I recently pulled John MacArthur’s The Book on Leadership off my shelf to lend to a friend. As I thumbed through the pages, rereading underlined sentences and noting my nearly illegible comments in the margins, I was convicted by one passage in particular.
In his chapter, “How to Not Be Disqualified,” MacArthur emphasizes the need for spiritual leaders to remain disciplined in order to keep their personal and public life well-ordered and free from scandal. In the latter half of the chapter, MacArthur provides eight practices he has “found to be personally helpful to develop self-discipline” (154). Out of the eight, the one I found most challenging was his exhortation to “Find Ways to Be Edified than Merely Entertained.” MacArthur comments,
When you have time for rest and relaxation, do things that feed your soul rather than your carnal appetites. Listen to tapes of good preaching. Find music that uplifts and ennobles, rather than fills your mind with vanity and foolishness. Read a good book. Develop a hobby that has real value. Have an edifying conversation with someone you love.
This is a key component of true godliness. Give your private life to God. Devote yourself especially in your leisure time to the task of cultivating humility, holiness, and the fear of God.
A man’s ministry and leadership is developed or lost in the private hours. Sin flourishes in an undisciplined life where entertainment becomes the default. And a man who fails to cultivate holiness in his time-off will never move past spiritual mediocrity. Take heed and turn off the TV.
Recently, a friend emailed me and asked what practical steps I take in order to keep the Internet “an aid and not a distraction.” I thought I would share my response to him with you.
(1) I am deliberate in my use of the Internet. I set aside specific times that I allow myself to use it and only remain on the Internet for a set period of time. I also try to plan ahead and determine the particular reasons why I am going to be using the Internet and stick to those plans. Example: “I am going to check the headlines my Google Homepage at 8:00am each morning, and only remain on the Internet for 15 minutes.”
Without setting aside certain times of use, length of use, and reasons for use, my time on the Internet is more likely to be haphazard and take up more precious minutes then it should. Not to mention there is a greater chance that I may travel to sites I probably should avoid. Surfing the web is rarely a good idea, in my opinion. We should be deliberate and visit sites that we have preplanned to visit, and which we are reasonably confident are sites that will not promote sin. Also, I have found that the Internet has an uncanny ability to make my mind lazy if I am simply bouncing from site to site; on the other hand, being deliberate and purposeful in my use of the Internet helps to keep my mind sharp.
(2) I schedule time to write on my blog each day. If I can only write 30 minutes a day, then I schedule that in—just like I would schedule lunch, or a meeting, or Bible reading, etc.—and I discipline myself to stick to that amount of time.
(3) I try (!) to only check my email and the news at certain parts of the day. If I don’t do this, I find myself being constantly drawn to the prospect of new mail and the most recent headlines. In my opinion, this is nothing but an unhealthy desire for entertainment, manifesting itself in perpetual curiosity about what is in my Inbox or what is on CNN.com.
I should probably add this caveat: these are all things I am, by the grace of God, trying to do. I am often discouraged by my irregularity and inability to consistently practice these principles. I hate it when I have spent (wasted?) too much time on the Internet! Needless to say, however, I am seeking to grow in this area and gain control over the Internet so that it doesn’t take control of me. The Internet is a good gift from the Lord. I just want to make sure I use it wisely.
Photo: Pat Guiney