Diet Lessons from the Lord
After finishing this post and reading it, I went back to add this clause. This is a longer post… just warning you ahead of time. But I pray it might be a blessing and encouragement to you!
So it’s a new year, and as usual many of us have committed to making changes in various areas of life. Some of those resolutions will stick while others will fall by the wayside. This year was no exception for me. Though I try to stay away from “resolutions” I can’t keep, I usually find a couple areas where I try to regain focus and resolve. This year I committed to reading my Bible again in one year, and to become a better organizer of my schedule in order to be more effective both in ministry and at home. As if that wasn’t enough for my feeble will, I unexpectedly found myself embracing another commitment… one that I didn’t foresee or realize the scope of until after I made it!
For many years now I’ve struggled with an auto-immune disease called Rheumatoid Arthritis. Without getting into all the details, it basically causes inflammation in your joints and causes constant and chronic fatigue. The pain, though sometimes annoying, is something I’ve learned to manage and deal with, but as a pastor, the fatigue was killing me. A pastor’s schedule can sometimes be demanding. Proper rest and sufficient energy is crucial to being able to accomplish the amount of tasks that sometimes arise. Like Paul, I had to realize that God’s grace is sufficient for me, and His strength is made perfect in my weakness. Having said that, I have also been challenged as of late to seek out new ways to get more rest, sustain more energy (apart from all of the caffeinated methods) and become a better steward of this body God has given me. Well, be careful what you ask for.
It happened over dinner
You know, God has a funny way of putting things together sometimes. Circumstances and people align in His will in unexpected ways. My family was enjoying an evening with some new found friends and family in Christ. During the course of our conversation, I brought up some of my physical struggles and how the Lord had been challenging me to be a better steward of my body. Well, little did I know that this precious couple had gifts that I was unaware of. Before I knew it, I was back in the “office” with an entirely new game plan on lifestyle and diet. It amazed me as I listened to the discernment, wisdom, and compassion of this precious sister in Christ. She too had struggled with physical ailments throughout the years, and in that process God had revealed to her the connections between diet, lifestyle and health. As she shared with me, I began to see hope for my situation. Not that I expected a complete healing, but it resonated with the convictions I had been sensing regarding changes I needed to make. After all, even Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body…”
So all of that to say… I started a new diet! My first thought was, “I’m not overweight, do I really need this?” What I didn’t realize is that God had much greater reasons for enlisting me in this diet that had very little to do with health at all. In fact, If I never feel an ounce of difference in my health or energy level, this experience would have been worth all of the spiritual truths I am learning about God, myself and others. With that said, I would like to continue by sharing over the next week some important spiritual lessons I’ve learned from my diet (I know it sounds exciting, but stick with me here).
Spiritual Diet Lesson #1: Everything is easy until you decide to say no!
We often skip through the fruits of the Spirit without taking time to analyze how each one of them looks in our lives. The one that I have regularly underestimated and often skipped over (as I believe many of us do) is the fruit of “Self control.” The KJV translates the word as “temperance.” In the Greek it literally means, “The virtue of one who masters his desires, passions and sensual appetites.” You see, before Christ, we were all slaves to our own selfish, sinful, fleshly passions and desires. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life drive our existence. After we come to Christ, we read things like:
- We are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- We are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:6-18)
- That we will not be brought under the power of anything or anyone other than the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:12)
- We now have the supernatural strength in Christ to overcome our sensual passions and desires (1 Corinthians 9:27, Colossians 3:8-10, Ephesians 2:1-6)
So where does the problem typically lie? In the fact that you never really know what is seeking to control you until you try to say “NO” to it. Sure we can see the obvious benefit in saying NO to all the really bad stuff (and even then we tend to falter every now and again). But what about the small stuff? The stuff we take for granted from day to day? For the first time in my life, I started saying no to the foods that were most common and comfortable to me. For two weeks (which can seem like an eternity) no more soda, no more bread, no fruit, no sugar and no fast food. My daily intake consists of three 8 ounce protein shakes, 4 cups of vegetables, 6 ounces of meat, and a lot of water. Talk about a change! At first I thought, “2 weeks, no problem…” Now I’m thinking, “4 days down, an eternity to go.”
But, in the midst of being forced to say no to my stomach, it has opened my eyes to the very real cravings of my flesh. It made me realize how easily I say yes to what my flesh demands without even giving it a second thought. It also made me realize the connection between my stomach and my other fleshly appetites. I can now see so much more clearly other things that I normally would write off. Things like (but not limited to):
- How I entertain myself
- How I spend my time
- How I spend my money
Wow! as I begin to look through each area of my life through a new lens, I am discovering how often I immediately say yes to the first inclinations of my flesh without ever asking myself the questions:
- How does this glorify God?
- How does this edify others?
- How does this contribute to my spiritual growth?
- What does God think about this?
For many of us, these are questions we fail to ask in the majority of our decisions simply because we have become so accustomed to obey every longing of our mind and body. But this is something that must change! How can we glorify God in our bodies, how can we overcome sin, how can we mature in Christ if we never take the time to realize the powerful sway of our own sinful flesh? This is one of the benefits of fasting. It teaches us the often unseen truth about our nature… that we are sinful and we like to be in control. And yet, as followers of Christ, we are called to higher living. We are called to be overcomes. We are called to control our flesh as we allow the Holy Spirit to control us. As Paul put it, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit…”
I encourage you today, brother or sister in Christ, make a bold move in your life by saying no to your flesh. Watch as it kicks and screams and pulls at you. Watch as you become horrified at how hard it is for you to tell that flesh of yours NO. And then become amazed at the grace that meets you and provides you the strength and resolve to rise above your flesh and walk in the Spirit!
1Cr 9:26-27 – Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
Tune in for next week’s diet lessons:
Diet Lesson #2: Consistency is essential
Diet Lesson #3: The hardest part comes after the decision is made