My son, Samuel, is 24 and was born into the demographic known as “Gen Z.” I am thankful that he knows and serves the Lord. We sometimes have interesting talks about God and the Christian life in general, and we were having one of our interesting chats the other day while driving down the road.
We discussed some of the men used by God in a mighty way during the last few hundred years—John Bunyan, John Wesley, George Mueller, and D. L. Moody to name a few.
I asked my son, “Do you think, if those guys were your age and living in today’s world, they would be the same great men of prayer, faith, and power that we know from history?” After a pause, he agreed that it would be hard to know the answer to that question exactly, but we also both concurred that today’s world presented certain challenges and obstacles to a life of total devotion to God very different than those of previous generations.
Salvation from sin is the same in every generation. Those men spoke openly of their sinful lives before conversion. Bunyan decried his irreverent behavior, foul language, and “love of sports,” which during the 1600s meant cards and table games. George Mueller told the story of when he was informed that his mother was about to die, and his sin-filled heart neglected to leave his carousing to go see her one last time. Such was his depravity. But God saved sinners hundreds of years ago the same way He saves them today, and there is no doubt that people living in the era of these four spiritual giants (1600-1900) had to deal with their fair share of temptations and struggles, too.
My son and I agreed that...
These men of God, as great as they were, faced different obstacles than contemporary disciples that still seek to live out the old chorus “holiness unto the Lord is our watchword and song.”
Yes, our obstacles are quite different. In the modern world of convenience and comfort, we have not yet faced severe persecution as many others have (although, the day may come). I, personally, have never been threatened to “renounce Christ or die.” Obviously, none of us wish to live in such circumstances, but I’ll just say it: I believe that it may be easier to live a godly life under a Communist or radical Islamic regime than in today’s society of a thousand distractions.
Believers suffering under those oppressive regimes are pressed daily to fully dedicate their very lives—quite literally—to God as they know not what the persecution of that day may bring. Let’s just say that they might have a bit more motivation than we do to fast and pray each day. Could facing daily persecution and death actually make living a life of complete devotion easier? We “comfortable Christians” may not be in danger of execution or being sent to an internment camp today, but the obstacles that current “First World” Christianity faces are much more insidious and deceptive.
What are these obstacles to which I am referring? During the era of the aforementioned men, most of the hindrances to a godly life were found outside the security of the home. This security was meant to be a protection against the sin that was “out there.” Perhaps Wesley would have understood better than we do today God’s admonition to Cain that “sin lies at the door.” Home was meant to be a place where one could shut the door to the world and shut himself in with God.
Indeed, “ale and wenches” could be found by a young man in the year 1750 if he went out looking for a temptation to overcome, but he most likely would still have to leave his four walls to find it.
Today, it is very different. With the advent of smartphones, tablets, and computers, one doesn’t have to go outside the four walls to find the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. The ungodly world that we are commanded not to love in sacred Scripture has found its way into the security of our homes and into the privacy of closed doors through the Internet. This private place that was meant for communion with God and meditation of His Word has now been replaced by untold hours of access to the virtual world. This has produced what appears to be myriads of addicted zombies that seem dead to eternal realities, marching to the beat and tune of the Pied Piper that is the enemy of their souls.
Most likely, those reading this article right now would not consider themselves zombies, but you would agree that you may be too absorbed with what tech has brought into your life, even though these things may not be inherently sinful.
My son and I agreed that the greatest hindrance to being a modern Wesley or Moody is simply the distraction that social media, entertainment, sports, and other things can bring.
It is this distraction that has lulled many to sleep spiritually and has drawn them away from a life of power and anointing. It has greatly hindered the forming of modern Bunyans, Wesleys, Muellers, and Moodys.
There is simply no other way to a life of holiness and fruitfulness than time alone with God on a daily basis.
Our world may be drastically different than the one George Mueller lived in, but the recipe for a fruitful life of victory has not changed. It is still the discipline that these spiritual giants of yesteryear practiced every day.
There is no way around it. There are no shortcuts. The branch must abide in the vine if there is to be fruit, and a simple prayer before meals or bedtime just won’t cut it. The greatest of all commandments—to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength”—can only be understood in this context. Spiritually speaking, the word love is not written L-O-V-E but T-I-M-E! We must be as deliberate and intentional about our life of prayer and devotion today as John and Charles were in 1762.
Again, it is nothing less than the distractions of modern technology and entertainment that form the greatest hindrance to a life of God’s precious anointing and power. Unless we learn to remove these distractions and pray like those godly men prayed, we cannot expect the kingdom results that they saw.
I will go out on a limb and say that if John Wesley had been born not in 1703 but in 2003 and spent more time on his social media than shut in with the Lord, there would be no John Wesley; the name maybe, but not the anointed man used by God to impact an entire nation.
Due to these distractions, Christians today may very well be living in the most difficult time in history, spiritually speaking. I sometimes wonder if I had lived in the 1700s what kind of temptations or distractions would I have to face? I certainly believe there would be fewer voices competing for my attention. I believe that spending a couple of hours alone with God would have been easier without all the competition for our attention that we deal with today. We are constantly bombarded with virtual distractions coming from a device held in hands that should be more often lifted to the Lord and serving Him. We must overcome these distractions and devote more time to Jesus.
If the modern day Muellers and Moodys are to rise, there must be a resurgence of the same life of prayer that these men lived. We must be intentional and put away all things that hinder the life of holiness.
Technology must become a tool for God’s glory, not something that absorbs and controls us.
The Bible tells us that “we are made a spectacle unto angels and unto men.” Yes, we are being watched! I wonder if one day, instead of us admiring the lives of Bunyan, Wesley, Mueller, and Moody, they might possibly admire those living in these modern times who intentionally put away the distractions they themselves did not face in order to uncompromisingly seek the fullness of God?
We may be living in days of more obstacles, distractions, and sin, but let us remember that “where sin did abound, grace did much more abound.” His grace and power will always be sufficient if we will only embrace it.
The eyes of the Lord still “roam throughout the Earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” Bunyan, Wesley, Mueller, and Moody may not be alive today, but you and I are. We were born for such a time as this. And if we will daily surrender our lives to Christ and not allow the distractions of the modern world to take us away from that precious place of secret communion with Him, we too can shake our generation for the glory of God. Nothing else is more worth living and dying for!