This episode almost didn’t happen. I rewrote it three times. I had to fully record it twice. I pray it’ll be useful.
I want to talk about whether our tech is helping us love God well, but at the heart of that conversation is a discussion about failure. God loves to use failure to achieve his purposes. He starts in 3:15 and hasn’t looked back. He isn’t scared by it, but he also isn’t ok with it. If God could just ignore failure Jesus wouldn’t be necessary. Instead God does something else: He uses failure.
This matters in talking tech because most of our Drool Tech is aimed at getting around failure. Games give fail-proof adventures, social media gives fail-proof connections, and pornography gives fail-proof intimacy (no one has ever been turned down by porn). Yet that stuff can’t bring us hope or peace, and some of it brings death to the very things we’re hoping to nurture.
Today’s conversation looks at failure, how God uses it, and how we can use tech from hope and not for hope. It’s ambitious, and I pray I pull it off.
Nathan [00:00:08] Lord, thank you for this opportunity to come together and talk about technology. Would you use my words to encourage, to challenge, and to extend this conversation about what it looks like to use tech well and how You are using technology for Your kingdom and where we might be causing problems and using technology for our own kingdom and use. Would you give me words to speak and by Your Holy Spirit, open our eyes and ears to hear Your Word rightly and then apply it to our lives. In Your name, amen.
Nathan [00:00:35] 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, our conversation is about whether we’re using our tech well. It’s a two part conversation because it’s actually going to be about failure is really the big premise of this conversation. But in talking about failure, I’m trying to extend this idea of why we’re using our tech and are we using tech to extend God’s kingdom or build our own? In light of that, trying to see if we need to make change with our technology or if we can keep using our technology because we’re doing it well, it’s also going to help us as we parent our kids as they want new technology and we get more nuance, too. All right. What is this tech doing? How can we use it well and is there a way to use it right and wrong, or is this technology just too much and it’s not going to help us do God’s will? Well, so that’s the premise of this conversation. And with no further ado, let’s get this conversation started.
Nathan [00:01:34] 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.
Nathan [00:01:57] Thank you to everyone who’s helped make this podcast possible. Thank you for listening. Thank you for sharing and thank you for liking and subscribing. So listeners, we know that you’re listening and that’s amazing. You are sharing it with people, which is incredible because we can see the listenership grow and you are liking and subscribing. So the liking piece, you can go give us a rate or a like depending if you’re on YouTube, it’d be like if you’re on something like Apple Podcasts where most of you are listening, you can just give us a five star review if we are five star content and if we’re not, you can contact me. Nathan@Gospeltech.net or on social media @LoveGodUseTech and let me know how it can improve. That’d be awesome. But with a five star review, you can also leave me a five star rating. You can leave a one sentence review. And that helps people find us. That’s the best way to help people find out about this. We don’t run ads or anything like that. The only way people find us is word of mouth. Algorithms love when content is being used and when it’s helpful, and it will keep pushing us to people all over the world. So thank you for listening and please join us on that end.
Nathan [00:02:59] Today’s conversation, as I mentioned, is about are we using tech well? Really the underlying premise of this is are we using failure well? Here’s what I mean by that. When we look at how God teaches us, it comes through discipline often. It comes from correction, loving, pruning, God, pulling away parts of our lives that aren’t helping and loving and helping us love Him. They are lovingly removing distractions and those are acts of grace and that’s wonderful. We see it happen all the time. So when we think about failure then, it’s really God allowing us to have our will happen in this life before it really counts in the next life when we deny Him and run forever. He’s trying to bring us to repentance. And that is kind of the premise here. We see it a lot in the Bible. We see God allow Abraham to fail with Ishmael. It’s not God’s will, explicitly not God’s will, and yet God saves Ishmael and Hagar. He sends them off and blesses them and makes them a great people in spite of Abraham disobedience. David was disobedient repeatedly, but most notably in the sexual assault of a woman and the murder of her husband, who was also one of David’s best men. Not marritally, but best men for his mighty men. His fighting soldiers. Like this dude was a big guy Uriah was a big deal and he murders him. Then is forced to repent really well and has consequences and it’s not seen as a good thing. Keep that in mind. But God allows it to happen. God allows Joseph to take true prophecies and pride to his brothers, and then his brothers in anger to sell Joseph into slavery. And then He uses that to save a lot of people. That’s not a series of good things, but things that God isn’t scared of. We see the people of Israel repeatedly rebelled and God uses it. He uses it when they walk 40 years in the desert until a generation has passed who refused to do God’s will. He uses it when Assyria comes and invades Israel and then later Babylon invasion. Excuse me, they invade Judah. And then Israel’s invaded by Babylon 150, 200 years later. Then they’re invaded by Greece and the Romans and it doesn’t end well. God even allows the rebellion of the people of Israel when Jesus comes. John 1 tells us that He came to that which was His own. His own did not receive Him. They deny Jesus to the point where Jesus says, “Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how I longed to gather you to Myself. Like a hen gathers her chicks. And you would not repent, you would not believe, you would not follow. And then He goes to speak this prophecy of what’s going to happen in 70 A.D. Not one stone is going to stand on another. You are going to be surrounded and hemmed in and it’s going to be horrific. According to Josephus, it was horrific. And yet God used even that failure to draw people to Himself.
Nathan [00:06:00] We see Peter fail hard, even in the face and relationship with Jesus. He fails badly to the point where he denies Jesus three times. We see Saul deny not just Jesus, but the church and murders Christians like on purpose. He hunts them down, breaks their families, executes, communicates them from the nation of Israel, and murders them. When he gets a chance to the point where he’s done so good in Jerusalem, he gets sent to a second city to go murder Christians there. And that’s where he’s saved by Jesus. That’s a long list of failures. Why do they happen? Because people are running against the will of God. So He allows them to fail and it repeatedly brings people back into relationship or at least brings them to a decision point on what they’re going to do next. And what’s most important to note about these failures is that God teaches through failure. This is part of the loving process. Yes, He even loves people who deny him. He loves Judas. When Judas is at The Last Supper and Jesus says “Judas, all right, you’re going to betray me.” He says that after he says, “Someone’s going to betray me.” It’s the one I’ve I give this thing that have dipped into the bitter herbs and hands it to Judas. It’s a call to repentance. It’s a reminder that Judas, it’s going to be better for you if you weren’t born, then what you’re going to do. Right? Like, that’s not good. Someone was going to betray Jesus. But Jesus’ saying, “Judas repent.” Jesus knew that was going to happen. He’s still washed Judas’ feet. Jesus knew it was going to happen. He still let Judas carry the purse. Yes, Jesus knew Judas was stealing from Him, but He allowed him to keep hearing the Gospel until that glorious goodness of God hardened Judas; heart. Because, no, I don’t. I don’t want a merciful savior. I want a victorious king on my terms. I want to call the shots. That’s why Judas betrayed Jesus. And yet Jesus was still good. He still allowed the failure. We’re giving the parable that the reason God has not ended sin yet, was because He’s allowing all the wheat to bloom. Yes. With the weeds. Yes, this bad stuff is happening. He doesn’t want to cut anything too soon. He’s going to get a full harvest. He’ll sift the wheat from the chaff later. But right now it’s all growing up together. God is mercifully delaying His hand. He is rich in love and slow to anger. Yes, there will be judgment, but not until the last person has repented.
Nathan [00:08:22] So in light of that failure or something that’s going to bring about repentance, it’s going to bring about a good life. So if you’re experiencing failure right now, I’m not saying it’s God’s judgment for you. Sometimes it’s just are poor decisions and there are consequences. But that failure is something that draws us closer to God. That just constantly experiencing success apart from God is the definition of hell. Like, that’s what hell is. Hell is constantly getting our own way forever because we will never choose God in that state. That’s the state that Satan is in. Constantly experiencing his own will at all times. He’s the father of lies and he’ll distort it any way because he gets to say whatever story he wants because he’s king of his own little world, He’s already lost, But that is his eternal judgment for himself. It’s the definition of hell. We think that success often is the idea of getting our own terms. That’s not it. Success is the glory of God and experiencing God’s glory and reveling in that is our ultimate reality. That’s when we have the most joy and the most peace and the most presence and the most satisfaction.
Nathan [00:09:26] So what is this idea of failure than say about God? It says three things. First, it says He’s not scared of our wrongs. He’s not scared of our failures. Adam and Eve didn’t intimidate Him. It wasn’t His original hope for them. They were created for a perfect garden and for good work and for obeying and being in relationship with God. But He had a plan. Which brings the second one is that God will use us. He’ll use our faithfulness and He’ll use our failures. He is not intimidated. Esther was put in that place for such time as this, but so was Pharaoh. God says, I’ve raised you up to this office for such a time as this doesn’t mean that God had to make Pharaoh bad. The whole premise of Pharaoh was like Judas. He saw God and hated him. You’re trying to call shots. What about my power? What about my reign? What about my kingdom? I don’t like what you’re telling me to do. Hardened Pharaoh’s heart with God’s grace and power. And God use that judgment to free him. It’s not like God couldn’t use a repentant pharaoh. It would somehow confuse Him or throw off His will. But God can use an unrepentant heart. It is not intimidating or overwhelming to Him. It’s not somehow a stick in this glorious cog of God’s working. And the third thing is that God wins in the end, and I’m going to read this. This is kind of the arc of this last part. So it’s not specifically dealing with failure. It’s dealing with the fact that in light of our failures, that they don’t throw off God’s work. So hear me out on this and I’m going to read a bunch of them because I want to hear them and I want you to hear what this what Scripture says, I guess, about our failures and really about what the Bible’s actually about, that it’s not about us trying to be better. It’s about God being bigger. So here we go.
Nathan [00:11:11] Genesis 3:15, talking about the fall of Adam and Eve. He’s now speaking to Satan directly. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and her offspring. He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.” Which brings us to Daniel 7:17, “I saw Daniel speaking. I saw in the night visions and behold, with the clouds of heaven, there came one like a Son of Man.” This is a reference Jesus makes to Himself, harkening back to this. “And He came to the ancient of days and was presented before Him. And to Him were given dominion and glory and a kingdom that all peoples, nations and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away and His kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” So we have Adam and Eve make a mistake. God makes it promise it’s going to get fixed. Daniel says, I’ve seen the vision. God’s going to fix this, and there’s going to be a king, and that king is going to rule over everyone forever.” Isaiah 9, “To us, a child is born, for to us a son is given, and the government shall be on his shoulder and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This Messiah is going to come and He’s going to rule. Isaiah 53:5, “But this Individual was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace. And with His wounds, we are healed.” So we have God’s plan. There’s going to be a son of this woman. It’s a singular and He will crush your head, bruise your head. But you’re going to bruise His heel. He’s going to defeat you and you’re going to damage Him. It’s going to be a child born who’s a mighty King. It’s going to be someone who suffers and heals because of His suffering. And then John 19, when Jesus did receive the sour wine, He said, “It is finished and about His head and gave up His spirit.”
Nathan [00:13:08] Which brings us to Revelation 1:12-18. Now the author of Revelation is John. The Disciple who wrote the Gospel of John. This is John, who in that gospel references himself as the disciple Jesus loved, doesn’t reference himself by name. He recounts how at the cross John is at the foot of the cross with Mary and a number of other women. Jesus looks at Mary and says, “Woman, your son.” Pointed to John, says, “John, your mother.” Jesus was the first born responsible for taking care of his mom, and He was giving her a firstborn son. Potentially at this time He was on the out with his brothers. They didn’t believe he was the Messiah yet that would come later when He raises from the dead. But at this point, John, this John is given as the firstborn son to take care of Mary. This is the same John who writes first, second, third, John, and then he writes Revelation and he writes this. This is the John who at The Last Supper, another side at the Last Supper, is described as leaning his head back on Jesus’s chest there, laying around a table for dinner. He’s the one closest to Jesus. He’s one that Peter goes, “Hey, ask Him what He means by one of you is going to betray us, all right, or betray me.” So it’s John who leans his head back and asks Jesus, because that’s how close they are. So they are close, intimate, personal friends in real life. This John sees Jesus in this arc of what the Bible is actually talking about, not a book about not failing, but a book about despite our failures, this. “Then I turn to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands and in the midst of the lampstands one like a Son of Man clothed with a long robe with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice, like the roar of many waters in his right hand, he held seven stars. From his mouth came a sharp two edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining and full strength.” This man is bright. That’s what we should take away from this. He is hard to look at. There is some kind of glory emanating from him. He is not just a light in color, he is emanating brightness. Which brings us to 17. “When I saw him, I one of his best earthly friends, someone who knew him intimately enough that he gave his own earthly mother to this man to care for. When I saw him, it says I fell at his feet as though dead.” This is a thing, by the way. You can get so overstimulated that your body just shuts down to try to save itself. Your brain is so overwhelmed by the impact of whatever the thing is, the brightness, the sound of it, the overstimulation that it simply shuts down. You pass out hard. “But He laid his right hand on me, saying, Fear not. I am the first and the last and the living One. I died and behold, I am alive forevermore. I have the keys of death and Hades.”.
Nathan [00:16:20] When we’re talking today about are we using tech well? The reason I read all of that is because that third point is really our key for today. First, we need to understand that God is not scared of our mistakes. Second is that God will use us right or wrong. He’s going to accomplish His will. We’re being invited into that, being invited into the family of God. Not because God needs us. He’s like, “Oh no, what am I going to do without you?” But God loves us. He loved Judas, He loved Pilate. He loved every person around that cross. When He said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” That was a real prayer. It wasn’t just something nice to say, saying, “God, don’t judge them for this, not yet.” They still have days to live and decisions to make. There will come a judgment, but right now forgive them that don’t understand. And that brings us this third piece is that the story of the Bible is not the story of our desire to know God and finding Him. It’s God’s desire to know us and to be known. It’s the relationship that starting the garden is a love story with a wedding of Adam and Eve and God saying this is good. To our failures, epic opportunities to learn repeatedly. God continually uses failed people. All those people I mentioned earlier in the Old Testament aren’t people to emulate. Neither are Paul and Peter except their repentance. And in the end He wins and it ends with a wedding as the Bride of Christ is brought before God. And when we are judged, John says, Ah, excuse me, Jesus says, inJohn, I want to say it’s John 7, maybe 6, no…John 5. That we there will come a day where the dead are raised and they will be judged based on what they did, those who did what is good to righteousness and those who have done what is wicked to eternal damnation. He’s not saying that you’re going to get a check sheet and He’s like, “Well, I guess I guess you gave enough to the poor and you served enough of your neighbor. So you good for you. You cross the line.” He’s saying, “Were you wearing the bright clothes of Christ?” There’s that parable, the man who shows up at the wedding and the wedding feast is about to begin. The king goes, “Wait a minute, why aren’t you wearing the wedding clothes? Get out, throw him into the darkness.” Why? He wasn’t wearing the bright clothes of Christ. He showed up in his own righteousness. That’s what this last piece says is God wins. The Bible is all about God’s victory. Our invitation into it. We can be made children of God. We can be made temples of the Holy Spirit. We can be endowed with this free gift earned by Christ and offered to us so that when Jesus goes before the Father and is the perpetuation for us on our behalf, bringing His righteousness before the Father and says that person is mine, that that gives us right standing before God, not our actions. That is the good trusting in following Jesus is the good we do not doing that is the wickedness that gets us judged.
Nathan [00:19:13] So in light of that, we need to recognize that God uses failure. Please do not hear me saying that sin therefore is doing God’s will. No. I am saying that in doing God’s will, we will repeatedly and epically fail. I have been shown this recently. I didn’t think that failure was a problem for me. I thought I was pretty cool with it and then God’s been like, Oh, but remember, and over the last 12 years, God has brought me to points of failure repeatedly. 12 years ago, He called me away from video games because I was failing my wife and ministry and teaching. I wasn’t doing bad, but that’s not God standard. I was looking to technology for hope. I wasn’t using it because I was happy. I was using it to be happy. When I didn’t get my gaming, I was not satisfied and I was taking it out on the people around me and I was not willing to do the things God told me to do in serving young people because that was my gaming time and I needed it to be okay. Frankly, that’s not true. God is better than video games. It turns out video games are still super cool. But in my life 12 years ago I needed that, which caused me to start ministry, which caused me to be here. Right? Like, that’s a big deal.
Nathan [00:20:27] So that was our first part of the conversation. Two years later, I went with Anna through the worst season of our life and God showed me, you know what? Not only did you fail at finding satisfaction on your own, you don’t even have control over the number of days. Your days are numbered and they’re also a gift. So what are you doing, Nathan? With the few days that I’ve given you? That was really convicting and it was a hard journey to process and God is still good through it and in it, which brought us to seven years ago where I realized, you know what my passion is seeing kids reach their potential. I started a nonprofit and I started to walk away from teaching for the same reason I got into it. I want to see kids reach their full potential. So four years ago, when I quit teaching and I left this environment where I had community and amazing kids to teach and a constant purpose and challenge, and I stepped into a garage next to a mower and I was writing podcasts and articles and I had no idea what I was doing. And entrepreneurship doesn’t turn my crank. That’s not what I’m doing here. I’m not someone who’s out there just getting, you know, amazingly excited about starting something new and terrifying. It was new and terrifying and lonely, and I didn’t realize that I had gotten so much of my purpose from feeling needed and wanted. I was pretty good at teaching and it made me feel awesome. And then I was in my garage, not even garage office at that point, just garage, an empty space that wasn’t heated or insulated in the middle of winter during COVID. No life speaking, no live meetings, by myself. I wilted because so much of my identity had been strung into teaching and being needed and being a mentor. It was all taken away and I was graciously allowed to fail. Jesus graciously proved Himself to be bigger even than that. When I’m in this new season and a lot of that stuff is available, I’m repeatedly reminded this isn’t my version of success. I’m not successful because I have live talks. I’m successful because God is better than my success or failure. He’s using this well beyond my ability to speak. This podcast right now, it’s okay. I put a lot of work into it, but it’s not going to work because I said the right words. It’s going to work because God is driving this into your heart. It’s going to work because a month, a year or ten years from now, something’s going to happen and God’s going to remind you of something that I said. That’s cool. Or He won’t, which is also okay, because I’m not gauging my success on the impact that has some gauge of my success and my faithfulness in carrying out what I’ve been told to do.
Nathan [00:22:57] So today I’m bringing this message that God is not intimidated by your failures, but He will use them. The reason I want to bring that down is because two weeks ago, so I went 12 years to seven years to four years to two weeks ago, I was on vacation again. I told you I’m not motivated by entrepreneurship in business or so I thought. Two weeks ago I was on vacation with my family for spring break and I snuck work emails, which was weird. Like I’ve never once a vacation is like my spiritual gift. I can walk away from work and be fine. Like, I don’t need any of this to prove that I’m better. I’m that kid who, like a series of failures, basically describes my childhood. I was, and by the way, is self-deprecating. I did fine in life, but like my football team, for example, I loved football, super fun. I played for a small single-A school here in Washington State. I think we went 3-15 in three years of high school football. I wrestled in high school. I was JV all three years of high school. I was almost varsity. Senior year. I lost the first match for the challenge match that first, you know, three weeks or whatever the season 6 to 5. The next month when challenges came back up because you can only challenge a guy when he lost. So he had won a couple of varsity matches. The next month I was gone. I was like, This is it. I’ve got his number. We’ve been wrestling practice partners. The rest weight class below us got sick. He couldn’t cut weight anymore. He had to come up a weight class, beat my varsity guy. So I was second JV behind two varsity wrestlers and I crushed it a lot of JV tournaments and felt great about myself. But at the end of the day, like, it was fun. I was there for the practice and for the hard work and for the people. I am that guy, right? I’m the guy with board games. I would rather lose if it helps you enjoy yourself. Like that’s my M.O. So to find myself sneaking work emails. Oh, one more example. Actually, I think dating is probably my best example. I dated two people in middle school, one seventh, one eighth. Brittany and Jenny are not Jenny. Carrie. Sorry. But then I didn’t date again until my junior year of college when I met Anna. Like, that’s a streak, but I don’t think it’s a streak of success. And by the way, the eighth grade relationship ended with her breaking up with me through a friend. Like as middle school as you can get. That’s not like a series of perpetual successes. So for me to be checking my work email, I would argue in my, you know, self-righteous way, I had to do that because I was being a good steward. I mean, this is a ministry and I have to make sure I’m on top of it. But that’s not what was happening. I was having a great time with my family and I was like, “Well, shoot, if I can feel needed and important and be with my family all at the same time and just kind of keep them both going, Ooh, that makes me feel good, right?” That makes me excited. And it’s absolutely exciting to get talks and workshops and we’re booking out to September in October. And right now I talked to a church yesterday. We have nine churches in schools who want to book talks in September and October, but they’re all talking to their boards and they’re all getting, you know, the final details bolted down. So I don’t have nine talking spots because they’re all wanting to book workshop pairs. So that’s 18 talks. I can’t do 18 talks in two months and be a good husband and faithful with the rest of my stuff. So that makes me feel great. But if I start to let that define me and why be in excess? Because look at all these talks I have. It’s not true. So I had to repent until Anna about it and go, “Hey, I’ve never had this before, but I’m starting to feel this pull of work like I’ve never felt before. This has not been a thing for me.” And then I thought that was good. I’m such an adult. That work has become a struggle because it’s just, you know, going so well and then bring me to my hobby, cycling. Then we’ll get to the final tech piece, I promise. But this was poignant and I didn’t want to share it. Anna was like, “You should share it.” Like, all right.
Nathan [00:26:49] So for some of you may know, this cycling is a big deal for me. I use cycling as a as a way of like commuting home. I step out of my office and I walk into the house. It’s an eight second commute. Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed by work that I can’t do well with my family. So I cycle and I get so tired I can’t remember my first name and it’s great. Last weekend I was invited out on a group ride. This is a huge deal for me. Riding with people is like my favorite thing in the world. You go long distances, you see the beautiful northwest and you hang out with humans. Like this is my jam and I’ve worked hard at cycling. I’m not the world’s best. I’m not even the middle of the pack, but I work hard at it. It’s fun for me. So I show up one Saturday morning, one last Saturday morning. It’s 39 degrees because that’s just April in the northwest here and we go up it’s a group of ten people, all guys at this point. So ten guys and it’s a 66 mile ride. Flash forward halfway through. I mean, I’ve lost sleep on this like I’m pumped. My dream is I’m going to earn their respect and prove my medal as a cyclist. Halfway through, we’re 33 miles in. We’ve climbed a couple thousand miles. I made one disturbing discovery that my bike is not meant for climbing. I climbed before, but not this much in a single go and turns out I’m geared for flats. I need to fix that. We take a picture halfway through 33 miles in and we start heading home one mile and going back. My left leg starts to twitch. Then my right leg. By mile seven on my way back, both legs have cramped and I am cycling with cramped legs. I didn’t know this was possible. That continues for ten more miles and the next ten miles. I get dropped. Now that in cycling means you can’t hold the back wheel of the person, so you’re no longer in a draft. I get dropped so hard that I can’t even see the rest of the group. I get dropped so hard that they realize I’m gone and they come back for me and I’m just trying to, like, not acknowledge that I am double leg cramping, just grit my teeth. They are so gracious. This is not normal for cycling groups, but they are so gracious. They form a pace line. They get six of the riders to surround me and to basically take the draft away. So it’s now 30% easier for you to ride when you’re in the middle of a pace line. I’m doing 30% less work to go the pace of the rest of the group, and they don’t even make me rotate in. They just keep rotating in the middle or rotating to the front and leaving me in the middle like this is. This only happens in one of two scenarios. One, you are the GC team leader. For someone in like the Tour de France, the Euro d’Italia, the big races and you have six people pulling you to victory, so you have 30% less effort. So when you get to that last part, you can get everything you’ve got for the victory. Or you’re someone’s little kid and you just can’t cut it with the big boys like…Those are your two scenarios. This is the single most humiliating thing that can happen to someone who cares about an effort and cares about reputation. And I was just shattered. I couldn’t even finish. I didn’t make it back. I had to stop 17 miles out from the end. 60 miles, I guess. Mile 50. My left leg completely gave out. It looked solid, straight, and I was just screaming and biting my arm because of the pain. They’re like, “Great, we’ll come back for you.” And someone had to bike back to their vehicle, pick up their truck and come get me just the dead weight at the end and the only new guy in the group. So humiliating.
Nathan [00:30:25] Why do I share that with you? I failed bad at something I cared about, that I thought I was good at. And I couldn’t. I couldn’t fake it. I couldn’t make it. I couldn’t hack it and I was eventually handed a sugary little gel pack and told to wait while someone else picked up my picked up my slack, which is awful. The reason I share that is when we think about failures, the benefit of failures is really threefold. And I wrote these down, so I make sure I get them right. First, the benefit of failures is it demands that we rely on others. We have to be vulnerable when we fail. We have to ask for help. We have to get support. We can’t fake it on our own. The second is failure is inherently social. When you fail, it affects other people and it engages other people. It’s hard to…If you’re the only one knowing that you’re failing, you’re not really failing because you’re just failing in your head. You have no outside standard and you have no outside accountability. Failure requires that there was some other standard that someone will eventually be able to notice that you have failed. Again, not talking sin where you’re failing against God, but you’re failing at something you’re trying. And the third is that failing is inherently human. You are going to fail because you have put in effort. You have made yourself vulnerable. And you actually tried, right? You went out there, which is why when we talk about technology, almost all of our technology is excuse me, almost all of our entertainment, our drool technology is intended to mitigate failure. Like if failure is one of the ways that God calls us to Himself is failure is one of the ways that God shows us our need of failure is inherently social, and it draws us to other people and gracious, amazing cyclists come back and say, “Hey, man, like we’ve got you, we’re going to pick up the slack. We’re going to do the work for you. We’re going to make sure we finish this as a group.” Which they couldn’t even get me there because my body failed on me. Like, if that’s what happens in failure, then this technology is inherently isolating. It’s inherently distancing us from other people.
Nathan [00:32:30] Think about it. We can get with something like a video game and video games mitigate the cost and the risk of adventure. You can get success without ever having to practice, right? You didn’t have to become good at a sword or a gun or a sport. You can just pick up a controller and there’s an amount of practice that can go into being good, but it doesn’t really cost you anything. Think about it. If you were to play a college sport, how many hours would you practice in a day? 3 hours, maybe six. Professional gamers practice anywhere from 12 to 16. Why? Because you can. Because it’s a unique form of practice. It’s actually stimulating. You practice a lot of football. You will sleep very well, You practice a lot of Fortnite. You won’t sleep very well. It is inherently an overstimulated, isolating task to become good at because we can get our success with very little cost to ourselves. And we think about even things like music, streaming music. You didn’t have to be vulnerable in practice or presentation, and you don’t have to be communal. There’s no one actually there playing music for you. It’s just one. So when you practice by yourself, you are being vulnerable and trying a task that is hard. You’re learning, you’re engaging, you’re asking for support and getting coaching, or at least learning from people that are good at it. And you’re often presenting music. There’s at least two people there. Not so with streamed music. It’s not bad. I listen to stream music, but we have to be mindful of what it’s doing and when we’re looking to streamed music for our sense of peace, we just want to be careful with that.
Nathan [00:34:01] Sometimes the music we listen to, like the music I listen to in college makes you want to have a problem and you go to it not because it helps you feel better, but because it makes you feel and that’s it. That can be dangerous. When we look to shows and streaming, we can go to those things for escape for trying to get into other people’s stories because we don’t like our own. We’re trying to get adventure or belonging or social, and that’s with social media something to remember. That we want to get belonging without being known. And that’s a concern. I would say this is concerned relationally certainly Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, even YouTube. We can form these relationships with individuals or ideas that don’t reflect real world relationships, and that’s important. We’re now supplementing relationships instead of supporting them. But really the concern in those situations is relationships become disposable. And we see this in church. It’s wonderful that people can go to church online. And I have two different people that I’ve met. One was just someone I met on an airplane. She met Jesus through an online church and then moved herself to somewhere she could be part of a physical community. That’s cool. I have a personal friend. I was in a Bible study with him all the way through college and then after college, and he and his wife moved from Seattle to Texas, because they were part of a church over COVID that changed their lives and they want to physically be in that location to be a part of that physical church. I’m fine with that. Like, if you’re getting plugged into the physical body of Christ, people who are going to know you and be able to share the gospel worship with you, pray with two or more gathered, and then know your stuff and speak to that stuff and what God is calling you to do. You’re going to be able to repent to real life people who know you and you’re vulnerable with? Super cool. That’s the point of technology, is to connect people in a disconnected world. But I also know people personally who go to church online because they like the pastor. And then when the pastor just doesn’t quite cut it either because of something he or she said or didn’t say, they then switched to another church for the worship and this is the new church, and they do it about every 3 to 4 months and they just rotate churches never been known, never being vulnerable, never being called to account, never having their problems exposed in front of others because they don’t have to. Because if they don’t like what’s happening or they feel like they’re getting called out and they just don’t like the way this is going, they unplug. They type in a new domain and they hit enter and they go to that church now. Social media and E church, when it’s not done to support real world relationships both of the people I know that I referenced and the positive way those churches were online. That’s how these people found out about them. And it then supported their real life relationships.
Nathan [00:36:46] So just keep that in mind. I would then say this about all of these technologies. Our question is, when we ask, is our tech helping us love God well? It’s really twofold. One, is our tech helping us? Or excuse me, is our tech allowing us to fail well? Not morally fail, not to sin against God or to run away from His will, but to do His will and draws closer. This technology I’m using right now, I’m not thrilled with being on YouTube. It’s scary. It’s more work. I don’t like that this camera doesn’t blink, but it is a way to reach more people and we’re reaching more people. And for a half dozen people a week that I can reach through YouTube, that I wouldn’t reach through another medium, I’m cool with that. That’s okay for me because I know this is what I need to be doing in this season. There are people scrolling for hope and I want to be a part of sharing the gospel at those people. So I’m willing to fail on social media and on the interwebs for that cause.
Nathan [00:37:43] So that’s the first piece is are we failing? Well, with our technology. The second question is, are we using our technology to avoid failure? Are we trying to mitigate anxiety or trying to mitigate relationships? Are we trying to resist God’s correction in failure by running away with social media or with shows or with music or with pornography? I didn’t bring that up earlier, but I should have. Pornography is a supplement where we’re trying to get intimacy without any submission, without any relationship or without any vulnerability. It’s on our terms and our ways with our variety. There’s no commitment, there’s no reflection of the triune nature of God of two becoming one. There’s no glorification or representation of the purpose of marriage, which is Christ and His church, the great wedding in Revelation. There’s none of that. It’s just serving you. It’s the definition of hell again. So when we look at our technology, is it helping us fail well towards God’s will? Because we’re not going to do God’s will perfectly every time. In fact, sometimes God’s will is going to call us to fail and be bad at stuff, not because we’re good enough to do His well, but because He’s good enough to do His will in spite of us. That’s all of those people we referenced earlier in the Bible. God’s good despite David, not because of him, despite Abraham, not because of him, despite Nathan, not because of him.
Nathan [00:39:08] So in those two questions, is our tech causing us to run away from God’s will for us? And is our tech allowing us to fail well? I would just simply ask you to reflect on that, to have that conversation with your roommate, with your friend in your community, with a spouse, with your kids. Look at how you’re using your technology and say, is this tech helping us trust and follow Jesus? Is it allowing us to use our tech well? Is it supporting the relationships in the call God’s put on our lives as followers of Christ, or is it supplementing? Is there a space where this technology, the smartphone, the Internet, the games, the shows, the music? Is it distracting us from who we’re supposed to be? I’ve shared recently that news is this for me that I when I get anxious, I’ll find myself in the middle of a sentence typing or the middle of a sentence prepping something and then run to my news app. Not because I need to know anything, but because it like distracts me enough that I can like, come back and the anxiety has settled down and I’ve been resisting that for the last week and it’s been really hard and I’ve been having to pray about that going, “Lord, I don’t believe this app, this news, this outlet is letting me love You anymore. In fact, I think it’s making me anxious and it’s making me frustrated. It’s making me feel self-righteous because I feel like I’ve got answers that these people are purposely not paying attention to.” And that might be true. But the answer isn’t that Nathan is what they need. They need Jesus. So, Lord, help me trust You. And when I feel anxious, I get up and walk around. When I feel anxious, I pray. When I feel anxious, I go and stretch for a couple of minutes and just quiet my mind and then come back to the work that I do know God wants me to do using tech often.
Nathan [00:40:47] So that’s today’s conversation. When we talk about are we using our tech well? We got those three things. First, how does God teach us through failure? He’s going to let us fail repeatedly to show that He’s good enough because the three things we know about God is, one, I want to make sure I get this right. One is He’s not scared of our wrong choices, even our sinful ones. He’s bigger than those and He’s calling us to repentance. Two is that He will use us whether we’re good or bad, that even in failure, God is going to be God. And three is that He wins in the end. So then our questions in line and in light of our failures is are we trusting God with our tech? Are we using it to support or supplement? And is there technology that distract us from what God is calling us to do? And is there tech we can use to extend what God is calling us to do?
Nathan [00:41:31] I hope that there is I hope that your jump on social media this week to love people because God’s given you a passion for having them know who God is and what that means for them. I hope you will listen to music that edify your soul and that encourages you and it brings you together. Like Hadley demanding dance parties for our family. It’s not always music we play, but it’s social and it’s interactive and it brings out joy and part of who God’s made Hadley to be. So that’s amazing. I hope that you play games because you’re happy and that you can share that with other people because these games are awesome, because they’re appropriate and they’re encouraging. And you go and play and you come away more alive and more connected and more joyful. Please do all of those things. I hope that you find real world relationships that help you belong. You connect with real world friends that you connect in real world intimate relationships, not just relay or sexually, but relationally, and that you deny the lies in between. And I hope that if there’s an area of your life that you need to give to God, that you’ll give that to Him quickly. And then you would start following faithfully the path He set before you to do His will and technology and outside of it.
Nathan [00:42:36] So I also hope this was encouraging to you. I hope that it was challenging and that you’ll share it with people if you found parts of it to be edifying. And then you’ll join us next week as we continue this conversation about how we can love God and use tech.