I celebrated the big 40th birthday in May this year. Every birthday reminds me that my body is getting older, and I must care for it and steward it well (My younger staff members… AHEM! Nate Stevens, also remind me I’m getting a little older as well). I know the method, eat right and exercise. But inevitably I fall into the trap of favoring the exercise method over and above eating right. “If I only run a few extra miles, I can enjoy a cheeseburger with all the fixins,” I think. Inevitably you can’t outrun a poor diet. Now, I know you’re not following our church’s blog for nutritional advice, but an important connection can be made between this downfall of my physical fitness and our spiritual fitness. What if our spiritual lives operate in the same way as our physical lives?
You can’t outrun a poor diet… Jesus said to his disciples in John 4:34,
“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”
This use of food is interesting here. It means “sustenance,” or “sustaining satisfaction.” This is what food provides us, satisfaction of our hunger and energy for life. Too much of it without expending energy, and we fatten up and slow down. Too little, and we run the risk of burning out and becoming weak with no energy. The wrong kind of food the night before can also hinder the morning run… believe me, I know. Jesus here connects the “food” of doing the Father’s will, with the practice of our faith: running the race, and carrying out the mission. For Jesus, they work hand in hand. We must receive the right food, sustenance, satisfaction in knowing and understanding the will of the Father, and accomplishing His work, just as Jesus did.
Our spiritual food, fuel, and nourishment comes from knowing the will of the Father, and then exercising, running, and putting into practice His will in our everyday lives. Where do we find this will? We find it in 1.) Intake of the Bible, 2.) Prayer, and 3.) Discernment through fellowship. When we neglect this “food” in our lives, we run the risk of feasting on food that will leave us malnourished. We forfeit the steady diet of Scripture with news headlines, TV, or mindless internet browsing. We supplant our prayer lives with incessant worry about things we cannot control, and we neglect the connection of Christian fellowship in favor of sleeping-in on Sunday.
On the other hand, if we receive the Word, meaning, take it in and do nothing with it, pray incessantly without walking in trust, or fellowship without challenge, we run the risk of spiritual obesity. We have the tendency to fatten up and become complacent in the walk and practice of our faith. This is evidenced in a critical attitude towards others, and a lack of concern for the marginalized. We know a lot, but we don’t do a lot. We receive much, but never put it into practice. We pray a lot, but never walk or run in trust of the Lord’s will. We gather with Christians much, but never work through the rigors of resistance training together by stirring up one another toward good works. We need to eat right and exercise. The two go hand in hand, and when we neglect one for the other, we run the risk of burnout and malnourishment or laziness and overindulgence.
Remember, just like Jesus, our food is to do the will of God and accomplish His work.