We live in such a fast-paced, progressive world of advanced technological developments that are becoming more and more useful and incredibly entertaining, but ironically also consume vast amounts of our time. We tend to become reliant on these modern day “helpers” to save us time or to entertain and inform us. However, if we do not exercise a healthy dose of self-control, then these things can become idols—objects of worship that are not God.
We obviously do not bow down to these items, but we can be unaware of the amount of time we devote to using them. Several hours may pass by and before realizing it, we have been engaging in addictive behavior which can sap our time and energy. Instead of taking time to read the Bible, we may find ourselves in the position of being too caught up with what the world offers.
Rather than a tool to improve our lives, we may have turned a useful object into one of dependence with no plans to moderate our use of it. We may have the best of intentions but end up giving in to our desires. Is there a way to manage this problem?
What is an idol?
An idol is anything we hold in high regard and pay homage to; any god apart from the one true Almighty God, the Father of all creation. In Judges 2:11-13 and judges 10:6 we can read from just two accounts some of the various gods or idols served by God’s people in ancient times. God’s reaction is evidence of the betrayal He feels then and now.
In Exodus 20:1-17 God clearly puts His law, the Ten Commandments, before us so that we can know His thoughts and plans and that we can be in no doubt how to follow and worship Him. The very first commandment is “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). In 1 John 5:21 we are told “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen”. John’s very simple directive, given with great love and affection, resulted from inspiration from our Father. We must listen to these words. God is talking directly to us!
In our modern world, an idol can be anything that is misused or takes us away from what we should be doing. We can end up being an idol ourselves if we put our wills first before doing God’s will. What is God’s will for us? Apart from keeping the Ten Commandments, it is to grow spiritually each and every day – not just once a week on the Sabbath.
How do we grow spiritually? By knowing and thinking about what God says and then incorporating that wisdom into our lives. The only way we can really do this is by being very wise with what time we do have. We can confirm this by reading James 1:25 and Ephesians 5:15-17.
Our phones are there to connect us to others, but the inbuilt games are really timewasters. Computers and iPads are great for accessing so much information, but how much of that information do we really need? Gaming devices can be so much fun and some of the games can even be healthy if they involve physical exercise, but we need to put time limits on them. TV is probably the biggest timewaster of all as it has been around a lot longer than computers and mobile devices and just about everyone has at least one. All these things can have a place in our lives, if they are there to serve us and help us obey God.
Lessons to learn while living in the world
While much progress has been made to give us all sorts of gadgets and time-saving devices, we need to be in control of these at all times; otherwise, the gadget really has control over us.
What do we do? The first thing we should do is consult our loving heavenly Father. Reveal your heart to Him in a very open, honest and personal way. Be very specific and tell Him all about what you do and why you do it. Stop there and then really examine the intent of your heart. You may be surprised to discover that you are learning new information about yourself. Because our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9-10) we need to ask God to show us the inner aspects of our hearts – the parts we don’t usually want to know about – the parts that are covered over or hardened because of self-justification or denial.
God has provided many examples for us to learn from through the Psalms of King David. Part of our prayer should incorporate repentance when we see things we have done wrong. David prays passionately and poetically for this in Psalm 51. Do you notice in verse 10 how David asks for God to create a clean heart in him? This is wisdom we need to incorporate in our prayer lives too (Psalm 51:10). Psalm 139 reveals God’s perfect knowledge of man. When King David wrote this he poured forth his thoughts and meditations on God as his Creator. The last two verses 23-24 state “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. It is particularly full of wisdom and encouragement for those who delight in God’s ways. By reading this psalm, you can be given motivation to change from wanting to do things your own way rather than by God’s way. Proverbs 3:5-6 will also be of help to determine your path. By reading the first three chapters of Proverbs, which were written by Solomon, the son of King David, we can all receive help with regards to gaining knowledge, wisdom and its inherent value, and gain guidance for success. By humbling ourselves and asking for wisdom daily we are asking God for what we need – to be more like our elder Brother, Jesus Christ.
So why not do things God’s way? After all, He is perfect and we want to be like Him. John 13:17 says “If you know these things, blessed [or happy] are you if you do them”.
Be practical – plan, pray and practice
Choose wisely in consultation with the Father when praying down on your knees (Psalm 95:6-7). Ask Him to guide you about when to pursue entertainment and how much time to spend and the types that are pleasing to Him and yourself. In Isaiah 1:18-19 we are told to approach our Father and together come to an understanding of what is best. He knows you better than yourself, so don’t be surprised when you are given the answer to these prayers. God is definitely listening and waiting to bless you (Proverbs 8:34-35)!
One idea is to write up a plan in hourly segments for a 24-hour period and, if possible, for one whole week so a pattern can be repeated. When your plan is written out as a proposed schedule then present it before God and pray for His guidance.
In 2 Kings 19:14-19 we can follow King Hezekiah’s example of prayer which has been provided for us forour learning. Like Hezekiah, we can admit the problem is too much for us to handle on our own and we definitely need God’s help. We can be heartfelt and show God that He is the most important part of our lives – not our phones, computers, TVs or games we may play.
Many scriptures offer the support you may need to practice a more balanced way to spend your time. 1 John 2:15-17 talks about not loving the things in the world for they are temporary and lustful. In Ephesians 4:22-24 we are encouraged to be like God in righteousness and true holiness. Philippians 3:7-11 is where Paul recounts his experiences of life as rubbish when compared to the excellence of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. And in Galatians 5:22-25 we can read all about the fruit of God’s Spirit, one of which is self-control. This fruit is mentioned last perhaps because it is the most difficult to develop and sustain.
Final words of encouragement
Do not be discouraged. Rather, be diligent and develop godly character day by day until good habits are formed and firmly established and false idols are removed altogether and replaced by the only One worth worshipping – our Almighty Father in heaven.
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Deuteronomy 28:1-14 outlines God’s blessings for obedience; the remainder of the same chapter contains God’s curses on disobedience (Deuteronomy 28:15-68). Did you notice that there are many more curses than blessings when we disobey God? Deuteronomy 30:19 outlines the situation clearly for us. God wants you to make the right choice about whom you worship. What choice will you make?
For more information on how to develop better habits that honor God, request our free Bible study aid Making Life Work.