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Thriving in a Tech World

All of us want to thrive, but what does it mean to do so in a tech world from a Biblical standpoint?

I recently read a book where the author encouraged readers to “do today, thrive tomorrow”. At it’s core this is a beautiful reminder to “go to the ant, you sluggard” and prepare in times of plenty for times of need. That’s both Biblical and wise.

But when these ideas extend from the internet’s idea of thriving, when it is the lynchpin in a conversation about reaching all God has for us, I take umbrage. This “best life now” language becomes our starting point and then we try to figure out how God fits into it.

Let’s be clear: Jesus didn’t come so we could become the best version of ourselves. He came that we might die to ourselves and live for Him.

Today our conversation looks at what it means to thrive in a tech world, and how we can do so well with the days, and talents, God has gifted us.

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Nathan Sutherland:

Heavenly Father, I thank you for this chance to talk about technology and about doing your will. Lord, this idea about thriving and abiding. Would you help us understand what it is to be who you’ve called us to be and to do what you’ve called us to do without us straining in our own effort to do well enough or impress you, but instead to rest in the work you’ve done and to trust that by your Holy Spirit we can do what you’ve called and equipped us to do, in Jesus’ name, amen.

Hello everyone and welcome to the Gospel Tech podcast. My name is Nathan Sutherland and this podcast is dedicated to helping families love God and use tech. Today we are having a conversation on the difference between thriving and abiding. This conversation comes because I was reading a book the other day and a very well-liked, very popular Christian business person was sharing his ideas on how you be a Christian in the workplace, and it was pretty good.

It was talking about the general idea was how do you know what God’s purpose for you is? Which is the general idea that we’re called the love God with all we are our heart, soul, mind, and strength, to love our enemies and our neighbors as ourselves, and to help others do the same, to make disciples. Couldn’t disagree with that. So it was going great and then at one point he, and I want to make sure I don’t mess this part up, this is a direct quote, so I’m going to look for it here. His quote was, “Do today, thrive tomorrow.”

And I rolled with it and it just kept going. And then the more he went on into explaining what he meant by that, the more distracted I got, it was like this little sliver was in my brain and I was like, I can’t hear what he’s saying. What is going on right now? And so I paused it and just kind of reflected and that quote came back to the top of like, yeah, “Do today, thrive tomorrow?” Interesting, especially from a gospel standpoint. I’ve heard those words before and I’ve even thought those words before, but when using the Bible as your basis and it kind of as they say, stuck in my craw, and that’s the premise of today is because a lot of the technology we use is about doing today so we can thrive tomorrow even better, getting this item so that we can thrive right now.

And I want to address that from a gospel standpoint as we kind of have reflected on the tech we’ve used last week, the tech we’re using this summer and how we’re doing with our rhythms of technology. Let’s look at the technology we’re using and why we’re using it. So that is today’s conversation. Yes, Anna has already warned me that this is a little bit theoretical and I do get it and we’ll be jumping into some back to school stuff here in the near futures, but I felt like this was too early for our West Coast folks. So bear with me today. I promise it’s applicable, and tangible, and my prayer is that it’s encouraging as well. So with no further ado, let’s get this conversation started.

Welcome to the Gospel Tech Podcast, a resource for parents who feel overwhelmed and outpaced as they raise healthy youth in a tech world. As an educator, parent, and tech user, I want to equip parents with the tools, resources, and confidence they need to raise kids who love God and use tech.

Thank you to everyone who’s helped make this podcast possible. Thank you for liking, for sharing, for telling your friends about it and for supporting us. Some of you have gone to Thank you for supporting us. We are part of a 501c3 nonprofit and our goal is to spark positive purpose in youth and with gospel tech. Our goal is to help families love God and use tech.

Today’s conversation is about thriving versus abiding and it was inspired by this book that I mentioned in the intro, that I heard this quote about, “Do today so you can thrive tomorrow.” Initially agreed with it and then it was like, I actually don’t know if that’s true. And as we think about technology, the reason this applies to our technology conversation is, well, that’s exactly what technology promises, technology promises that if you get this device, if you use this app, if you do it in the right ways, it’s kind of like the alchemy where if you do everything in the right percentages, at the exact right times, then you can turn this simple object into gold or what eventually became gunpowder and porcelain. But that’s a weird history lesson that we’re not talking about.

Our alchemy of the digital world is, if you just give enough of your time, if you just give enough of your focus, we will make you rich, we will make you well-liked, influential, we will make you famous, we will make you whatever it is you wish you were and you could have a purpose and I’ll give it to you. And what technology doesn’t tell us is that all it requires is everything that you are. I just need your mornings and your nights. You can be around your family, but I’m going to need about 30 seconds out of every 10 minutes just to constantly make sure that you’re there.

You’re always paying attention to that next client, that next opportunity, that next speaking thing, whatever the next opportunity to drive that #grindnation is out there where if we just worked a little bit harder, then we’d finally reach God’s purpose for us. And as Christians, we can’t believe this. That idea that grinding towards a goal is how we achieve them is a lie. In fact, Jesus tells us that we abide. In fact, Jesus tells us a whole bunch, and I’ll run through these here. In Christ as Christians, if you’re not a follower of Christ, then here’s what is promised to you when you put your hope and trust in Christ. But for those of us who do trust in Christ, this is what is already true. You no longer live, but Christ lives in you. Galatians 2: 20, “I’ve been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me and the life I now live in, the flesh.” That physical body. “I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” That we live not our own life anymore. We’re living a life that we’ve now been gifted because we’re clothed in Christ is a term we’ll hear a lot. That idea that when God looks at us, he doesn’t see our faults and sins, he sees Christ’s righteousness. That’s why we’re already righteous even when we’re not perfect.

All right. So it’s not my life I live anymore. My life has been put to death and I live a new life. We’re also told you’re a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is in new creation. The old has passed away. Behold the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17.

So if I’m a new creation, no longer living for myself, what else does Christ tell me? Well, Paul repeats elsewhere that we are not our own, but we are bought with a price. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, you are not your own, for you are bought with a price so glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20.

So my body is not my own, my life is not my own. I’ve been purchased with a price and I’m a new creation, not waiting to get turned into something but already made new to do God’s work. That’s what we’re told in Ephesians 2: 4,10. “But God being rich in mercy because of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead in our trespasses made us alive together with Christ by grace, you have been saved.” And then skipping to verse 10, “For, we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

When we look at this picture, we do not have the picture of someone who has a carrot out there that God has set. And if you just do things right, if you just achieve your own greatness, and surround yourself with great people and stand on the shoulders of giants, then you can glorify God with your day’s, lives and talents. No. Instead, we’re told your life isn’t your own. It’s been bought with a price and the time you have, it’s to be used for God’s glory, not yours. So if I were just to summarize this, excuse me, it’s that God isn’t on your team, you’re on God’s team, and the reason this is really important when we talk about our technology is because I personally, running a nonprofit, doing a ministry, raising kids, reaching parents, and trying to make the biggest impact on the internet that I can make with a voice that brings glory to the Lord. I can justify a lot of choices that may not be what God has for me because there’s a ton of good stuff I could do.

There’s lots of perfectly reasonable good things I can do. I could serve people in ministries that I’m not supposed to serve in right now. I could stress myself trying to reach individuals that God hasn’t put directly in my path or hasn’t called me specifically to serve and love right now. We see this in Jesus’ own life. There’s still people to heal when Peter is walking around Jerusalem after Jesus has been resurrected, and then raise into heaven, they’re still sick people. Jesus didn’t heal them all. He didn’t fix them all. In fact, there’s a lame guy that’s been begging there since well before Jesus began his ministry and Jesus didn’t heal that guy. Why? We don’t know. All we know is that when Peter heals him, God gets the glory, not Peter. That’s all we got. And that for some reason that man’s healing was in that moment.

Okay, so what does that mean for you and me? It means that our goal is not fix every single problem you see, it’s pray where the Lord has set you, the people around you, the physical location and the call he’s got on your life through your talents, or your opportunities, or your circumstances right now. And then ask how you can glorify him in this. We call this process abiding. This is really important. The opposite of striving, it’s abiding. And when we talk about that thrive, “Do today so you can thrive tomorrow.” It’s not a bad idea. There are certainly really important things you need to do today to thrive, right? You need to remind yourself of who you are in Christ. That’s important. You need to repeat promises that are true about who God is because sometimes we don’t feel them and we just have to know them.

That’s part of faith is, I don’t feel this right now, but I know what’s true, so I’m putting my mind on it. As Romans 8:5 tells us “That we set our minds on the things of the spirit, not the things of the flesh.” But those actually aren’t thriving things. Those are abiding things. Because on the thriving, like if we #thrive the whole, I’m too blessed to stress thing that when things are going well, then I know God is happy with me. Well, that’s not actually true. If we look at Jesus’s 11 closest friends on earth, 10 of them were murdered and one of them they tried to murder. He just didn’t die. So they sent him out on an island of Patmos, right? That’s when Jesus says, “I’ve come to thee. I have life and have it to the fullest.” He doesn’t mean beach vacations, beach vacations, by the way aren’t bad.

I fully hope to take one in the next few years, but that’s not what he meant. You can absolutely have a beach vacation, glorify God, and enjoy him to the fullest in that moment. And when things don’t go our way, it’s not because God’s mad at us, it’s not because we’ve let him down. It’s not necessarily judgment. I’m not saying things don’t get hard so that you’ll bend your knee and repent, and worship God again. I’m saying we can’t see these promises of God that he will help us have life to the fullest to be meaning our life that we want. Instead, we submit our life that’s no longer ours and we live for Christ. Why do we talk about this with technology? Remember what I said? Technology is constantly doing. It’s constantly promising us this life that can be on our terms, that can make us the way we want to look. Instead, what we need to ask is, “God, what do you want from me?”

So let’s take this from the top and say technology first, what technology are you using? I would simply ask you, why are you using it? Can we prayerfully ask God, “Why am I using this technology?” When you use it, what’s the majority of what’s produced? Galatians 5: 19-22 is beautiful here. The idea of those verses is what fruit are you producing? If it’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control, then by all means keep using that fruit. This is how we know a good thing isn’t good in this time. Before I stopped teaching and before I stepped away from serving in young life to do full-time nonprofit work, I saw some fruit coming out that wasn’t a product of Nathan needing to simply trust the Lord more.

It was actually because I wasn’t trusting in a very gentle and gracious mentor brought this up to me he goes, “Nathan, two things. One, it doesn’t look like you’re trusting God.” “I’m like, what do you mean?” He’s like, “Well, all the reasons you’ve given me for why you’re doing all these things at the same time is because you’re worried God can’t use other people to do it.” Now, he was summarizing what I said. I never said those words, but I pretty much meant them. That was why I was so stressed out was what if I’m not there? Surely these good things wouldn’t happen then. And it’s uncomfortable to say out loud, but it needs to be said. That was true. And the second piece was, “You’re pointing to harvest the number of people that are coming to Jesus or the ministry, the number of people that are engaging in this ministry as your reason for doing the ministry.”

He’s like, “And that’s not a biblical reason.” The example he used was Philip in Macedonia, Acts chapter… Oh my goodness, I’m going to say 2, but I might be off on that. But early in Acts, Philip is in Macedonia and then gets called away. He has this really, really successful ministry amongst a bunch of Gentiles. He preaches to one Ethiopian eunuch who as far as we know from history started the church in North Africa, and then he went somewhere else and never returned back to his successful ministry in Macedonia.

And the other example that the Lord laid on my heart later was Isaiah. Isaiah in chapter 1, I want to say verse 6, tells the Lord. Lord asks, “Who can I send?” Isaiah says, “Send me.” And then God tells him what he has to say. And Isaiah says, “For how long?” And God says, “Until no one listens and everyone’s taken into captivity until the town’s live vacant and sheep graze amongst the buildings.” That’s not exactly a solid call.

And for the next 30 plus years Isaiah does exactly that. And we have time, after time, after time that he preaches gospel truth about what God is saying to Israel and his relationship with his people and his relationship with all of us. And then guess what? 600 years later, Jesus shows up and who does he quote the most? Isaiah, a dude that had a 30 plus year non-starter of a ministry. Nobody listened. No one repented. It didn’t fix anything but Jesus time and again says, “Those words that were spoken, they were about me. That thing that was said, that was about me. All these things promised to you by all those other prophets, but said in the words of Isaiah, it’s me.” That’s incredible. And that’s what I want to remind us when we talk about abiding. We can always check our fruit. What technology are you using? Check your fruit.

Galatians 5:22, “What’s it producing in you?” And if it produces anxiety, envy, comparison, gossip, bits of rage, lust, drop it like it’s hot, cut it out, replace it with something better. Replace it with, oh, this has been my… I’m not saying this to be preachy, I’m saying this. This has been my thing. I’ve mentioned lots of my news apps, so now it’s been all right when I want to check those, fine to be up on the news, but I can be compulsive. What if I just opened my Bible app and I had the proverb for that day or the psalm for that day? And I like those because they’re simple. You can read three verses out of a psalm and get something. It’s not, I have to understand this whole chapter and all the context and all the information. It’s simple.

Today’s whatever. So I’m pre-recording this, so it’s August 2nd. So it was Psalm 2, and Psalm 32, and Psalm 62. And do as many of those I can get through. What if I just did that for four minutes when my kids were upstairs brushing their teeth? Guess what? It changes it. Why? Because I’m not striving anymore. I’m not getting back to text. I’m not jumping in my work email. I’m not thinking of a marketing plan. I’m not writing my next podcast. I’m not doing anything. I’m making a couple minutes to slow my mind and read God’s truth, and his word, and let his Holy Spirit do work in my heart. And it’s been really cool and I don’t do it every single time and I still watch shows and I still read the news. That’s not the point. The point is, are we striving or are we abiding?

Because as we’re told John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the vine. You are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit for apart from me you can do nothing.” He goes on to say that the branches that are disconnected are withers and toss into the fire. And that we can ask God for whatever we want in his name and he’ll give it so that we can be shown where are things come from. It’s not so that we can do our will so that we ask for things because we’re attached to Jesus, and this goes back to that lovely saying, that you can pray to do God’s will. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And then do whatever you want. And that it’s true here. You can ask for whatever you want as long as you’re abiding in Christ because you’ll only want to do what Christ tells you to do. In the same way Jesus says, “I only do what the Father tells me.” I only do Jesus Christ on Earth said, “I only do what the Father tells me to do by the spirit.” Okay, we should do the same.

So now big picture technology. We are in the middle of summer. We’re enjoying break with our kids. We’re around sports, we’re around free time, we’re around technology, we’re around family. We’re around just the house. Sometimes we’re around vacation. Some of you’re going to be soaking it in for the last couple of weeks. Some of you have days until your school year starts looking at you East Coast folk. So what do we do? The first thing we’re going to do is assess what tech we’re using. The second is, we’re going to assess why we’re using it. Look at the fruit, what’s being produced by it, and then prayerfully reflect on where are we putting our time and our focus? What are we setting our hearts on? Because in abiding in Christ, we can only do that when we’re reading his word, when we’re worshiping, when we’re doing community with fellow believers, with the purpose of loving God more.

I don’t just mean being around people a lot. I mean speaking truth into one another’s lives. Asking sure, “How’s it going?” Asking, “What’s something God’s doing in your life and where’s an area you’re struggling?” But then not leaving it there and going, “All right, so what are you either not believing or what are you not doing? Or what do we need to lean into in prayer for what God could be doing?” Because all of us have an area to work on. Those of us that are doing well, have areas we can work on in serving and loving others. And those of us that are struggling with the sins done to us or the sins we’re doing, we have areas that we need to repent of and seek healing through confession, through counseling, through worship and prayer.

Those are all things that we need to be doing. And those are the things we do to abide. We read scripture, we pray, we gospel each other is like the churchy term for it. I don’t know another way to say that. We remind each others of the gospel truths, those things I shared at the beginning, that our lives are not our own. That we are new creations right now, that we have everything we need for life and godliness would be another one I didn’t share today, but is another reminder that these things are done in Christ. And now we can go do the good works that have been prepared beforehand for us to do. And the question would be, does our technology help us do that? Help us do what God’s called us and prepared for us to do? Or distract from it? Because that’s true thriving.

And it may not look like what we would like to see it on Instagram or on social media of any variety. It might not be as rosy and pretty in a picture, but it is the fullest life, it’s life that every one of Christ’s disciples led that when they were martyred, they said, “This is life to the fullest.” Paul’s statement that to live is Christ and to die is gain. He wasn’t being metaphorical. He wasn’t putting on a brave face. He’s saying, “I want to stay here. I have ministry to do and it would be so beautiful to see that fruit. I want to see you again church. And yet, if I die, if I’m taken from this life, and my race is finished and I got to hear ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ That’s what I want. And then to know and learn God forever, to have that be the constant joy of my everyday existence. Well yeah, that’s better, but I’ll take this for now.” And that’s what we need to do. Don’t strive for that goal that’s out there that one day you hope will make you matter.

Don’t strive to get that perfect kid so that you can turn to the people around you and say, “Ha, I did it right.” Instead, let’s turn to the Lord in prayer and repentance, acknowledging our anxiety, acknowledging our fears, acknowledging our successes, and saying, “Lord, these are all yours. How should I use the days I’ve got left?”

I’ll end on this. We had a beautiful situation up here in Washington state through our church, a wonderful early church member. It’s a 10-year-old church. So an early church member got super sick, like in a matter of days, and within four days was put in a medical coma and was told, “In the next 24 hours, he’ll be dead or miraculously healed.”

Church had a Zoom prayer meeting of all things. And within 10 minutes at the end of that prayer meeting, the doctors came in and said, “His numbers are turning. Platelet count is changing. This sounds very positive.” Within 24 hours, he was well on his way to recovery and within a week he was released. And this last week he was at church on Sunday and his kidneys function and his body works. And it was literally a medical miracle. It would be set in that category. The doctors were out of options. We don’t know why that happened. We know we’re told to pray for those who are sick. We also know that God grants our prayers. And in this beautiful example, we were given a brother back to serve for a little more time. For him to live is Christ that is beautiful. A perfect example of like, man, I want that.

We don’t know how long we’ve got. He wasn’t a sickly person. He was perfectly healthy. He got sick, it took a real bad turn, and he almost died. He’s back with us for a season. At some point he will die, as will we. And in this season of life, we simply need to say, “Lord, with the time I’ve got, what should I be doing with it? How can I love my kids well?” Not so that they can be good. I find this with myself. I get very fearful that I’m not loving my kids well enough. If I just did a little more in the back of my head, what I’m saying, “Is if I just love them enough, if I gave them enough scripture, then they wouldn’t make the mistakes I made and they would smooth sail through it all and they love God and they’d have life to the fullest.”

And by that I mean no problems and complete perfection. But that’s not actually what we want for our kids. What we want is Christ. And the only reason they need Christ is they’re not perfect. So they’re going to make those mistakes. And my job is to point them back to Christ. And your opportunity is to point them back to Christ, to love your kids where they’re at, to love your neighbors where they’re at, to love your enemies, where they’re at. And to keep the same answer for all of it. You need a new heart. And once you’ve got it, you need to abide. So my encouragement for you today, listeners, as you parent, as you’re a spouse, as you’re a worker, as you’re single, as you’re a member of your church, as you are finding God’s purpose and path for you, please know it’s not just some job out there.

It’s not something you’ll eventually accomplish. It’s who you are today with the days God is giving you and your best option for living life to the fullest. It’s to make space in your time and heart to be with God, to abide, memorize scripture, read it, pray about it, talk about it. Confess what it brings up in your heart. Ask questions when you’re confused. Because the point isn’t a full bucket of knowledge. The point is a heart full of Jesus. So I hope this is encouraging to you. I hope as Anna warned that it wasn’t too theoretical and that it feels applicable and encouraging because my goal in doing this work isn’t just to use tech better, it’s to love God. And from that love to then use our tech from hope, not for hope.

So I hope that this hope, that the hope is there. This was encouraging. I hope you’ll check us out on social media. We’re at lovegodusetech. If you’re encouraged by what we post there, please share that with others. And I hope you’ll join us next week as we continue this conversation about how we can love God and use tech.

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