some of the commenters here would know, connect with like-minded people. While I spend much less personal time on FB now as most of it’s mainly marketing related, I applaud Bill for speaking so eloquently on this topic, and I am greatly challenged to be more mindful of how I spend my time. I think in many people’s lives the Internet simply replaced TV. I know that I often fail to ‘sharpen my axe’ appropriately with prayer and often allow myself to be drawn into the cares and troubles of the day unprepared, and this has to change.

    Tools such as FB do give us insight into the way that people spend their time and lives. Like Bill I am concerned, not just with the time that Christians waste particularly when I know what is going on in friends lives, but also with the negativity and inwardness of many of the comments. Like anything it is a tool which can be used effectively to uplift and to spread the Gospel or it can remain just another piece of noise in our lives.

    Thanks Bill for a very gentle reminder of our responsibilities as followers of Christ. Much needed.

    Garth Penglase

  20. Hi Bill

    Many thanks for your article. We need your exhortation and I particularly thank you for it. I have in the past wasted many hours playing Spider Solitaire or ordinary Solitaire on the computer. This may seem harmless, but as you say, it’s the time it wastes. It was so easy to press F2 to start another game. I was actually “addicted”. I couldn’t seem to limit myself to just a few games, so now I’ve decided to give it up altogether.

    Your article has truly spoken to my heart, as I know God wants me to spend more time with Him in prayer. Thank you for your faithfulness in sharing what God puts on your heart, Bill.

    In Christ, Alison Ferguson

  21. PS Can you please tell me what MSM means. I googled it and it said “MSM is a form of Sulfur that the body can absorb”. I think it must have another meaning??

    Abbreviations can be confusing – my hubby recently thought someone was sending him Lots Of Love with LOL which of course is Laugh Out Loud (ha ha)!

    Alison Feguson

  22. Thanks Bill for yet another thoughtful article to reflect on and to act upon. “Mens sana in corpore sano” applies to our spiritual life too.
    John McCarthy

  23. Beauty, thanks for writing this Bill.
    Very encouraging!
    Mike Holmlund

  24. You’ve got me Bill! So true! Rest and recreation are God-given. So is Jesus’ Mandate … His last commandment … to communicate his Good News to all peoples. Addiction to games trivialises away most precious gift we have to give our Master … our time, our life!

    Though the imagery and English may be archaic, I am still moved by Leonard Ravenhill’s terse verse:

    Could a mariner sit idle if he heard the drowning cry?
    Could a doctor sit in comfort and just let his patients die?
    Could a fireman sit idle, let men burn and give no hand?
    Can you sit at ease in Zion with the world around you DAMNED?

    For His Cause,
    Ian Grant

  25. I have never been interested in FB so don’t know anything about it. However, one day I was in a conversation with a couple of younger females and they were talking about how they were building a farm. They do not personally know the person they are building the farm with (however it works) so I made it very clear that I thought that they had lost the plot and should be doing something useful with their lives. Their passion about this game astounded me. What a waste of time.
    On the other hand, any time you may have wasted in the past Bill, you have more than made up for it in recent years. God Bless you and the work you do for the glory of God. Well done good and faithful servant.
    Madge Fahy

  26. Bill, thanks for your encouragement. God has been challenging me to use facebook for godly purposes. God bless.
    Louise Shepherd

  27. Like.
    We must choose to use any tool for good, or evil!
    Paul encouraged moderation in all things.
    Quaecumque sunt vera.
    Richard Bunn, Canada

  28. Hi Bill, Please accept my heartfelt thanks for your site. It has been SOOO helpful over the last two years that I have been receiving your material. It is always relevant, carefully researched and based in Scripture. I pray for you and your prophetic ministry constantly.
    Brian Hof

  29. Thanks again Bill – you are a great encouragement and prophet for our times.

    P.S. One of the addictions that is hard to break is AFL – begrudged congratulations on Geelongs win last night (a Magpie supporter).

    Stephen White

  30. Just found your website. God Bless you and keep up the good fight! Will tell others about it.
    Jo de Sousa

  31. I have discovered over the years that there are habits that are good for us and habits that are bad for us. The difference seems to be that the habits that are bad to have are the easiest to take up and the hardest to drop, while good habits tend to be the opposite – hard to take up and easy to drop. I have used this principle over many years when evaluating my habits and activities. My eyes were opened up to this principle by a Buddhist friend who found it so easy to get up at four am every morning and meditate while I found it difficult to do the same with prayer. Both are habits …why should one be harder than the other? I think it’s a tactic of the enemy to keep us slave to things which aren’t good for us while keeping us from taking up those things that are good and beneficial.

    Kerry Letheby

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