by Andy Hammond, Pastor of Worship & Media
First, let me state the obvious irony of this blog post—our website metrics suggest that there is a 67% chance you are reading this on your phone right now.
Secondly, let me acknowledge that I am writing this post out of God’s conviction in my own life, not just my observation of others.
I can remember going to the Alabama-Mississippi State football game last Fall with my brother at which I observed something I will never forget (I would very much like to forget everything else about that game). As we stood in a huge crowd (or herd) of fans inching our way up the ramp to get into the stadium, I saw a middle-aged man nearby in the crowd with his smartphone out, looking down and playing a popular game in which pieces of candy are methodically pulverized.
I remember thinking to myself, “Is the boredom of standing in a slowly moving crowd really so intense that this man can't help but distract himself with a game on his phone?"
Then on cue, the quiet whisper of the Spirit: “Andy, what about that time you just had to check Twitter while filling up your water glass at the refrigerator?"
How many of us, when we have a few spare moments—even a few seconds—naturally default to pulling out our phones? I confess that this describes me sometimes! Like Pavlov’s dogs, an unfilled moment in our day triggers an impulse in our brains to reach into our pockets, pull out a flat rectangular piece of metal and glass, and swipe-tap away with our thumbs until we have something more important to do.
My intent is not to demonize technology, point out the dangers of being too attached to our phones, or make a moral judgment on your personal phone use. I’d simply like to challenge you as a Christ-follower to (1) think about the frequency at which you look at your phone (the actual number of times you check your phone is probably twice what you think it is, according to a recent study), (2) ask if it is spiritually healthy for you, and (3) consider doing one of the following five things instead of picking up your phone when you are bored or trying to kill time:
1.) Pray for your spouse.
Ask that God would fill her thoughts today, that He would protect her from temptation, and that she would rest in Christ Jesus as Lord. You could also pray this for your kids, or even for your parents.
2.) Recite the Gospel to yourself.
Remind yourself of your standing with God based on Christ’s accomplished work. It’s as easy as praying something like this:
“Father, you are the holy and righteous King. Apart from you, I am a hopeless, sinful rebel. But in your great love, you sent your Son to die on the cross as my substitute that I might have forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus’ name. Because of Jesus, I am your child. Help me glorify you with my life today."
We all need to be reminded daily of who He is and what He's done.
3.) Say a Bible verse by memory.
I think this is what God was getting at when He spoke in Joshua 1:8:
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night.”
... and also in Deuteronomy 6:7:
"You shall teach them [God's words] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise."
Start with the verses you already know, then add some over time. Hide His Word in your heart (Psalm 119:11).
4.) Talk to someone- in person!
Looking at your phone communicates to others that you aren’t open to conversation. Whether you are in a waiting room or standing in line at a ball game, who knows what kind of God-ordained conversation you might have with a stranger if you just looked up instead of at your phone!
5.) Just think.
There’s nothing wrong with simply sitting there and just thinking. In fact, this “empty space” in our schedules is often the right ingredient for creativity to thrive. I’ve found that the seasons of my life when I’ve been most creative (writing music, getting new ideas for my work, or doing nice things for my wife) are the seasons when I’ve been most unplugged from social media. I don't think that's a coincidence!
Resisting the urge to look at your phone in your downtime allows your brain to produce, not just consume.
So be wise, Christian. Do not be a slave to anything in this world, even if the thing is not sinful in and of itself (1 Corinthians 6:12). Use the phone in your pocket as a tool to advance Christ's Kingdom and honor Him as King. Fight the need to be constantly entertained, and be your phone’s master as you submit to God in every aspect of your life!
Try designating times throughout your day to check email, social media, and blogs. Be disciplined and mature, and as 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, "whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
What other activities would you suggest as a replacement for looking at your phone? Share in the comments below!