Love your God; love your neighbour. God’s desire for the way we live our lives couldn’t be more clear. And yet there are obstacles. We can have good intentions for our lives but if we don’t address some of the habits and patterns that stand in the way, it’s easy for us to live in regret. Loving God surely involves listening to Him through His Word and speaking to Him in prayer. You can’t love someone you never listen to nor speak with. Loving our neighbour begins in the same place. We take the time to connect and listen and speak with the people around us. There’s one obstacle to both of these things that we probably think too little about. Getting a handle on this one thing could revolutionize your spiritual life in 2018. Yes, I’m talking about our beloved cell phones.
A survey by Crossway last year talked about the impact of cell phones on our lives. It showed that 25% of millennials spend much or all of their free time on their phones. But it also showed that 11% of pastors reported the same! Obviously, this isn’t an issue limited to any one demographic. Time that people used to spend in quietness, reflection and thought is now occupied by cell phones. Half of the people surveyed check their phones before getting out of bed and about the same number check it while trying to fall asleep. People used to begin and end their days in prayer – now cell phones have shifted that focus. During meals, 15% of people look at their phones. They estimate that people now check their phones over 80,000 times per year. The result is that many feel distracted and stressed. And time that used to be spent in Bible reading, prayer and with neighbours, is now spent in front of a screen.
John Piper wrote, “Smartphones are dangerous, like marriage and music and fine cuisine—or anything else that can become an idol. They are also very useful, like guns and razor blades and medicinal cannabis—or lots of other things that can ruin your life.” Cell phones are wild and wonderful but surely taming them is crucial to a consistent Christian life. Let me suggest some ways you can do that in 2018.
- Reject “smartphone culture.” Smartphone culture is the digital demand for constant attention and constant connection. It crowds out time for quietness, reflection, prayer and rest. Smartphone culture exalts images over words and superficial over thorough. Images can captivate us but our souls need words to be nourished. We need to make a practice of reading more than 140 characters at a time. We need books that will challenge the way we think. Have you made plans to read any this year?
- Put God and people before your phone. Smartphones can be all-consuming and time with God and people often suffer. Start your day with God not your notifications. End your day in prayer instead of the next day’s alerts. Make time for face time not just FaceTime. Part of our problem in feeling so disconnected is that we can’t disconnect from our electronics.
- Redeem the time you spend on your phone. Smartphones aren’t evil. But we have to start using them for good. We need to start redeeming them for God. If you don’t have a Bible app like Olive Tree, get one and load it with a good study Bible like the ESV Study Bible or Gospel Transformation Bible Notes. Download sermons to encourage you on your commute (e.g. www.gracebc.ca/sermons). And use some of your alerts, tools and reminders to help you keep on top of your greatest priority, your love for God and your neighbour.
May God give us help as we do!
In awe of Him,