With Halloween almost here, I started thinking about some of the scary things associated with this holiday—goblins, ghosts, witches, monsters, graveyards, spiderwebs, skeletons, and bats. There are many such images and imaginations that can stay with us even when there is nothing to fear. We use the word “haunt” to define the persistent occupation of our mind by those things.
Do you know what haunts me? I’m haunted by the constant concern that I spend far too much time on games, television, and other self-absorbed activities. I have the enduring thought that because of those distractions, I’m just not doing all I should for God. I’m realizing that most of my alone time is unproductive. Vanity and grasping for the wind (Ecclesiastes 1:14 NKJV*) is one way to put it. The way I see it, time I don’t spend with God or on people is generally just wasted time. Every day we make the choice of where we assign our time. Let’s look at the possibilities.
Time with God: This one’s easy—time with God could take the form of Bible reading, praying, or meditating on Him and His Word. Any one of these pursuits will help us get to know our Heavenly Father better and cultivate a closer relationship with Him. The more connected we are to God, the better balanced we will be with the world—meaning, the less influence this world has on us, and the more influence we will have on this world.
Time with others: Time with God leads right into time with people. Once we’ve spent time with God, others can’t help but get a glimpse of Him through us. Like Moses who shared time with God on Mount Sinai and came back with a radiant face (Exodus 34:30), we also can spend time with God and expect the effects to be evident (maybe just not as shiny). Our time with family, friends, or strangers, allows us the opportunity to encourage, support, and comfort, thereby showing and sharing God’s wondrous love. It bears keeping in mind we may be the one prospect someone has to see God on this side of eternity.
Time with ourselves: This one is the problem child, because time spent on self is not inherently a bad thing; but time spent self-absorbed is. For instance, time spent exercising, reading, or fishing has lasting benefits in that you become more fit, more informed, or more fed (if you’re lucky). It’s when time is frittered away for no good reason that it becomes wasteful, even harmful, drawing us away from God. Paul knew inward attention would become a stumbling block: But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:1-4). Heeding this warning, our plea falls on God to: Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things (Psalm 119:37). Another way to help avoid this pitfall is to follow Jesus’ example. He valued His alone time and used it to turn His focus to God: He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed (Luke 5:16).
Time on Earth is a limited commodity. One day God will hold us accountable for the use of the gifts He gave us in the time we had available (2 Corinthians 5:10). As for me, I’ll have plenty of excuses for my wasted time, but no acceptable answers. It seems I always want to play one more game before starting my Bible reading or check one more email before getting into prayer time. Did I forget Jesus’ warning to the man who wanted to go back and say goodbye to his family before following Him? No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62). I interpret this to mean that the root of the problem is not in the things we spend our time on, rather, it is in giving those things, both old and new, priority over serving God. God first, everything else second. Why is that so hard to put into practice?
What haunts you?
*All Scripture verses are quoted from the NKJV.
Joe Chmiel has taught youth Sunday School for over twenty years. His aim is to bless others through his words and His Word. He lives in Lakewood, California with his wife and three children. In his spare time, he can be found gold-prospecting somewhere in the deserts of Southern California.