Big Data and the Holy Spirit

by Luke Holmes January 3, 2018

It has happened to me, and I bet that it has happened to you. As I mindlessly scrolled through Facebook, I saw it. There was an ad for something that I had been looking at a day before on Amazon. Maybe it was eBay or Amazon, or  it could've been Facebook or Twitter. It's easy to get the feeling that we are being watched, and we feel that way because we are. You are always being watched. Corporations like Facebook and Amazon are always collecting data on you. Every site that you go to collects data. They know about your shopping habits, about your diet needs, and about your special love for all things 90's. That's why you see these ads everywhere. It's called targeted advertising. It's as if someone followed you around Walmart and kept track of everything you looked at, everything you picked up and put down, and then suggested items to you that might be interested in. If you are like me, there are times I have just think about something. No searches, no shopping... but I see an ad for it anyways. Big data is a billion-dollar business because the better they know you, the better they can figure out how to get into your wallet. 

While corporations targeting you online is a fairly new thing, shoppers have been targets long before that. Stores set up displays to grab your attention, to make you stop and look and buy.  But now these corporations know more about us than we do, and they show us just what they think we need to see.

I thought of all this as I put down my Bible after my morning devotional time.  For what seemed like the 100th millionth time, what I was scheduled to read that day was just what I needed to hear.  I follow a reading plan that has the whole year mapped out, so I'm not randomly thumbing through my Bible.  But with surprising regularity, I find that the passage I am scheduled to read contains just the verses I need to hear that day. If I pick up Morning and Evening by Spurgeon, it does the same thing. How does a 150 year old book know just what I need to read that day? It's not because some big giant corporation has stored up all my data over the years. It's because I have a God who cares about me, and who loves me enough to orchestrate everything so that my soul is fed the right thing for the day I need it. I can't even begin to think how God brings together a 150-year-old book and a Bible reading plan from 200 years ago to bring to me what I need to hear. Or how I need to be challenged, or comforted, or reminded. 

You don't have to go out and look for the word that God wants you to hear that day. There are three ways that you can ensure that the word you need reaches your heart.

1. Read God's word regularly. If this sounds basic that's because it is. There is no excuse for any Christian who has a copy of God's word to not regularly be in it. Throughout history and even today, there are Christians who do not have God's word. If you are reading this you probably have multiple copies. But we always find excuses. That's why we need a time that we regularly set aside in our day to read God's word. 

2. Spend regular time in prayer. One of the ways that God speaks to us is through His word, and one of the ways that we speak to God is through prayer. We are not telling God something that he doesn't already know. But you will find that when you pray regularly to God that it softens your heart to hear from God in through His Word. We don't just speak to God through prayer, we learn to listen to God through prayer.

3.  Keep your heart and mind set on God. Throughout the New Testament, we are reminded that one of the marks of a healthy Christian is that they keep their hearts focused on God. We are commanded to "set our mind on things above," "seek first the kingdom of God," and to think on whatever is noble, right, true, and pure. This ensures that our hearts are sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and that we will hear when God speaks. When we will fill our mind with worldly things we shouldn't be surprised when we miss a heavenly message.  

God has just the word that you need to hear.  He knows what you need not because he wants to make a profit for himself like a corporation, but because He loves us and wants what is best for us.  When we make sure our hearts are in the right place we will always hear the word of God