This morning I read some stats from a US research company on how Americans are managing the pandemic. The results aren’t at all surprising, but they are a cause for alarm. I haven’t seen equivalent research for the Aussie context, but I doubt our figures would show any improvement.
To help them cope with the pandemic, most Americans said they are staying home to watch Netflix and chill: 89% reported that they are watching TV or movies daily or weekly. This includes 90% of all Christians, 87% of Jews and 88% of the religiously unaffiliated, according to Pew.
Many Americans (84%) also are spending time outdoors or talking by phone or video with family and friends (70%), the survey said.
But fewer are turning to their faith for support.
More than half (55%) reported praying at least weekly, followed by reading Scripture (29%), meditating (26%) and practicing yoga (8%).
This confirms indications that there has been a rise in prayer during this period. Though, I wonder if longitudinal studies will demonstrate a spike in ‘crisis’ prayers tapering off with things becoming more ‘chronic’.
A worldwide crisis calls Christians to worldwide prayer. Now is the time above all to be drawing near to God for comfort and strength. Now is the time to listen to God, to be reminded of his intense glory, his sovereign power, his promise to judge the wicked, is loving mercy, his grace to the humble, the incarnation of his Son, and his promise of restoration to come.
As I speak with my Christian friends, I fear we have the balance wrong. Some of us are watching news almost ever waking minute of everyday. Our minds are saturated with numbers, testing, positive cases, epicentres, hotspots, clusters, close contacts, numbers in ICU, deaths. The numbers are staggering, catastrophic, overwhelming, even numbing. And then, as if for relief, we add US-China tensions, Beirut blasts, political posturing, and football.
I tend to watch an hour of news most days, local and international. I flick around the internet, checking reports, reading an online paper, following news feeds. We often watch a show in the evenings. Maybe a miniseries, or a movie, or a catch up of some old series we enjoyed. Some are glued to screens most of the time. The most honest advertising I’ve seen recently was the introduction of Foxtel’s new streaming service and calling it ‘Binge’. (If only the gaming, alcohol, and tobacco industries were so honest about their intentions.) The aim is addiction. You can escape into another world and leave the real worries of this world behind—until you have to work again tomorrow after 2 hours sleep.
OK, so what am I recommending? Listening to God daily. Taking the time to read from the Bible. Hearing God’s perspective on what matters matter most. Discovering an antidote to anxiety and fear. Being reminded of God’s deep secure love and his promise to never leave nor forsake us. Grappling with the questions of suffering and pain, death and disaster. Having our hearts warmed by the rich mercies of God in Christ Jesus. Being comforted by the Comforter, who dwells in all who trust in Jesus. Being moved beyond ourselves to show love and compassion to others.
Can you find time each day to turn off the TV, put away your device, open a Bible—yes, a real one, with a cover, paper pages, where you can highlight, jot notes, flick between passages, and come back to things you’ve read before?
Why not change the TV diet. A little less Netflix. Listen again to the sermon from Sunday. Start a reading program. Mix it up. Dwell deeply in the Psalms. Explore the existential questions in Ecclesiastes. Take an attitude check with James. Rediscover worship in Romans 12. Recharge for ministry from Philippians. Investigate Jesus from the Gospels.
During the pandemic I’ve been aiming to record a Bible talk each day, with the aim of encouraging people from our church, and others, to keep a regular balanced diet of God’s word. There are talks for enquirers, equipment for people in ministry, encouragement to godly living, and calls to persevere under trial. Why not replace a little TV, with a regular Bible Bite.
It started as a pandemic project, but I’m hoping to keep it going. It’s been encouraging to hear from husbands and wives who watch an episode each day over coffee to explore God’s word together, from people who are sick and appreciate a brief exposition, from a Christian radio station who are broadcasting them, from Bible study leaders who have used them to supplement their programs, and from people isolated here and abroad, who have been encouraged by God’s word.
Please have a think about your spiritual diet. Check out the talks at http://youtube.com/c/davemcdonaldbibletalks and subscribe for regular updates. I’d love to hear how you use them and if they’re a help in any way.
You can find the following Bible Bites (5-10 minutes):
Psalms (3 talks ongoing)
Ecclesiastes (38 talks)
Philippians (22 talks)
Titus (19 talks ongoing)
James (23 talks)
And the following sermons (roughly 20 minutes):
Romans 12 (10 talks)
2 Corinthians (2 talks ongoing)