Saturday, April 28, 2012

Essentials for Healthy Living

Yesterday my friend Carole and I met to catch up.  She is a nurse, and shared that she always tells her kids that they need three essential things – a healthy diet, good rest, and regular exercise.  We talked about how these keep our bodies healthy, but are part of our spiritual health, too. 

DIET– what am I putting into my heart?  How am I feeding my soul?  Are the things I am reading, viewing, pondering, talking about, listening to, helping strengthen me, or actually adding nothing but ‘empty calories’? 
I’m not saying I think watching movies or TV, or reading ‘secular’ books is wrong.  But, a steady diet of them is no more healthy than a steady diet of chocolate and potato chips.  If I’m reading one verse of the Bible, followed by a three paragraph devotional, is that really enough? 

It’s hard to wean ourselves off of junk food.  It just tastes so good!  It takes discipline to make good choices, especially at first. 
It’s the same with spiritual food.  I think this is a truth we sometimes overlook.  There are those believers who have seemingly insatiable appetites for reading Scripture.  But, there are also new Christians who struggle with this.  If I’m in Christ, why do I find His Word so dull? 

If we cut back on the sugar, caffeine and snacks in our lives, we start to lose our taste for them.  Then, we start to crave (yes, crave!) broccoli and bananas and glasses of cold water. 
I believe it’s the same with spiritual food.  We need to put down that baby bottle and start eating spiritual meat.  It may be difficult to digest at first, but to be strong in Christ, it is essential.

REST – am I taking time to rest in God? 
How many of us get enough rest?  There never seems to be enough time to get everything done, and so we stay up late, get up early, use our weekends to try and catch up… and when we finally get a few days of vacation, we cram them full of activities. 

I think our spiritual lives get like this, too.  We love Jesus, and we want to be faithful to Him, and so we Do and Do and Do and Do.  Especially in ministry and mission, we sense the urgency.  People are perishing, and we’ve got to get out there and do something about it. 
I’m not saying we don’t have a part to play (see below!) but where in God’s word do we find this model? 

I’ve said it before, but I believe the commandment we break the most often is the command to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy.  Taking that time to rest in God’s love, to spend time just being together, isn’t a nice bonus, it’s essential.  As essential as getting a good night’s sleep. 

I am convinced that if we make resting in God a priority, He will provide the time we need to get the other stuff done.  At times, resting in Him gives me perspective, so I come away seeing that those “critically important” things aren’t quite so critical.  Do I trust Him enough to give Him my ‘to-do’ list?

EXERCISE – here’s another one that gets placed on the ‘back burner’ of our lives.  It’s inconvenient, it’s not fun, we don’t have time, we just don’t feel like it. 

Physical exercise means doing a little, then a little more, stretching our bodies, pushing a bit, until that 5lb weight is easy to lift.  Then, we move onto the next one.  At first, 10lb makes our arms shake.  It’s not possible!  But, in time, this, too, becomes easier.  As our bodies are strengthened, we find it’s even fun to see how much more we can lift/run/stretch.
Just as we expend energy outward with physical exercise, so with spiritual, we put our faith into action.  At first, giving 10% of our income, sacrificing things we really want, surrendering our very lives, may seem impossible. 

But, when we start giving in faith and trust, in time, we find we are able to give a little more.  Money, yes, but also of our time, our abilities and passions. 

In time (and only through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us!) it starts to be fulfilling, and yes, fun, to allow God to stretch us as we seek to answer His call to share the Good News, make disciples, give of ourselves for His kingdom. 

DIET, REST, EXERCISE.  The three are interconnected.  When I eat well, I am able to exercise, which actually helps me sleep well.  When I am well-rested, I have the strength to make good diet choices.  When I exercise regularly, I have the endurance for other challenges. 
Carole said that without her morning quiet time and walk, it feels like she’s lost the day.  You may not be at that point yet.  That’s okay.  I pray that you will be encouraged to start moving from wherever you currently are.

I believe that when we are faithful in attending to these essentials, the Holy Spirit will move in us, helping us in our weakness.  In His power, we can have spiritual health.  It’s essential for living that abundant life in Christ.  And, oh, what a life that is!!  

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