Today’s generation is faced with a problem like no other – an unprecedented proliferation of opportunities to be entertained or indulged; each one playing a part in stifling and smothering the desirability and presence of God’s Word.
For thousands of years, the word of God has been a captivating safe haven for people who have been confronted by war, disease and persecution. Fast forward to today, and we find ourselves in a societal landscape saturated with mind consuming distractions which range – according to whatever view you adopt – from ‘harmless’ to ‘insidious’. The reality is that however you see it, most ‘harmless’ activities can end up becoming ‘insidious’ by virtue of the amount of time we spend consumed in them.
For many of us, social media has successfully dominated our lives and taken large amounts of time away from our family or time away from Gods word. For others the problem might be gaming, a hobby, holidays, having a TV in the lounge – you name it. Perhaps the problem exists, but is not yet known to you.
Even if we are convinced that our pursuit, habit or hobby is harmless, Christ’s words to the ecclesia of Laodicea should prompt us to constantly reassess our conviction. When Christ said to the Laodicean’s that he would “spue you out of my mouth”, he didn’t issue this stark warning because Laodicea had become subjected to some dark and insidious form of Baal worship, No! Their problem was not immorality, wrong doctrine, child sacrifice, or some other form of blatantly perverted evil.
The influence that repulsed Christ so much, was materialism; the Laodiceans lived amongst general prosperity and comfort, and they weren’t in any hurry to oppose it. Where the Smyrnan’s were incredibly thankful to have a loaf of bread on the table, the Laodiceans were complaining about the brand of the coffee they were just served. Where the Smyrnans suffered shocking persecution at the hands of the Roman authorities, the Laodiceans used wax to caress their shiny sports edition cars.
Transplant the Laodiceans to our age, and they would’ve had a rort! The deafening roar of the crowd as they cheer on the chariots at the Colosseum would be old-school entertainment when compared to the pounding roar of today’s V8 supercar. Better still, the vision of the elite cars projected onto the living room wall, complete with some ground shaking surround-sound would make for an adrenaline-on-tap experience which would leave the chariots in the dust.
The age in which we live today has had the benefit of thousands of years to master the art of stimulating every sensory, making todays offerings far more sophisticated than the classic Laodicean experience. Today’s selection of indulgence is highly customised to our unique taste, easily justifiable and always ‘in your face’; every minute of the day comes with an incessant and unrelenting invitation to lapse into an indulgent habit – the only remedy being a constant and determined effort, to make righteous decisions.
Sometimes (more than we like to admit?) we give in to mindless habits, and steal and plunder the time that belongs to God – and sometimes, we don’t even realise we are doing it. How do we know when we are plundering time that is due only to God? Perhaps one litmus test is to reflect on our growth in Christ. Paul talks about constantly growing in the word as a lifelong endeavour and you would recall he admonished the Hebrews for not progressing beyond a very basic understanding of scripture. The problem of not progressing beyond the milk of the word is a serious challenge for our ecclesia while faced by the constant allurement of materialism.
It’s a challenge that has seen brethren and sisters who, while hesitant to open their Bible and study the word, are studiously committed to their personal interests – be it sports, politics, gaming, hobbies or entertainment. In those fields of interest, study is not a problem, time is not an issue. For example, it might be a fanatical knowledge of the cricketing world has consumed time over many years, leaving scriptural knowledge to pay the price.
Perhaps Revelation has been consigned to the ‘too hard basket’ and instead we have reclined and enjoyed an entrancing TV series. A decision like this requires self-discipline no doubt, but as a brother recently pointed out, consider the implications of this; that Revelation is the bridegroom’s last impassioned letter to us, his bride – whom he loves. It would be difficult when our bridegroom comes to have to explain to him why we have not read his letter to us – what legitimate excuse could we possibly have? Consider how our Lord would feel if we allow our focus to become consumed on temporary things, while ecclesial resourcefulness is in deficit, with attendance dropping, welfare becoming consigned to the work of a few and gospel proclamation under pressure.
It’s not hard to flick on the TV, sit back and revel in the drama of sport. It’s not hard to become experts in retail products that we covet. It’s not hard to follow a TV season, or spend each evening flicking through social media. It takes effort and time to open to the word of God and develop a deep personal conviction of God, his expectations and his love. But despite the effort, this should be our ultimate aspiration in life, beyond anything else!
Christ has called followers who are prepared to dedicate themselves to him in every way possible and therefore reassessing how we spend our time in this age, needs to be a conscious, repeated effort. If a habit or hobby has consistently taken our interest, or time, or enthusiasm away from God’s word or ecclesia, than we must remove the roadblock and clear the way for time in service to God.
If your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. Mat 5:30
The most important commandment in the Bible calls for dedication from every fibre of our being – not just our spare time.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Duet 6:5-9
Let’s take every opportunity we can to indulge Gods word – to meditate upon it day and night, encourage others to talk about it at the meeting, consider its principles together with our closest friends and family, and expound them to those who are yet to learn the truth.
Our sacrifice is not one made on the cross, the stake, or in persecution; the challenge which materialism presents to faith today is far more alluring than times past, but no less fateful as our Lord has made abundantly clear.
As each day brings us closer to his return, let’s determine to give Gods word the premium time in our daily schedule that it deserves, for truly there is little in this life that should compete for time with the word of God.