Evaluating Your Input
By Maria Fontaine
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The Lord has placed the responsibility on each of us to evaluate what types of input we take in, whether information, entertainment, or media, through the various forms of media and communications available today. What we view, read, and listen to has an impact on our perspectives, opinions, and lives.
To decide what is godly and ungodly input, you need to determine the effect that it has on your spirit rather than solely what its source is. Godly is defined as showing reverence for God; emanating from God; true to godly beliefs and values.
Godly input is any input that brings you closer to God, supports your faith, or has an uplifting and positive effect on your spirit. It is input that amplifies the truth or illustrates lessons or examples that result in spiritual growth. It is input that promotes godly attributes and values, and that motivates thoughts, words, or actions that draw you or others to God.
The definition of ungodly is lacking reverence for God; denying or disobeying God; sinful; characterized by iniquity; evil. Ungodly input may be defined as input which moves us away from God, hinders faith, or teaches incorrect or negative principles. It is input that hinders positive spiritual growth or that promotes disobeying or even denying God. It is input that seeks to refute God’s Word or to destroy faith in it. It is also input that promotes evil as good or exalts values that are contrary to godly values.
While some input is clearly godly and some is clearly ungodly, there is much input that is neither godly nor ungodly in itself. Instead, the individual’s perceptions, motives, and treatment of this input determine what effect it has on them. Things that fall into this neutral category can become spiritually negative or harmful if overindulged in, because they crowd out the beneficial input and life experience that a person could otherwise be receiving.
As Christians, we do need a certain amount of input from the world in order to stay current and relatable to those we are here to reach with the Lord’s love and truth. Staying current with the news, local happenings, and being aware of trends or current issues, and being relatable to others in our speech and writing are all part of “becoming all things to all men, that we might win some.”1
Our mission is bringing Jesus to others, helping them come to know His love, and sharing spiritual truths with them. In order to do this successfully, we need to meditate on and live those spiritual truths ourselves.
The more of Jesus we have in our lives, the more we take on His nature and the more others will be drawn to His Spirit in us. Thus, anything that draws us away from Jesus and His Spirit, or that tarnishes our spirit or sullies our testimony is something we would want to avoid. Anything that weakens our conviction and motivation to be His light in the world could hinder our ability to be an effective witness of our faith.
As Christians, Jesus has commissioned us to be in the world but not of the world.2 We are His representatives, entrusted with sharing His message with the world. In order to be an accurate reflection of His love and care for people, we need to be conscious of how we give the world entrance to our lives. In order to do so, we need to identify which forms of input negatively affect us as individuals, and we need to do our best to counteract or minimize those avenues so that we can successfully be “in the world, but not of the world.”
Due to the Internet, information (which often falls into the neutral category) is plentiful and accessible the world over. Being able to access information easily, quickly, and cheaply creates great benefits, both for the mission and the spread of the gospel, as well as for personal or work needs. However, knowing how to use the Internet effectively and how to stay focused on getting the information that you need without it becoming a time waster or a distraction from your life goals is important.
Entertainment is enjoyable, and it has a place in a balanced life. It goes without saying that most entertainment isn’t entirely pure, but some of it can be acceptable and even healthy if it is used in moderation for times of relaxation and recreation; otherwise it can become ungodly by overindulgence or not guarding your attitudes and habits from being negatively influenced.
Whether neutral input is acceptable or beneficial ultimately depends on your use of it. Is what you’re spending your time on benefiting you as a person or in your spiritual life, or is it stealing your time from priorities that are actually more important to you?
When determining what neutral input is acceptable for you, it’s helpful to be honest with yourself about your priorities in life. Consider questions such as:
- Are you consistent with your godly input—time in communion with the Lord, studying His Word, growing spiritually and strengthening your faith?
- If you made a list of the things that are most important to you in life (for example, your spouse and children, your service to the Lord, your relationships with others, your health, your character, ongoing training and career development), do you spend the majority of your time on the things that are truly important to you?
- How are you affected by the input that you allow in your life? Does that input detract from your joy, peace, and faith? Does it take away—whether in time or quality—from fruitful relationships with friends, co-workers, or fellow believers? Is it taking the place of time that could be invested in the development of your talents or skills, in preparation for greater usefulness in the future?
When it comes to neutral forms of input, in order to accurately assess what is or isn’t beneficial for you, you have to analyze the fruit of your actions and intake. If you can learn to recognize what things are healthy or harmful for you, you’ll be better prepared to make healthy choices. You can learn to take what is good and beneficial from what both the secular and religious worlds have to offer, while still protecting yourself from time wasters, false or distorted principles that can sometimes be mingled with some truth, or excesses that cause you to lose track of the true standards and get off balance in your attitudes or perspectives.
When John Wesley was away at college, he asked his mother Susanna for a list of sins to avoid, and she replied: “Whatever weakens your reason, whatever impairs the tenderness of your conscience, whatever obscures your sense of God, whatever increases the authority of your body over your mind, whatever takes away from your relish for spiritual things, that to you is sin, no matter how innocent it is in itself.”
Time is a major factor
Time is in short supply; there is never enough time to do all that needs to be done. Some time management experts say that what people choose to spend their time on determines approximately 90% of success or the lack of it. Those who reach their goals are those who invest significant time and effort in reaching those goals, and who often make sacrifices in order to do so.
Thus, one of the greatest factors to consider is not just the quality of the input itself but the time that it can take away from other important things. As you make your daily choices of how to spend your time, you are determining your future, your fruitfulness, your legacy, your success, all of which are forged one day at a time and one decision at a time. It all comes down to what you want in life, and then being disciplined enough to pursue your goals.
As Christians, we are each responsible before the Lord to preserve our time and invest it wisely, and to guard our spirits. If you are vigilant about preserving your time, you will have enough time for the most important things in your life, and the sacrifices you make will be repaid in the happiness and fulfillment that comes from reaching your goals.
What do you want in life? Where do you want to invest your time? What are the things that are truly important to you? What do you want your future to look like? What will help you to grow, either spiritually or in your character or your skills? You will want to invest your time in reaching those priorities and goals.
If you guard your spirit—taking in what is beneficial and walking away from those things that harm your spirit—you’ll have a healthier spirit that is better prepared to withstand the storms of life, and you’ll have greater peace in your relationship with Jesus. The key is in learning to strike a good balance. It may include some difficult choices—because doing what’s best and will achieve the best results is often the hard choice—but it will also include rewards and payback that are well worth it.
Take the time to commune with the Lord and seek Him about your input, your activities, your entertainment, your education, your information-gathering. Have faith to come before Him with an open heart, and trust that as you acknowledge Him in all your ways, He will guide your path.3
We are each responsible for our spiritual lives—both our relationship with the Lord and growing spiritually, as well as protecting our spirits from those things which would be negative or detrimental to our spiritual lives. We are God’s representatives, and the more of His nature we take on, the better we will be able to convey His love and message to others.
Originally published October 2009. Adapted and republished July 2019.
Read by Irene Quiti Vera.