Today’s generation is faced with a problem like no other generation has: an unprecedented proliferation of opportunities to be entertained or indulged; each one playing a part in stifling and smothering the desirability and presence of God’s Word.

For thousands of years, the Word of God has been a captivating safe haven for people who have been confronted by war, disease and persecution. Fast forward to today, and we find ourselves in a societal landscape saturated with mind consuming distractions which range, depending on what view you adopt, from ‘harmless’ to ‘insidious’. The reality is that, however you see it, most ‘harmless’ activities can end up becoming ‘insidious’ by virtue of the amount of time we spend consumed in them.

For many of us, social media has successfully dominated our lives and taken large amounts of time away from our family or time away from God’s Word. For others the problem might be gaming, a hobby, holidays, having a TV in the lounge; you name it. Or perhaps the problem exists, but is not yet known to you.

The problem is exacerbated by a world which engenders the mindset that we are masters of our own destiny and, while here, we deserve to use our time however we like. We know the teaching of Christ is the opposite: God is the master of our destiny and our time on earth should be spent willingly in service to God, and others. The problem is that without much forethought we often attempt to live according to both mindsets and overlook a ‘minor’ consideration: that these mindsets are diametrically opposed. If we attempt to adopt both mindsets, we accept the body that God gifted us, we accept the mind that God gifted us, we accept the time that God gifted us, but instead of returning these talents to our Lord, we use each gift to gratify our own interests and desires. Is this what God created us for?

Even if we are convinced that our pursuit, habit or hobby is harmless, Christ’s words to the ecclesia of Laodicea should prompt us to constantly reassess our conviction. When Christ said to the Laodiceans that he would “spue [them] out of [his] mouth”, he didn’t issue this stark warning because Laodicea had become subjected to some dark and insidious form of Baal worship. No! Their problem was not immorality, wrong doctrine, child sacrifice, or some other form of blatantly perverted evil. The influence that repulsed Christ so much was materialism. The Laodiceans lived amongst general prosperity and comfort, and they weren’t in any hurry to oppose it. Where the Smyrnans were incredibly thankful to have a loaf of bread on the table, the Laodiceans were complaining about the brand of the coffee they were served. Where the Smyrnans suffered shocking persecution at the hands of the Roman authorities, the Laodiceans used wax to caress their shiny sports edition cars.

Transplant the Laodiceans to our age, and they would’ve had a ‘riot’! The deafening roar of the crowd as they cheered on the chariots in the stadium would be surpassed by the pounding roar of today’s V8 supercars. Better still, the vision of the elite cars projected onto the living room wall, complete with ground shaking surround-sound, would make for an adrenaline-on-tap experience, which would leave the chariots in the dust.

The age in which we live has had the benefit of thousands of years to master the art of stimulating every sense, making today’s offerings far more sophisticated than the classic Laodicean experience. Today’s selection of indulgence is highly customised to our unique taste, easily justifiable and always ‘in your face’; every minute of the day comes with an incessant and unrelenting invitation to lapse into an indulgent habit – the only remedy being a constant and determined effort to make righteous decisions.

Sometimes (more than we like to admit?) we give in to mindless habits, and steal and plunder the time that belongs to God – and sometimes, we don’t even realise we are doing it. How do we know when we are plundering time that is due only to God? Perhaps one litmus test is to reflect on our growth in Christ. Paul talks about a lifelong endeavour to constantly grow in the Word and you may recall that he admonishes the Hebrews for not progressing beyond a very basic understanding of scripture. The problem of not progressing beyond the milk of the word is a serious challenge to our ecclesias, which are faced by the constant allurement of materialism.

It’s a challenge that has seen brethren and sisters who, while hesitant to open their Bible and study the word, are studiously committed to their personal interests – be it sports, politics, gaming, hobbies or entertainment. In those fields of interest, study is not a problem; time is not an issue. For example, it might be a fanatical knowledge of the cricketing world, which has consumed time over many years, leaving scriptural knowledge to pay the price.

Perhaps Revelation has been consigned to the ‘too hard basket’ and instead we have reclined and enjoyed an entrancing TV series. A decision such as the one to study Revelation requires self-discipline no doubt, but as a brother recently pointed out, consider the implications of this: Revelation is the bridegroom’s last impassioned letter to us, his bride – whom he loves. It would be difficult when our bridegroom comes to have to explain to him why we have not read his letter to us – what legitimate excuse could we possibly have? Consider how our Lord will feel if we allow our focus to become consumed on temporary things, while ecclesial resources are in deficit, with attendance dropping, welfare work being consigned to a few and gospel proclamation coming under pressure.

It’s not hard to flick on the TV, sit back and revel in the drama of sport. It’s not hard to become experts in retail products that we covet. It’s not hard to follow a TV season, or spend each evening flicking through social media. It takes effort and time to open up the Word of God and develop a deep personal conviction of God, His expectations and His love. But despite the effort, this should be our ultimate aspiration in life, beyond anything else!

Christ has called for followers who are prepared to dedicate themselves to him in every way possible and, therefore, reassessing how we spend our time in this age needs to be a conscious, repeated effort. If a habit or hobby has consistently taken our interest, or time, or enthusiasm away from God’s Word or ecclesia, then we must remove the roadblock and clear the way for time in service to God: “If your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matt 5:30).

The most important commandment in the Bible calls for dedication from every fibre of our being not just our spare time: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deut 6:5-9).

Let’s take every opportunity we can to indulge God’s Word: to meditate upon it day and night, encourage others to talk about it at the meeting, consider its principles together with our closest friends and family, and expound them to those who are yet to learn the truth.

Our sacrifice is not one made on the cross, the stake, or in persecution; the challenge which materialism presents to faith today is far more alluring than the trials of times past, but no less fateful as our Lord has made abundantly clear.

As each day brings us closer to his return, let’s determine to give God’s Word the premium time in our daily schedule that it deserves, for truly there is little in this life that should compete for time with the Word of God.