Bod4God: Eating and Exercise
James 1:5 (ESV) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
As a child of God, charged up by the Holy Spirit with a desire to play a role in His Kingdom, you’ve assessed and identified one thing you’d like to change to be a healthier servant of God. Seek God’s wisdom and make a plan. The spiritual discipline of fasting or abstention can be employed to seek God’s wisdom. Besides restricting your diet or your couch time increase prayer and praise. Consider not only what you’re abstaining from (food or media consumption) but what you’re going to choose to fill the void created (fresh fruit and veggies or your favorite activity in motion). Use these reflections to focus and sustain your plan.
Focus on God
Matthew 6:1 (ESV) Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
The sixth chapter of Matthew is the portion of Jesus’ sermon on the Mount that addresses the common spiritual practices of the first century; giving, prayer and fasting. Jesus encourages each practice as a feature of people living in God’s Kingdom, but he asks that you do a quick check on motivation. If your considering restrictions to your diet, check your motivations. Fasting is used as a spiritual discipline to bring focus on God, to follow a path that will glorify Him. Set into your diet or exercise plan daily times of worship. Dedicate the day to God in the morning. Ask to see the opportunity to meet the needs of others rather than glory in your own strength. At the end of the day review the day’s God sightings and praise Him.
- Slow and steady is a good description for our journey with God, so start your health plan with a commitment you can keep for a long term and goals you can adjust incrementally.
- Keep a journal with an eye on the lessons God is teaching you on this journey. Admit your failures and record your successes.
The Invisible Fast
Matthew 6:16–18 (ESV) And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
It seems Jesus is suggesting you’re not going to whine about the soda you want or gloat about the treat you’ve passed up. Can you follow your health plan without posting on Facebook? (It’s been shown that restricting check-ins on social media increases will-power!?!) Enter into your plan under God’s grace, not to publicly assuage your own guilt or induce guilt in others when you crow about success. And don’t forget to access His grace when you trip up on your plan. Talk to Jesus about your plan.
- Build one healthy habit to reduce the constant decision of “should I or shouldn’t I?”
- Add hours to your sleep routine.
- Reduce multi-tasking to develop your ability to focus and avoid the lure of distractions to your plan.
Fast and Feast
Matthew 9:15 (ESV) And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.
In Jesus’ day the Pharisees made a big deal about fasting, adding in extra requirements and keeping track of who participated correctly and who failed. When his disciples are criticized for not fasting enough Jesus claims the wedding “get out of jail free” card. You see, all fasts were declared off when there was the seven-day feast celebrating a wedding, and when Messiah comes the Kingdom of God will be a massive wedding feast. Our life as disciples of Jesus will contain both the feast of celebrating His reign and the fast of mourning that turns our hearts toward those who are lost.
As you make your plan include days of feast and fast, days of work and rest. Put some rhythm into life that reflects God’s presence and God’s mission. Talk to Jesus about balance.
- Adjust your portions and enjoy the goodness of everything you eat, not the quantity of what you eat.
- Give your muscles rest to heal after a hard workout.
- Devote some of your lunch money to Feed My Starving Children.
- Designate one day a week (a Sabbath) to enjoy all of God’s creation and rich blessings and relish your relationships.
Luke 6:43–45 (The Message) You don’t get wormy apples off a healthy tree, nor good apples off a diseased tree. The health of the apple tells the health of the tree. You must begin with your own life-giving lives. It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.
A secondary purpose for the spiritual discipline of fasting or abstention is discovery of the things that control us. What comes out when we are pressed by this discipline is an indication of what’s inside. Remember that Snickers ad with Aretha Franklin sitting in the back seat complaining about everything? The guy next to her says, “Eat a Snickers. Every time you get hungry you turn into a diva!” Under the stress of your plan you just may discover how deeply anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, or fear are engrained. Instead of turning to sugar or a dose of recliner and TV, snack on God’s Word.
You will also see the fruit the Spirit is growing in you; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. No health plan restricts these! Monitor the attitude of your inner heart as you follow your plan and talk to Jesus about what you see.
- Motion gets your heart to pumping oxygen to your whole body, including your brain. Feeling a little low on energy? Move! Ultimately aim for one hour of motion per day, not necessarily in one block.
- Eat breakfast!
- Reconsider your “input” – not only food but also screentime.
Isaiah 58:6–9 (The Message) “This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, God will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’
Now it’s time to remember that the real reason we are pursuing health is to be of service in God’s Kingdom. Circle each piece of Kingdom work God declares as an appropriate fast. Which ones can you weave into your plan in a consistent way? How will these support the motivation of your new health habits? Talk to Jesus about this.
- Develop a consistent outdoor activity with your family.
- Fill a grocery cart for a local food pantry.
- Clean out your closets and donate.
- Develop a new relationship at the gym.
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