A Media Fast

Over the next several weeks, I’m going to encourage you to consider some fasting days in your 2019. Actually, the plan is to set aside four days a month on which you fast. There will be four fasts that I will ask you to consider. As I wrote last week in this space, one fast will be a meal fast whereby you go without food for a day and when those hunger pangs come, you push them aside and turn your heart and mind and energy to a hunger for God that is even greater. The physical meal fast will only be from sunup to sundown, and for almost everyone it is a possibility and can be a spiritual encounter.

The second fast I am encouraging you to consider is more difficult than doing without food, and that is a media fast. When I say media fast, I’m talking about staying away for one day each month all the activities that come barging into your life through the means of technology and media outlets — television and radio, social media of every sort that comes not knocking at your door but knocking down your door to get your attention and hold on to you until you simply fall asleep from exhaustion. A media fast.

What would it be like if you didn’t watch television for an entire day, or listen to radio with all of its news, music, and talk experiences? What if you did not pick up your home telephone, your smart phone, your iPad, or even your computer? Studies on how much time people spend on their computerized, digital devices are just incredible. I am fully aware of the fact that some of you spend a lot of time doing your work from a screen or the screening that comes to your attention through one of these devices.

Why would you want to do without them? I encourage you to think about all the time those devices take up that keep you from doing things you know need to have higher priority in your life. What if you had a one-day fast on media and every time you thought about picking up your phone or turning on the radio or calling someone or watching TV, you instead turned your attention to things on which God is nudging you to focus: your devotional time of Bible reading and prayer, the time you need to give to your mate or a friend in need, the time you need to give your children or grandchildren. We can be absorbed by all the media connections and their intrusions into our lives with matters about which we really don’t even care.

Since I am gone from home throughout the day, I do not get all of the robocalls whether they are advertisements or political calls or someone just wanting to phish for something, but my wife along with millions of others get them all day long, only to find out it’s something we don’t care anything about or need. I did get one of those calls on my cell phone not long ago. A woman was sweet and gracious and wanted me to know that I was eligible for a student loan. I said, “I really don’t need a student loan.” She said, “This one will can be applied to your master’s degree.” I said, “I don’t need a master’s degree. I don’t need a student loan. I don’t intend to go back to college. While I want to learn, I’m not going to be going back to school trying to get a degree and I don’t need a student loan.” She said, “Oh, sir, you’re missing out on a great opportunity.” On she went.

I look back on that incident even as I tell you about it now. What a waste of time on her part. What a waste of time on my part to listen to her and explain I didn’t need to go back to college. I may like to go back, but I can’t. I may wish I had time, but I don’t. The phone call was a waste of my time and is even a waste of telling you, but we endure those kinds of things all day long. Do I ever put my phone aside? Oh, absolutely. I am determined that it’s not going to control me. The problem is media condition us — not us conditioning media — so that every few minutes we’ve got to pay attention to some form of it. It can slightly vibrate and you think someone is trying to notify you of an emergency, something like your great grandfather has died. It’s constant harassment in our lives.

There are times when I simply walk away from it. If I’m going into a worship service, if I have my cell phone on my person it’s because I forgot to leave it in the car. Rarely do I have it because I don’t believe anything is going to happen in my life that, one, could even get my attention, or two, is more important than the meeting where I’m going to be having time with God and His people. It’s a problem that has grown and grown and will continue to grow in millions of lives. The only person in control of saying no to all the information trying to clutter your brain is you.

Now you know the problem. Here’s the plan: a media fast that you can use to reclaim your time. Please understand this is just one day a month that you are going to be doing this. If you try to do it one day, all day long, you’re going to find out how much your life is controlled by the devices you have around you. Just try it, at least one day, and reclaim some of your time to look to the Lord and be still and know He is God (Psalm 46:10).

You can get back your time and replace all those noises and clicks and clatters and vibrations clamoring to get your attention. You can replace all of that with time to think, to reflect on the precious things around you that have been forgotten. A time with God. A time with others. A time to do something you can’t do while flipping around on your phone and looking at Facebook.

The plan is to reclaim some time, replace earthly mechanisms with the things of God, and then reflect. Reflect on what it is for which God has put you here. The simplicity and yet the overwhelming reality that God has put you here for a purpose. Reflect on those things.

Finally, the purpose: It’s not to try to get you to leave all these digital wireless wonders alone, but to get in touch with even more important things in your life. It was Jesus who said in Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  We rise early in the morning and begin to be absorbed by all these things and miss out on the priority of life.

Pick the day for your second fast of the month and have a media fast. Every time media reach out to grab your mind, your eyes, and your senses and pull you in to tell you some breaking news or some useless news, don’t let it get ahold of you. Turn your attention to what God would have you to do and what He would have you to be. God bless you as we fast together.

The author can be contacted at directions@mbcb.org.

Jim Futral

Executive Director-Treasurer