New Year goals, what is it that really matters?

Written by Jon Zenor

As we draw near to the end of 2011 a new year dawns before us.  Many people see the new year as a new chance to get things straight in their life.

As I sit down to write out what my goals will be for this next year I can’t help but think of a quote I heard a few months ago.

I’m not afraid of failure; I’m afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter. (William Carey – Missionary to India, 1761-1834)

Are you afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter?  You should, or at least I have been.  Every single thing we do we will be held accountable for, and for every single thing we don’t do.  Our culture has made it a point to make the body of Christ ineffective and lame.

I’ve heard a million words, sermons, and read books: (and) I’m accountable to God for everything I have. Every moment of my time, every dime of my money. (Leonard Ravenhill)

Entertainment

I just started watching some new TV shows on Netflix that I want to finish and I started playing a new game, Star Wars: The Old Republic (an MMO which promises to require a lot of my time).

All of this time I spend on entertainment makes me wonder, am I trying to succeed at things that do not matter?  If I get a max level character in Star Wars and beat all the bosses, and if I finish all the TV shows I am currently watching then months of my year are gone.

Star Trek the Next Generation is one show I want to finish, all 178 episodes. At 45 minutes per episode (yay for Netflix being commercial free!) that is 8010 minutes of my year, or 133 hours, which is about 5 and a half days.  5 and a half days of my year gone, just with one tv show, and there are many other shows I want to watch, and games to play.  Another 5 days for Star Trek Voyager, half a day with Firefly, and before you know it just in watching 3 tv shows I have used up nearly 2 full weeks of the 52 weeks I get to live this year. Sleeping for 7 hours per night is 15 weeks, and working approximately 250 days this year is another 12 weeks.

Just between work, sleep, and a couple of tv shows I only have 23 weeks worth of time left…

Our church, the army of the Lord, is found laying down sleeping on the job because we spend most of our time sitting in our comfortable couches watching sports and tv shows and playing computer games.  The world is out there perishing, needing people to help them and bring the gospel message, while we sit around not caring.

This goes back to the quote… am I trying to succeed at things that do not matter?  I am applying this to entertainment but it applies to everything we do, our jobs, relationships that may be dragging us down, time wasted on the internet, games played out with friends while our family is at home without us… the list goes on.

I once confronted someone about entertainment and got the response “but we all need entertainment.” Do we?  Do we really need entertainment?  I suppose if our only alternative is to sit around with nothing to do, then yeah, we need entertainment.

But consider this quote from one of my favorite preachers, Leonard Ravenhill.  He said “The devil’s substitution for joy is entertainment.” Think about that quote for a moment.

If we were busy doing something for Christ, for the lost, we would no doubt feel the joy of Christ in our life.  At that point, I believe, we wouldn’t miss those TV shows or sports.  We wouldn’t care because we would know that we are serving the kingdom.

I am not saying we need to be working twenty four seven and never do anything to relax, what I am saying is that the more time we choose to spend in entertainment the less time we spend doing something godly and holy; something productive.

Christians, we have a savior who gave up everything to become a man, why? So he could be entertained or provide us entertainment?  No, so he could serve and save us.

Do something that matters

I want to challenge each of you.  If you are a Christian, I challenge you to make it a goal this year to put God first, to sacrifice your entertainment time to read the Bible, pray, read a book about becoming a disciple (check out our book reviews for some great suggestions!), or have family time by watching something that is wholesome and edifying instead of the garbage we let in the house from mainstream cable.  Realize that the only thing worth living for, the only thing worth attempting to succeed at are things that are going to last for eternity.

I’m sick to death of the so-called Christianity of our day. What’s supernatural about it? When do people come out of the sanctuary awed and can’t speak for an hour because God has been in glory there? Dear God, as soon as they get out, they’re talking football, or sports or something or there’s going to be a big sale downtown or somewhere. We are not caught up into eternity! (Leonard Ravenhill)

Do you realize your neighbors are speeding down the road to hell while you sit there watching your football games?  While I am sitting on my computer leveling up my Jedi Knight in Star Wars, my neighbor is struggling with sin and needing someone to share the love of Christ with them, someone to take the time to pray for them.

Brothers and sisters, what are we doing on this earth if we are not living for the kingdom?

Call up local churches or the police department and ask what kinds of needs are in your community that you can pray for and help out with.  Find the nearest homeless shelter and go help them out.  Do you knit? Knit them some scarves to help keep the homeless warm.  Just go do something; which may mean you have to turn off that TV.

If you are not a Christian, I plead for you to realize that your sin is greatly offending a mighty and holy God.  The one who created you and gave you life, love, the power to think, he is hurt by every “little” sin we do. It is time for you to get right before God, repent and turn from your sin and follow God!  The journey isn’t easy or comfortable, but it is awesome!

Let twenty twelve not go down in the history of your life as just another year that flew by faster than before with nothing significant to show for it.

Everything else is meaningless

When you face God on judgement day, how many characters you got to max out in a video game is not going to matter, how many football games you watched and cheered for will not matter, what tv shows you watched will not matter.  What will matter, is what you did with the resources God gave to you, your time and money.

The writer of Ecclesiastes ends his book by saying “Everything is meaningless, completely meaningless. … Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.” ( Ecclesiastes 12:8, 13 NLT)

Do you have as much passion for Jesus as you do for football?

Written by Jon Zenor

Have you ever seen a person who is fanatical about football? They sit in the bleachers in a blizzard with nothing covering them but pants and paint.  What is it that makes a person go to such lengths to show support for their team?

It’s passion, or in this case extreme passion.  But you don’t have to have an extreme passion for something to make it number one in your life.  Most football fans don’t go to those extremes, but they do spend as much time as they can involved in the sport.

A football fan spends hours a week watching football, even throwing parties to get others together to watch the game.  You talk about it all day at work, spend time looking up news on how well various teams did that week and on trades or injuries.  You wear jerseys that show support of your team, even if they lose all the time.  You even create your own fantasy teams.

Your life, as a football fan, is consumed by football.  There is not anything wrong with being a fanatical fan at all, I just have one question for you.

How does your passion for Jesus — your Lord and Savior, your creator, the one who died to have a relationship with you — compare to your passion for football?  It may not even be football for you, it could be video games, baseball, programming, martial arts, planes, motorcycles, or any number of things that consume your every thought.

Jesus must come first!

Matthew 13:44 says “the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

As Christians Jesus must come first in our life.  Not because it will please God, but because God deserves it, it is the least we can do, and the Bible says we must do it.

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:62

It is even written in the Ten Commandments when God says to Moses “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)  Leonard Ravenhill reminds us that “Anything you love more than Jesus Christ is an idol, I don’t care what it is!”

If you think that is harsh look at what Jesus himself said.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26

Jesus is saying that your love for Him MUST be first in your life, and nothing goes above that, not your own life, and not even family.  And if you think this is selfishness on God’s part, just remember that He is God almighty, the creator, the one who holds all of existence in his hand, you are just a created thing, a sinful man who rejects God every chance you get.

Please do not misunderstand what I am saying here.  I am not saying all entertainment is bad and you should do nothing but read the Bible and sing praise songs.  What I am getting at is that when we become a Christian, a Christ-follower, we are saying we are putting God first in our life, above everything, including entertainment.  Where you spend your money and how you spend your time show what is first in your heart, Jesus or something else?

Imagine the impact YOU could have

Imagine what the impact would be like in the lives of those around you if you treated Jesus with as much time and energy you spend on football.  You would go to work talking about what God has done in your life, sharing the gospel, talking about God and what is going on in the church.  You would let the world know that Christians are not just hypocrites that live like the rest of the world but they are actually out there doing things!

You would remind them that when disasters happen and the government has its hands tied to help, like FEMA did when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, it was our churches that were out there giving food and aid to the people.  In fact, instead of going to football games you would go on a missions trip to somewhere that needs the help and help others.

Instead of looking up news for football stats you could look up what news there is on martyrs around the world and pray for them.  Every week I get an email from Voice of the Martyrs with information on those being put in prison, who are losing their homes, who are being outcast from their families and beaten because they are the ones on the front lines putting Jesus first in their life.

You would attend church no matter what the weather was like outside, or how much air conditioning worked or how comfortable the chairs at your church were.  Your focus would be more on fellowship and worship than on comfort.

We don’t even need everyone to do this, just you.  If just you would start putting Jesus first in your life, and having a passion for Jesus, then you alone could change a huge part of the world, everyone you interact with.  Those that look up to you would catch that fire and it would spread.

Del Tackett of Focus on the Family, teacher of The Truth Project, said if just a few of you would really believe what the Bible says is true, you would change this world for Christ.

Being a Christian is not a game or a hobby. It is not something we do just once a week.  Being a Christian is a life long commitment that changes your daily life, putting God first in everything you do.

When you don’t have the passion

If you find that you do not have the passion for Christ that you should there is hope for you.  The first and most important thing is to test your salvation, make sure you are saved.

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.  Test yourselves.  Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” – 2 Corinthians 13:5

Study the Word of God, what does it mean to be a Christian?  This is an important enough topic to spend the time studying for yourself.  When I went through this last year it took me a couple of months of searching scripture, comparing what I was reading to my life, and most importantly praying, a lot.  Being saved is not based on works, but if you are saved, if you do have Christ living in you, then you cannot help but manifest the fruit of God living in your life.

A major thing that will get in the way of a Christian’s passion for Jesus is sin.  If you are living in sin then you will not be passionate for God, you can’t be.  You will avoid the Word of God, and the things of God.  Search your life for any unrepentant sin and repent of it, turn every area of your life towards God.

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. – 1 John 3:4-6

Jesus wants all of us, not just our leftovers

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” – Matthew 10:38

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Jesus wants, and deserves every part of you to follow Him.  He knows that we are most satisfied personally when we are bringing glory to Him, it is what we were created for.  Don’t waste another day putting garbage in the place of God in your life.

Are distractions keeping you from being as close to God as you could be?

“Our blessings have become a curse. They attract us. They take too much of our time and concern.” – Leonard Ravenhill

One of the most powerful tools Satan is using to attack the church and keep Christians crippled in America today is distractions.

Let’s face it, life in America is distracting. We have TV and xbox and iphones and the latest gadgets, cars to repair soccer practice to take the kids to, work. We try to squeeze spending time with the family in there, but even that is mostly taken up by staring at the television together.  None of these things are that bad, but they tend to distract us from what truly matters; our relationship with God.

We have enough free time to spend a couple hours watching a movie a couple times a week or just vegging out in front of some mind numbing sitcoms and playing Black Ops to all hours of the night, but we struggle to give God just fifteen minutes of our week according to the Barna Group’s research.

What are you going to do when you get to eternity, if you can’t stick in an hour with God down here? In God’s name, what are you going to do in a million years in God’s presence? Expect some reports from earth about football or something? – Leonard Ravenhill

If something is preventing you from being as close to God as you should be it needs to be removed. Fat keeps a runner from running as fast as they could, so runners work hard to trim off the fat. This fat trimming increase their speed and makes them healthier which makes them a better runner.  Likewise we need to trim off the fat of the American dream and the fat of distractions in our life so we can run the spiritual race as best we can.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. – Romans 12:2

Starting today I am taking a 40 day challenge to cut TV out of my life. This includes Netflix, xbox, or even youtube on my iPhone. I will replace much of that time with reading and praying and listening to praise music. I will provide periodic updates to let you know my progress during this challenging time, and hopefully it will encourage you to take up a similar fast for God.

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. – Psalm 119:15

Exceptions

So nobody accuses me of cheating I will have just a few exceptions here.

  • My wife and I started a tv show on netflix, we have about 15 episodes left and Netflix is getting rid of it on June 1st, so I will finish the series with my wife (only that show and only when watching with her)
  • Xbox just for working out – using the game Your Shape: Fitness Evolved
  • Sermons on Youtube – Many of the sermons I listen to are provided on youtube, but that is all I will watch there

Start the Countdown

So now I start my count down, forty days of no television, netflix, xbox games, or watching videos online. Forty glorious days of drawing closer to God with one less distraction in my life.  On June 26th I may not even want to go back to watching TV. 🙂

“No man is greater than his prayer life.” – Leonard Ravenhill

Will you join me with your own challenge? Is there something God has been tugging on your heart to get rid of?  Comment below and let me know what challenge you want to take on.