A Whisper into the Wind
The world has a million microphones and they’re all in use. I confess that as a pastor I sometimes hear my voice as one little hand-held low-wattage mic up against a million; a faint whisper spoken into a 150 MPH headwind. The volume, the platforms, the competition for people’s attention are all so many, so loud, and so in-our-face that a voice for God’s Word is barely audible in all the din.
I know of course that God is always heard when he wants to be heard; for no one can silence the Almighty. His Word increases, multiplies, spreads, and prevails against all odds and opposition (Acts 6:7; 12:24; 13:49; 19:20). It can neither be restrained nor bound (2 Timothy 2:9), since it is, in fact, the Word of truth (James 1:18; John 17:17)—the truth that sets people free (John 8:32), and is able to save our souls (James 1:21). I know that this Word always accomplishes God’s purposes (Isaiah 55:10-11) since it is living, active, and sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12); and that it produces faith in those who hear it (Romans 10:17), discernment in those trained in it (Hebrews 5:11-14), a song in those indwelt by it (Colossians 3:16), and a solid foundation for those who obey it (Matthew 7:24-27).
But for it to do all of that in us it needs to be received and truly heard by us (James 1:19-21); which is all too rare among those who profess Christ today. There is so little Word intake—and so much world intake—that many if not most Christians feel themselves to be weak and ineffective; stumblers and bumblers on the path of faith, instead of faithful and valiant in the cause of Christ.
A Little Math Problem for You
If you think I am being too hard on Christians, let’s do a little math. Take a few moments to add up how much time you focus each week on reading, studying, and carefully meditating on the Word of God. Now add to that, time devoted to hearing—and then reviewing and applying—the preaching of your local church’s Bible-committed pastors (shepherds); those men whom Christ has given to equip and mature your faith (Ephesians 4:11-13). Then add in the time committed to listening to or reading other teachers that your pastors—who are called to watch over your souls (Hebrews 13:17)—would recommend for your growth. And finally, factor in time spent in Word-based conversation and fellowship with other believers. By calculating all of this you can now discern how much time you are listening to the Word.
Now let’s ask: what is the total amount of time each week that you are listening to the world? You may need a calculator for this part of the quiz. First, you will need to include time spent listening to NPR, FOX News, CNN, PragerU videos, and whatever other news sources you prefer. Add in time spent with your favorite early morning TV, late-night comedy shows, and various shows in-between. You will need to factor in the time you listen to talk and sports radio, surf the web, track your favorite pop stars and sports teams, play video games, read your latest novel or spy thriller, view movies, listen to your non-Christian music of choice, and follow the latest rants by unsaved Facebook friends and bloggers.
Then add in time spent watching/listening to documentaries, TED-Talks, 60 Minutes, Stephen Colbert, Jordan Peterson, favorite professors, and/or whatever other voices to whom the precious air-time of your life is given. In addition, don’t forget hours spent reading magazines, watching advertisements, or window-shopping at the mall; not to mention all those hours consumed by talking with unsaved friends at work, or over the backyard fence, or in your favorite chat rooms. Add it all up and you will know how much time you are listening to the world.
My guess is that you’ll need only simple kindergarten-level addition to compute your time spent listening to the Word, while having to utilize complex mathematical formulas to calculate how much time you spend listening to the world. The simple truth is that most of us spend considerably more time listening to the world. And even more troubling is that we don’t even realize we are doing it (which means we are not sufficiently alert to exercise biblically-trained critical thinking to vet what we are letting into our minds). We are essentially gorging ourselves on worldly junk food, and are left wondering why we are doubled over with a debilitating spiritual stomach ache.
Our World vs. Word Ratio
Historically Christians have been known as “people of the Book”. Today, we are more likely to be known as people of the latest fad, or trend, or political party (whether to the left or to the right), or church-planting formula, or celebrity Christian speaker. Most have left the Book on the shelf—and have turned to the world for their primary intake; an orientation not easily corrected. Our world vs. Word ratio is so out-of-whack that only a major life redirection will get us back on track.
Those who seek change should expect immediate and powerful withdrawal symptoms. We are world junkies; so long addicted to the world that sudden abstinence (or even gradually reduced hits) will produce cold sweats and tremors. But do this we must, since the stakes are so high. If we don’t shatter the chains of our world addiction, in order to re-orient mind, heart, and will toward the Word(s) of Christ, coming storms will bring great ruin to our lives, our families, and our churches (Matthew 7:26-27).
John Bunyan’s Pilgrim had it right. When the voices of the world came calling, trying to dissuade him from his journey of faith, he “put his fingers in his ears, and ran on, crying, ‘Life! life! Eternal life!’” We need such today; Psalm 1:1 disciples of Christ who insert fingers into ears, thereby refusing the input of the world, and choosing rather a day and night delight in the Law of God (Psalm 1:2). We need saints who opt for the Good Book over the bluish screen; people who heed Paul’s urgent plea to be conformed to this world no longer, and to be transformed by a renewed mind (i.e.-a mind made new by knowledge of the will of God found in the Word of God; Romans 12:1, 2). We need men, women, and young people today who are in the Word daily (Acts 17:11) because they know that it is profitable and sufficient for all the teaching, training, and truth needed to live a godly and productive life (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We need churches filled with people who know that it is the Word of God that revives the soul, makes wise the simple, enlightens the eyes, and endures forever (Psalm 19:7-9); and that while the world offers cheap glitter, the Word offers the finest gold there is (Psalm 19:7-11).
Pester Your Pastor
Some will view this admonition as a quaint devotional relic from bygone Christian piety; not unlike watching a black-and-white movie classic or listening to a golden oldie. Nostalgic for the moment, but not at all necessary for life. A little heartwarming—like a picture of grandma knitting mittens—but not at all life-and-death. Cute for old-timers, but uncool and irrelevant for everyone else.
But mind renewal is the only path to a transformed life and empowered witness; a renewal that requires both a renouncing of the world, and re-ordering of life around and by the Word. I do not pretend that this will be easy. Nothing good and necessary ever is. We all will need Spirit-produced grace to turn off and tune out the world, and then to learn how to dwell in the Word of God so that the Word may dwell in us.
This means that we will need commitment, endurance, and lots of help. If you don’t know how to start, I suggest that you pester your pastor(s) (or some other godly experienced saint), by pressing them to show you how. That’s your pastors’ job. And besides: if I were a betting man (which I am not) I would wager everything I own that helping you become a man or woman or young person of the Word would make your spiritual leaders and experienced mentors some of the happiest people on the planet!