Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Use Your Time Well

Since Bonnie called me to tell me that her husband Bruce had passed away, I’ve found myself thinking about how finite and fleeting life is, and that you never know what a day or a week may bring. One day, he’s home and looks like he’s headed back towards healthy, and just five days later, he’s gone.

And it’s made me think about how fragile this life really is. We live in a comfortable western world where we are usually insulated from swift and tragic deaths, and for those that know him, this was a stark reminder that we are much less insulate than we think, and we have far less time than we think we do. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; says Psalm 90, yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom (90:10-12). Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath, says Psalm 62 (62:9).

This all leaves me with a question for those who know Christ: How are we using our time? All too often, we waste it. We live in a celebrity, entertainment culture, which sucks us in without us even knowing it, unless we actively fight it. I don’t know if there has ever been a culture more given over to seeking to be entertained than this one. The Romans famously had their bread and circus, but that wasn’t every day. The average American watches 5 hours a day of TV, which works out to around 35 hours a week, or 9 years of your life. And as you get older, apparently TV viewing increases. We all bemoan the fact that the average American youth watches 1200 hours of TV in a year, while they only go to school for about 900 hours, but what we don’t says is that apparently, as you get older, apparently TV viewing goes up. The average youth watches 24 hours of TV, but after that it rises steadily until people over 65 average 48 hours a week, or nearly seven hours a day. 
But it’s not just TV, at any time; we have a constant stream of entertainment running by us. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, this update on my phone calling for my attention. And I haven’t even gotten to video games and the internet. We live in a culture that says, in the words of Nirvana “here I am now, entertain me”.

And it’s so corrosive. Pastor and Theologian John Piper once said that “The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night.” He’s right. It deadens our mind and softens our heart for God, giving us a love for the world, and a desire for comfort.

The result is that we sit around and spend our time on the trivial and unimportant, and then moan that we don’t have time to read our Bible and pray, and pursue the things of God. Piper commented that “One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time”, ouch.

Beyond that, there is our general pursuit of leisure. Moments of leisure are not bad in of and of themselves. But, our culture has made leisure one of the great goals of life. Work, so then you can then do nothing. It’s the great end of life. But the bible says that we where created to work. Work is good. We were created to work for the glory of God, leisure and rest is never the end, the glory of God is. 

And then there’s our pursuit of stuff. The great ability of advertisers is to create an ever in-creasing hole of desire that can never be filled, and so we chase this trinket and that thing, because we’ve been told that if we have that, everything will be complete. And so we run and run on the treadmill chasing things that do not matter. Bubbles and status symbols, things that we think we have to have to fit in, but will one day populate a landfill, because they have been replaced by a newer version. 

We have 168 hours in a week. That's it. What are you doing with them? If we truly believe the gospel, we should reprioritize how we spend our time. Is prayer and scripture near the top of our agenda? Do we prioritize sharing the gospel? Are we prioritizing reading things that build our mind and give us a distinctively Christian worldview and approach to life, or are we taking in drivel? Are we actively dreaming and scheming about how to spread the gospel, or dreaming and scheming about the next movie we’re going to watch? Are you building relationships that you allow for the spread of the gospel, or building your Candy Crush score (if you don’t know what Candy Crush is, that’s a good thing). Don’t waste your life. Desire that your life count for something great! Long for your life to have eternal significance. Don’t coast through life without a passion, being entertained along the way. 

Someday you will stand be-fore God, and give an account of how you used your time, and so I say again, don’t waste it. It is better to lose your life than to waste it. Young, old, especially those of you that are retired, may you use your time well, because life is too short, precarious, and painful to waste it on entertainment or chasing baubles that will fill landfills. Heaven is to great, in the words of piper, hell is too horrible; eternity is too long that we should putter around on the porch of eternity. It is better to lose your life than to waste it. May you use your time wisely, may it count for eternity, and may you be able to say with great joy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2Tim. 4:7)”, rather than, I have no idea where the time went.

TV Stats came from: Staticbrain, and the NY daily News.