Can We Have Abundant Life with Endless Screen Time?

by Roger Barrier

Dear Roger,

Yesterday evening my family and I sat down in a restaurant. I immediately opened my purse and pulled out my cell phone. I looked around the table and so had everyone else. We’ve got a problem! We are wasting a lot of time and God is not pleased. So, I decided to do a little research.

First, I read an article from Pew Research Center which calculated that the average person (children through adults), spends more than five hours a day using mobile phones or tablets. 

Second, Robert Lustig in a recent article entitled “in The Hacking Of The American Mind” says that “many kids are definitely addicted. It’s not a drug, but it might as well be, it works the same way.” 

Finally, Tristan Harris, from The Center On Humane Technology explains how tech companies design their products to get kids addicted. “When you wake up in the morning, you have certain goals for your life, for your kids. On the other hand, technology like YouTube has only one goal: to make you forget your goals and to keep you watching as many YouTube videos as possible.”  

Don’t get me wrong, nothing is inherently wrong or evil with any kind of cell phone or social media use. The problem is when they short-circuit the kind of life God intends for us to live. 

Does the Bible have much to say about managing our time? 

Dear Julie,

The classic passage on how to use our time is Ephesians 5:15-18:

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Be wise, understand what the will of the Lord is…be filled with the Spirit.” (KJV)

“Redeeming the time” means to use wisely the time that God has granted us, because it is really easy to waste it. 

Let’s look at nine insights on time management:

1. Time Is One of Our Most Valuable Commodities

We cannot store up time. We cannot buy it back. Neither can we retrieve it once it is gone; nor can we borrow anyone else’s. Andrew Carnegie, the multiple times over millionaire, said at the point of death, “I would gladly give $200 million for 10 more years of life.” But time doesn’t work like that. God has given us a little slice of time, and our success in life is determined by our faithfulness in using that time to mature us to look like Jesus, live godly lives and advance the kingdom of God on earth.

2. ‘No Time’ Is Often a Symptom of Pressure, Not Priority 

If we don’t have enough time it may be that we are operating under the principle of pressure and not priority. Did it ever occur to you that Jesus had only 3½ years in which to launch an earthshaking, eternity-transforming movement? Talk about pressure! Yet the interesting thing is that Jesus is never in a hurry. He always has time to do the Father’s will.

When it was time to travel from  Jerusalem to Galilee, Jesus walked for five days. He had no phone or tablet or computer to help hurry him along. He did not drive or fly. He had just enough time to make it there, right on time! He even took time out to comfort a woman at a well in Samaria who was struggling with multiple marriage problems. Jesus operated under the Principle of Priority. He knew His objective. He set His face like a stone and went to Jerusalem to die and on the cross. He said, “It is finished. He made it both to Gethsemane and to the Cross right on time.

3. God Does Not Measure Time Like We Do

Psalm 90 is a contrast between the permanence of God and the passing of perishable men and women.

1,000 years in your sight are like a day that is just gone by… (Psalm 90:3)

The length of our days is 70 years – or 80, if we had the strength. (Psalm 90:10)

Lord, teach us to number our days that we might get a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

In other words, “Lord, teach us to understand time in the context of eternity.” One day I decided to figure out the proportion of 1,000 years to one day as mentioned in Psalm 90:3. To make a long story short, one year on earth equals about 15 seconds in heaven. What that means is if your friend dies and goes to heaven, and you outlive him/her by 10 years, then your friend arrives in heaven and 15 minutes later there you come. He/she is probably still waiting in line to see Jesus!

C.S. Lewis wrote, “All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.” Sir William Russell on the way to the gallows to die for Christ said:” Please take my watch, I am dealing with eternity now.”

4. Satan Is the Master Deceiver, Stealing Our Time

Jesus said in John 10:10: “Satan comes to kill, steal and destroy, but I have come that they may have abundant life.”

Notice the context here. What is Satan trying to steal? Our abundant life. The more time that he steals, the less time we have to enjoy abundant life. Imagine a horizontal line and write the word “present” in the middle of the line. Now move a little to the left and write the word “past” on the line. Finally, move to the far right and write the word “future.”

Jesus wants us to experience abundant life, but notice that abundant life can only be enjoyed in the present. Here is how Satan steals our abundant joy. If he can keep us bound up in bitterness, anger, brooding, failure, guilt, and disappointment about our past, might that just steal away the enjoyment of our time in the present? If he can keep us bound up in fear, dread, and worry about the threat of sickness or loss in the future—might that just steal away the enjoyment of our time in the present?

Paul declares the best advice for countering Satan’s insidious attack on our abundant life is 2 Corinthians 10:5We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

5. Plug the Screen Time Leak

I think that “screen time” is the biggest leak of all today! If you want to become a man or a woman of the hour, then you must learn to make every minute count. Let me tell you an experience that has stuck with me for over 50 years. Some lessons are that powerful.

Dr. Fish, one of my seminary professors, was late to class. His tardiness was fine with us. We had more time to talk. He entered and was quite embarrassed. He apologized profusely: “Sorry I’m late. I should have started this class five minutes ago. There are 110 of you in this class. I’ve just wasted 550 minutes.” That’s a powerful thought. Make every minute count.

6. Learn To Say “No”

“No” is the hardest word to say in the English language. When someone says. “Why don’t you do this or that? My first question should be, “Is that on my list of priorities?”

Many people are living defeated lives; many people are practically useless to the purposes of God because they haven’t learned how to say, “No.” Many people are in the process of going down tubes with family because they don’t know how to say “no.” For example, they say “yes” to everything else and “no” to their families.

I recall receiving a frantic call from one of our Bibles study leaders whose teacher had just canceled for the evening. “Can you hurry over and teach the class?”

I replied, “No.”

“Well why not?” the leader persisted, “It’s important to teach the Bible tonight to our class. Why won’t you come?

I explained, “Because tonight I’m spending with my family.”

7. Relaxation Is Not a Waste of Time

John Wanamaker, an American businessman whom some consider to be the father of advertising in America once said: “People who cannot find time for recreation are obliged sooner or later to find time for illness.”

I entered my first pastorate with a hot passion to be the best pastor God ever had. I spent three years working without a day off. Of course our marriage was sick, and one Saturday evening I found myself crying behind the orange couch in our den. I called Steve, our first counselor, and I asked him: how could I ever survive?

He said, “Roger, I’ve seen this crash coming for quite a long time. I’ve already arranged a counselor who specializes in executive-level stress. He will see you Monday morning at 10 AM.”

He taught me about meditation and how to quiet down.

I redoubled my effort to play golf every week and started building model airplanes on the side. My marriage improved; my work was more balanced; and my spiritual life thrived.

8. Not Enough Time May Reflect Poor Choices

If we don’t have enough time, it may be because we are doing too much, or doing the wrong things, or doing things the wrong way. It’s easy to become inordinately compulsive. It’s easy to become enamored with our activity and believe that God is impressed by what we are doing. He is not. It’s not enough just to be active in Christian work. We ought to be accomplishing something.

In Acts 10:38 Luke wrote: “And Jesus went out doing good.” Most of our lives could be summarized: “And he went about.” We have no difficulty differentiating between that which is good and that which is evil. That’s not where the hang-up comes. Real maturity comes when we have to differentiate between that which is good and that which is better and that which is best. The good is often the enemy of the better.

9. Here’s How to Do it Right

I like to ask as Christians, “If you knew you had just one more day to spend on earth, what would you do?” I receive all kinds of responses. Most people say they would hurry to lead as many people to Christ as they could! Others talk about their families. Many talk about getting their sins forgiven and being certain that they are right with God.

However, here’s the best answer I ever heard, it was from a man who was gardening when I approached; he said to me, “I wouldn’t change anything different from what I’m doing right now. I’m satisfied that I’m exactly where God wants me to be.

Why would I want to be anyplace else? Well, Julie, I hope that you find my insights interesting. So many books have been written on time management. I just picked out a few the ideas that I think are most important.

Love, Roger

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