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Too Distracted To Develop Wisdom: Part Two

God has a plan for your life. He wants you to come to truly know Him by placing your faith in Christ, being reconciled to Him, and enjoying a relationship with your heavenly Father. He also wants you to grow in Christ-likeness to look, think, act, speak, and love like Jesus. He wants you to develop wisdom and to live wisely in light of God’s truth as revealed in Scripture. He wants you to obey Him and be a good steward of everything God has given you for His glory, your good, and the blessing and benefit of others. But Satan hates God’s plan for your life and will do anything to undermine it. In fact, Satan has a counter-plan for your life.

Satan’s “Nothing” Plan

C.S. Lewis discusses Satan’s counter-plan for our lives in his book The Screwtape Letters. In it the senior demon Screwtape gives counsel to his nephew Wormwood in his efforts to tempt a man and lead him away from God, which is ultimately what the enemy of our souls wants. Screwtape advises Wormwood to not tire himself by trying to heap serious and devious temptations upon his patient, but to merely divert his attention away from God by anything and everything. The severity of the sins matters not, only that they secure distance from the person’s Creator, and a familiarity with darkness rather than light. The most important, fulfilling, and lasting things in this life are replaced with “nothing” (things with no lasting substance or purpose) so that at the end of one’s life the individual will lament, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked” (emphasis mine). This “nothing strategy” is

“very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years, not in sweet sins, but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them…or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.”[1]

“A dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why” sounds remarkably like most of our engagement of the internet, social media, and Netflix. These things are not evil and it is not sinful to engage in them. In fact, I believe we can engage in them well for God’s glory. But our engagement often devolves into “routines of nothingness. Habits unnecessary to our calling.”[2]

The enemy of our souls wants nothing more than for us to be too distracted to develop wisdom in our hearts so that we can live our short lives well for God’s glory. He doesn’t want us to understand God’s truth or how the gospel affects our lives. He doesn’t want us to spend our time well. He doesn’t want us to actively kill sin in our lives and pursue holiness. He doesn’t want us to love others well and preach the gospel to them. If he can’t have our souls then he will settle for us wasting our lives on distraction and entertainment so that while our souls belonged to Christ our lives mattered little for God’s Kingdom.

Our Complicity in Satan’s Plan

And rather than try to oppose his schemes we often aid his sinister efforts. We grab our phones and jump on Instagram first thing in the morning rather than grab our Bibles and spend time with our heavenly Father. We indulge sensual pleasures and sinful appetites online rather than place healthy limitations on our engagement of technology. We ignore the real world God has created and placed us in so that we can consume the virtual version of the world online, which is oftentimes curated, edited, or even fake. We ignore the flesh-and-blood people that are created in God’s image and whom He has placed in our lives so that we can cultivate superficial relationships online where relationships and communication are reduced to tweets, posts, and likes.

Developing Healthy Habits

Scripture calls disciples of Christ to become certain types of people. People who know, worship, and obey Christ. People who look and love like Jesus. People who understand the true gospel and live well in light of it. People who intentionally order their lives to magnify and obey Christ. People who are focused on the eternal good of others. To become these people requires us to develop healthy habits that aid our pursuit of wisdom. Habits that prioritize a pursuit of knowledge of God’s truth over entertaining distractions. Habits that cultivate holiness rather than ones that encourage sinfulness. Habits that help us to be good stewards of the gifts, abilities, opportunities, resources, relationships, and time that God has given to us rather than ones that squander these things. Habits that bring us closer to men and women made in God’s image so that we might love them well and preach the gospel to them rather than habits that keep others at arms length. We must look to scripture and prayerfully reflect on who we are, who we want to be, and who God has called us to be in Christ, and institute principles and practices that are going to help us get there because our habits are forming us into particular people, but is it the type of person that we want to be? Is it the type of person that God has called us to be?

The Liberating Reality of Death

Psalm 90:12 (“Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts”) reminds us that you are going to die, and so am I. And this can be terrifying to us or it can be liberating. Russell Moore commented in a recent article about a moment in his life where he was reminded that he would one day die: “At that moment, the thought of my mortality didn’t leave me with a sense of futility or dread. The thought was strangely liberating, freeing me, if just for a second, to reflect on what really matters—to give thanks to God for giving me a gospel to believe and people to love.”[3] Recognizing the brevity of our lives helps us to stop gazing inward as we focus only on ourselves, but helps us to look upward to God and outward to others. It helps us to reorder our lives so that we can make a difference for God’s Kingdom. But this requires a humble pursuit of wisdom. It requires us to earnestly desire and chase after God’s truth as revealed in His word, and to pray that the Spirit would helps us to know how to live our lives well in light of the gospel (and to also give us courage to do so).

And while it may seem intimidating to change certain habits in your life to pursue wisdom, be encouraged, because God promises to reward your pursuit. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). And while God can just dump wisdom into our brains and call it a day, He often chooses to lead us down a lifelong path of discipline and devotion, relying on His grace and strength. He wants us to grow in our knowledge of the gospel truth, He wants to help us know how to apply that truth and live it out daily, and He wants us to develop wise practices and habits to glorify Him with our short lives on this earth. These habits will look different for each person, but we can all prayerfully reflect on how we engage media and technology and devise healthy habits and rhythms to intentionally use technology to glorify God and to become the type of person God has called us to be.[4]

Living Our Lives On Purpose

If we were all to engage in a moment of honest reflection with ourselves we would say that we have spent far too much of our lives, “doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.” We often don’t have a game plan or a goal for each day, we just start moving, get up to a good speed, and coast until we can come home in the evenings to relax and be entertained. We minimize the things we know we should be doing and we maximize the things that are merely amusing and entertaining. We forget our calling and purpose in Christ and do things that, while easy and fun, distract us from the most meaningful and significant things that we really want to do, but find it hard to do.

We settle for engaging in lesser “likes” on a daily basis. For example, I like reading serious books about the Bible, doctrine, theology, and apologetics. But I also like spending entire evenings watching The Office. My desire to do what I like (read quality books) is greater than my desire to do what I like to a lesser degree (watch The Office). But I can honestly say that more of the evenings in my life have been spent on lesser “likes” than greater ones. But I see the beautiful call of Christ to recognize that He has far greater things planned for me in my short life than being distracted and entertained, and He wants to help me live my life with purpose and intentionality to do both the things that I ought and like.

My prayer is that we would all obey Psalm 90:12 by recognizing the shortness of our lives and intentionally pursuing wisdom. That we would learn to intentionally engage media and technology on purpose for God’s glory rather than aimlessly so that we can be entertained and distracted. Let us focus on what we should do and what we’re called to do as disciples of Jesus rather than merely what we can do because of modern technology. Let us intentionally engage technology to help us become the people God has called us to become, rather than letting it form us into someone who will lament at the end of their life “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.” Let us move from “being distracted on purpose to being less and less distracted with an eternal purpose.”[5] May we rely on God’s grace to help us do this, and may we do it for His eternal glory.

-By Kevin Tapscott

[1] C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, 60.

[2] Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You, 191.

[3] Russell Moore. “A Graveyard Is a Good Place to Make Big Decisions.”

[4] Recommended resources to aid you as you think about developing healthy habits are, The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch, and 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke.

[5] Reinke, 12 Ways, 52.

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