Our Purpose Part 2: Serving God is Not a Desk Job

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. “  Ephesians 2:4-10

God created us with physical bodies for a reason.  As it is clear in Ephesians 2:4-10, we were created by God, designed by a perfect craftsman, tarnished through sin, but made new through His grace in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  As verse 4 states, we are walking testimonies to that grace to this generation and generations to come.  The things that we do today, tomorrow, and the next day should bear witness to the fact that we were once dead, but have now been made alive.  And while we can take no credit in having earned any of it (“it is the gift of God”, verse 8), it is clear that we have work to do.  Verse 10 states that we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works”.  The term “works” implies a physical action, and a physical action requires a physical body.  Being a follower of Christ means, whether you like it or not, you signed up for a day-labor position.

Often we like to think of our “Christian life” as that part of our lives where we meditate on spiritual things, pray, and think about God and his wonder.  And these are all things that we should be engaged in on a regular basis.  But following the Lord is not a desk job.  The call in Matthew 28 to “go and make disciples of all nations” did not call for the disciples to sit in the upper room, design a global strategy of ministry, create an online presence, and then implement a social media campaign.  It involved walking from place to place (sometimes running out of those same places as fast as they could, stones flying past their heads).  It involved talking and praying with people.  It involved healing the sick.  It involved meeting needs.  It involved time, sweat, and sometimes blood.

That early call to the disciples has not changed for Christ’s disciples today.  And in order to serve Him effectively, we need to be physically healthy.  It is a proven fact that people who exercise regularly, eat healthily, and get proper amounts of rest have more energy, have better outlooks on life, and are less prone to depression.  What kind of servant are you when you are chronically tired, depressed, and over-stressed?  Being physically healthy allows you to carry out the spiritual desires that God has placed on your heart in the life-changing way that they were intended.   How fit for service are you if God asks you to serve Him in a way that is physically demanding?  Could you help that neighbor dig post holes for his fence, creating an opportunity to get to know him?  Could you kick the soccer ball or toss the baseball with your grandkids whose parents don’t know the Lord, creating opportunities to talk with them and share God’s love?  Are you prepared to dig wells, build houses, repair a single mom’s home, carry grandchildren, play with orphans, or walk with widows? Serving is an action, and actions are physical.  Good “works” are not passive, but filled with movement.  And it is through those works that we fulfill the call to love and to disciple.  It is time for us to stop separating the spiritual and the physical.  It is time for us to stop thinking that it is ok to be physically unhealthy, as long as we are spiritually strong, and start realizing that if we want to make a strong spiritual impact for the “ages to come”, our bodies need to be up to the challenge.

J

Food Addiction and Self Addiction

 “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”  Ephesians 2:1-3.

“Lusts of the flesh” do not limit themselves to inappropriate sexual behaviors.  “Indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind” cover a wider range than that, and bleed into the area of our physical health.  Many suffer from food addictions, or have gotten to a place where food has taken an inappropriate place of importance in their lives.  Instead of food being a form of sustenance only, it becomes a crutch or a helper, and it occupies more than its appropriate share of time in their thought lives.  But according to Galatians 5:23, self-control is one of the fruits of a Spirit-filled life.  In order to achieve balance in this area of our life, the true helper, the Spirit of God needs to be at work molding and shaping us.  And the hope is in the past tense of the verses above.  We “were” dead in our trespasses, and we “walked” according to the course of this world.  We are not slaves anymore, but we have been freed.

 “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin-“  Romans 6:6.

While the “desires of the flesh” are sometimes more outward and easily recognizable, the “desires of the mind” are often a little more indistinct, and therefore more sinister.  Self-addiction and covetousness can be improper driving forces behind our quest for optimal physical health.  Striving to keep up with the people around us will never lead to satisfaction.  We will never be “full”.  Whether it be in the want for material items, or in our efforts to look good, the “prince of the power of the air” would have us compare ourselves to those around us.  And there is always going to be someone who has more than we do.  A bigger house.  A nicer car.  A better figure.  It is a road that leads to nowhere.  True satisfaction comes with a life of following Jesus, and living for his approval alone.  And he wants you to be physically healthy, not for YOU, but for HIM.

 “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’”  John 6:35.

J

Higher Calling

When dealing with physical health, it is difficult to separate image from the topic.  How we look is one of the ways that we judge our progress towards optimal physical health.  If our clothes are fitting better, we are heading in the right direction.  It is also a meter for determining health in others, and guides us where to get our information on the subject.  We see a trainer at the gym who is in good shape, and we will listen to his advice because his body gives credence to his words.  It’s not that much different than a Christian’s actions giving credence to his faith.  However, the world would have you stop there.  Looking good is the end game.  The prize?  Attention, popularity, sexual fulfillment, pride, self-esteem.  However, God would call you to live your life for a purpose higher than these things.

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.”  I John 2:16-17.

While it is true that during our time here on Earth we must go about the business of living (eating, drinking, sleeping, working, communicating, worshiping, resting), the focus and purpose of these things should stretch beyond our time.  As beings bound for life beyond this world, our end focus should be eternity.  Our time here on this Earth is just a hash mark on the timeline of our life.  All of the earthly things that we live for will pass away.  The money.  The fame.  The attention.  The looks.  They will all be gone.  But what lives forever is the work done for the Lord.  Work done from an eternal perspective.  While our physical bodies will only last for a lifetime, what we use them for and why will follow us beyond this life.  Don’t let image be the higher calling that drives you to better physical health.

J

Prayer-You Don’t Have to Do It Alone

What was the last thing you prayed about?  A loved one?  A particular trial you are dealing with?  Maybe it was just a prayer thanking God that right now things are pretty good.  When was the last time that you prayed specifically for a need related to your physical health?  If you suffer from chronic pain of some sort, then the topic probably comes up regularly in your conversations with God.  And it usually sounds something like “God, please take this (insert specific issue here) from me.”  But for most of us, the challenges pertaining to our physical health are the garden variety, day-to-day kind.  Finding the motivation to exercise.  Making proper food choices.  Planning and prioritizing.  It all sounds plain enough.  Then why is it so difficult to overcome these challenges?  It’s because we try to do it on our own.  But here’s the good news.  You don’t have to do it alone.  We have a companion on this journey to physical health.

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  Deuteronomy 31:8.

This leads me to the fourth and last essential component to making lasting improvements in our physical health.  Communication.  We need to be in communication with our companion if we hope to get anywhere in this journey.  And that is through prayer.  For most of us, this journey of changing our habits, preconceptions, and priorities in relationship to our physical health is a difficult and often times painful one.  It involves sacrifice.  It involves time and effort.  It involves searching myself, recognizing and admitting my own faults and weaknesses.  And it involves admitting that I can’t do it of my own strength.  Then it involves going to the Lord in prayer.

“Seek the Lord and HIS strength; seek His presence continually.”  I Chronicles 16:1.

This means that in EVERY area of weakness in our lives, we need to seek not our own strength, but HIS strength.  And for many of us, taking care of ourselves physically is a weakness.  One that we have tried to overcome in our own strength.  Possibly at times we have been successful, but often that success was only temporary because it was never grounded on the solid foundation of a changed heart.  And only God can change the heart.  Only when we are able to admit our weakness and ask for His help, will we begin to experience the kinds of lifelong changes necessary for long-term physical health.  I like The Message translation of the following verse

“My grace is enough; it’s all you need.  My strength comes into its own in your weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9.

Only when we recognize our lack of strength, can we start to see His strength manifested.  Start today asking the Lord for His strength to change your priorities.  Ask Him for His strength to overcome your food addictions.  Ask Him for His strength to get up 30 minutes early and exercise.  Ask Him for His strength to make the sacrifices necessary to get healthy.  You don’t have to do it alone.  That’s the good news!

J

Question of the Week #5/ Nugget of the Day #1

Question of the Week #5:  What is a reasonable time-frame for reaching optimal physical health and fitness?  90 days?  6 months?  1 year?  More?

Nugget of the Day #1:  A pound of body fat contains approximately 3500 Calories of energy.  That means to burn 1 pound of body fat off of your body, you need to expend 3500 more calories than you consume.

I am introducing a new item to the blog called “Nugget of the Day”.  I will include little pieces of information that you can log in the brain and will help you along the way in your journey to optimal physical health.  Enjoy!

J