Is your life being wasted on things that do not matter?
If you are a Christian, you are called to serve the Lord fully and faithfully, day in and day out. The Christian life is NOT giving God a bit of your attention for an hour on Sunday, or for a few minutes a day. We are to be God-conscious, God-orientated, and God-enthralled 24/7. That is the normal Christian life.
When two young people fall in love, they want to be with each other all the time. Everything else pales in significance. Their love for each other means they forever want to be in each other’s presence. Christians are those who love God supremely, above all else. Wanting to be with God constantly should be the normal desire of our heart.
Yet just as young lovers can eventually marry, only to find that the initial love and affection waxes and wanes, so too the Christian can find that his initial excitement about knowing God through Christ will over time dissipate. The first love is no longer there, and other things crowd into his affections and interests.
While that may be somewhat normal, it need not stay that way. Just as the married couple may lose some of the early feelings and find new ways to love one another, so too the Christian as he grows in Christ will grow in love and affection, as well as in maturity and understanding.
I write this because of a familiar passage that jumped out at me as I was reading through the Psalms. In Psalm 119:37 we have this memorable line: “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things”. Now we can apply that to many things, especially in an internet age, and with sleazy advertising wherever we look, and so on.
In that sense the words of Job are certainly relevant here: “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman” (Job 31:1). But what I thought about here is something less blatant than staring at porn and the like. I thought of how Christians spend their leisure time, their free time. I wondered about how many hours a day we spend simply staring at the television set.
But let me remind you of the context to the verse I am discussing here. Psalm 119 is of course the lengthy chapter on God’s word, God’s law, and how it is the delight of the psalmist’s heart. In numerous ways the 176 verses all speak to this theme.
What he loves and delights in and spends all his time on is the word of God: his commands and sayings and laws and precepts and rules and statutes. Consider just a few passages that tell us of his great love for all this:
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
who seek him with their whole heart,
20 My soul is consumed with longing
for your rules at all times.
47 for I find my delight in your commandments,
which I love.
72 The law of your mouth is better to me
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
97 Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
111 Your testimonies are my heritage forever,
for they are the joy of my heart.
127 Therefore I love your commandments
above gold, above fine gold.
162 I rejoice at your word
like one who finds great spoil.
Yes, there was no television or anything else like that back in David’s day. But simply by reading verses like these, one can be pretty certain that even if there were such things, David would have far preferred to read, study and meditate on God’s word.
Sure, there is a place for some R and R, for some timeout, for some leisure activities, for some entertainment. But for many Christians that seems to be the great bulk of their lives. They happily spend 4, 5, 6 hours a day in front of the boob tube. I knew of one Christian who would use much of the social media just to inform us what he was currently watching on TV.
Thus they may spend many hours a day glued to the set, but just a few minutes a day – if that – in Bible reading and prayer. And then they wonder why their Christian life is no great shakes. They wonder why they are making no impact for Christ and the Kingdom. They wonder why they seem to be so spiritually barren.
Sure, I often reflect on those who toil in hardcore jobs where lots of physical labour is involved. I can fully understand how after a gruelling 8-hour day of intense back-breaking work they would want to just come home, collapse in the lounge chair, grab the remote, flick through the channels and simply zone out – before falling fast asleep.
I get that. I understand that. But I have known of folks who did have such jobs, yet managed to get their priorities right. I recall one Christian lay leader back in Wisconsin who had a grinding job in a hot factory – made even worse during the hot summer days. He loved God’s word and was even teaching Bible study classes at church. He did not spend all his time in front of the television set, but managed to do heaps of praying and Bible reading – and it showed in his teaching.
And pastors and Christian workers who may spend 10-12 hours a day visiting parishioners, tending to the sick, interceding for hours, diligently studying and preparing for the next sermon, etc., can be just as exhausted – at least mentally, emotionally and spiritually. They too could be tempted to just blob out with mindless entertainment for hours on end.
So we need biblical balance here. Yes, we all need some down time, some leisure time, some refreshment time. Maybe that will involve some sport or recreation or hobbies or what have you. But we all need to ask ourselves how we are spending our time. What is the main focus of our free time?
It is too easy to simply compare ourselves with other believers. We look at them and they seem to spend heaps of time with entertainment and frivolous pursuits, so we think that is the normal Christian life. But it is not. That is why I so often say that we need to read Christian biographies (along with Scripture of course).
When we read about what the great saints of God have done, they put us to shame, and they stir in us a desire to do more for Christ, and to do less for self. Simply think of someone like John Wesley. He really did burn himself out for Christ – as have so many others.
There are plenty of summaries of his extremely busy and God-centred life. This one will suffice to give you an idea of what a committed and God-saturated life really looks like:
When I grow weary of writing or working, I always remember evangelist John Wesley:
John Wesley averaged three sermons a day for 54 years of preaching – a total of more than 44,000 times. In doing so, he traveled by horseback and carriage more than 200,000 miles, or about 5,000 miles per year. During all this traveling and preaching, he still managed to write and publish a 4 volume commentary on the whole Bible, a dictionary of the English language, a 5 volume work on natural philosophy, a 4 volume work on church history, histories of England and Rome, grammar books in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, and English; 3 works on medicine, 6 volumes of church music, 7 volumes of sermons and controversial papers. He also edited a library of 50 volumes known as the “Church Library”.
At age 83 he was angry to discover he could not write more than 15 hours a day without hurting his eyes, and at 86 he was ashamed to admit he couldn’t preach more than twice a day. During that 86th year he preached in almost every shire in England and Wales, and often rode 30-50 miles a day.
Wesley said, “If I had three hundred men who feared nothing but God, hated nothing but sin, and were determined to know nothing among men but Jesus Christ and him crucified, I would set the world on fire.” www.philcooke.com/wesley/
Knowing all this helps us to see why he could say something like this:
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
Most of us will likely never be as busy and as dedicated to the ministry as Wesley was, but I am sure we all can be a whole lot more committed to Christ than we now are. And that should include how we spend our free time, and how we should ‘turn our eyes from worthless things.’