SOUL FOOD 1-21-18

Soul Food

January 21st, 2018

 

For those of us that made new year’s resolutions recently, I am willing to bet many of them included some form of diet modification.   Even if weight loss isn’t involved, eating healthier is a common goal, as well as an admirable one.  Diets high in sugar, sodium, fat, chemical additives and empty calories lead to a number of physical problems ranging from acne, bloating, weight gain, and headaches; to more life-threatening conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and even cancer.  Poor diets also affect our mental state and can lead to depression, difficulty concentrating, and other disorders.

I, personally, have resolved to cut way back on my sugar intake.  My sweet tooth often got the better of me, and I do not want anything other than God to control my actions.  Cravings and addictions lead us to do things that we know are not good for us, and affect more than our own health and well-being when there are people who depend on us. 

In our first Scripture reading (Daniel 1:8-16), Daniel rejected the king’s rich diet and set out to prove that vegetables were healthier and would make him stronger.  There are many Christians, and even non- Christians, today who are following Daniel’s advice, and there are even books written about the ‘Daniel Fast’, as it is commonly called, and as it is referenced in Wikipedia.

So I commend those who are doing their best to maintain their health through good nutritional choices. 

But what about our spiritual health?  We need a healthy diet to support that as well.   What would happen to you if you quit eating any physical food?  An occasional brief period of complete fasting cleanses the body and renews the spirit, but if continued over a period of weeks, or even months, it would lead to weakness, sickness, and even death if continued long enough.   So it is with our spirits.   Fasting for six days out of the week, and then coming to church for one hour to consume spiritual food, is hardly a healthy diet.  Coming to church once a month even less so.  And for those that rarely, if ever, attend it is downright deadly.  But church isn’t the only place to get spiritually fed.  We need to ingest healthy spiritual food on a daily basis. 

Of course, the main food in our spiritual diet, should be the Bread of Life, which is Jesus, as we heard in our third Scripture reading (John 6:27-36), where Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”  Jesus is the central figure of the entire Bible, He is the Word (John 1), and without the Bread of Life, our spirits would be dead. 

And so we must read the Bible, preferably every day.  And not just drink the ‘milk’ in it, as we heard about in our second Scripture reading (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).  We all have favorite verses.  Ones that have helped us through difficult times.  Ones that bring comfort like a cozy blanket or a warm hug.  But to grow spiritually, we need to read all of it, even the chapters that instruct us on how to serve God and make personal sacrifices.  Even the chapters that speak about subjects we don’t like, such as those that mention punishment or hell.  Even the chapters that are difficult to understand or interpret, such as those dealing with future prophecies.   Yes, we need to eat solid spiritual food if we are to grow beyond our infancy as Christians.  It strengthens us for daily battle against the forces of evil in this world, and we also need to be strong so that we can help others who are weak and struggling. 

What else provides food for our spirits?  Prayer.  Talking to God daily is like getting the recommended daily allowance of necessary vitamins and minerals.  Without vitamins and minerals all the food we eat won’t digest properly, won’t nourish our bodies correctly, and we will become weak and sickly.  When we pray we need to ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, for correct understanding of Scripture, and to praise God and thank Him for His blessings.  And we all know that regular ‘elimination’ of waste product is part of good health, so good spiritual health also requires us to bring our problems to God and thus unload their stress upon our minds, hearts, and spirits.  As a familiar hymn says, “If your body suffers pain and your health you can’t regain, and your soul is almost sinking in despair, Jesus knows the pain you feel, He can save and He can heal - Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.”  Yes, Jesus can heal body, mind, and spirit.  But you have to pray and leave your burden with Him.

So in addition to any resolutions you have in regards to your physical diet, to working towards and maintaining a healthy body, do the same for your spirit.  Resolve to do the following:

1.  Eat healthy food.  Read the Bible and pray daily. 

2.  Limit, or better yet discontinue, your intake of unhealthy food – activities and influences that even if not downright sinful, lead you away from God, cause you to question your faith, rob you of joy and peace, and keep you from maintaining a healthy spiritual diet.

3.  Meet regularly with God’s people.  Attend church on Sunday.  Participate in Bible study or other Christian group activities.  There are so many groups for helping people get physically fit and healthy – Weight Watchers, gyms, AA.  We need to meet together to encourage one another toward spiritual health and fitness as well.  As the apostle Paul wrote in the Book of Hebrews, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  (Hebrews 10:24-25).

4.  Exercise your faith.  What happens when we eliminate physical exercise?  Our muscles shrink and we grow weak.  Our bones become brittle.  And researchers have even concluded that physical inactivity leads to coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, metabolic syndrome (including obesity and abnormal blood cholesterol levels), type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer, and depression.  It is the same with our faith.  The Bible even says that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).  We can ingest healthy spiritual food - read the Bible all day and pray all night - but we must also exercise our faith by doing what the Word and the Spirit are calling us to do.  And while the specifics may vary somewhat from person to person, the same underlying call applies to all – love God and love one another.

And so I pray that if you haven’t already, you would add these four things to your new year’s resolutions for 2018.  And even if you have already broken any of your other ones, I pray the Lord gives you the inspiration, courage and strength to keep these.  Amen.

CHILDREN'S MESSAGE:

Eating healthy doesn’t sound fun,    

Vegetables really aren’t my thing,    

I’d rather have cookies and candy,

More than almost anything.

 

And as for reading the Bible,

Instead of watching cartoons on TV,

Or playing a video game or two,

Well you know - it just isn’t ‘me’!

 

But both our body and our soul,

Need a healthy diet to grow,

So maybe it’s time that I be smart,

And make a fresh new healthy start.