Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Meal Plans and Common Counsel

Healthy Living

A physically healthy lifestyle is often characterized by three elementary components: a balanced diet, sufficient water intake, and basic exercise. It's been proven throughout countless generations that if a person has these three factors at play in his life, he will remain in good physical shape outside of an act of God. Interestingly, these simple practices are often overlooked as many people look to the latest fads and novel concepts to achieve good health. Celebrity diet plans and trendy Instagram meals tend to stir up more excitement than what we already know: bad foods are bad, water is good, and if you don't move, you'll grow outward.

Why is it that the most basic elements are so often ignored? Perhaps we can't see the forest through the trees. Or perhaps our mothers' command to eat our vegetables permanently traumatized us.

It seems to me that our problem with healthy living, like most of our problems, is spiritual in nature. In our fallen state, we're not exactly prone to do what we're supposed to do. Rebellion is infused into our DNA because of the original sin of our common father, Adam. We like to trick ourselves into thinking there are new ways, outside of God's design, that are better for us. Therefore, let's go healthier by making the soda zero calories and let's reach for the fat burner pill instead of strapping on the gym shoes.

Ultimately, our devised schemes will never supersede the design of God in how we are to live. There is but one Designer with one design, and His ways (which our not our ways) are better and higher. Thus, in all areas of life, we should seek to conform ourselves to God's standards and prescriptions for living.

Healthy Spiritual Living

Generally speaking, a healthy spiritual life is as basic as a healthy physical life. Just as the body needs a balanced diet, water, and exercise, the soul needs Scripture, prayer, and fellowship. These three components are essential to the one who desires to live for Jesus and they are often the ready answer on my lips when it comes to imparting counsel to a fellow Christian. Scripture, prayer, and fellowship apply to nearly every sticky situation and sinful scenario we may find ourselves in.

Yet, so often "Read your Bible" sounds like "Eat your vegetables" and "Make time to be with the family of God" comes across the same way as "You need to sweat more than once a year if you're going to drop those pounds." And since it's already been established that our nature is to look for more "innovative" ways to live this life, it should really be no surprise to any of us that the regimen of Scripture/prayer/fellowship can be poorly received among those seeking help.

"You don't understand, I just need to take a break from [Scripture/prayer/fellowship] to focus on [something ultimately not helpful]" is a response that one might hear. Or maybe, "I've tried [Scripture/prayer/fellowship] and it hasn't helped." That's a common one. We all know people who think they've tried diet, water, and exercise to no avail, yet, in reality, they did slightly more than banishing cookies for Lent.

(Seeing as we're currently a few weeks removed from New Year's Resolutions, I'm now wondering how many gym memberships are already starting to go unused.)

Excuses are what they are: excuses. We must call kicking against the pricks for what it is. There is just no way for us, believers in Jesus Christ, to live a healthy spiritual life outside of the basic elements.

Just as a balanced diet nourishes the body to grow and thrive, the food of the word of God nourishes the soul to do the same. Just as water is essential to our hydration, effecting a variety of systems within our frame, prayer is essential to our walk with God, bringing our heart near to His as He uses this means to accomplish great ends. Just as exercise is a great discipline that causes us to lay aside the weight that keeps us from moving well, the discipline of fellowship is a collective exercise of joyful, loving accountability that trims the fat and keeps our eyes on Jesus.

I understand that this counsel isn't earth-shattering or tailor-made for every unique person. And true biblical counsel certainly goes deeper than recommendations that fit on a sticky note. However, just as a good doctor checks in on the basics of healthy living to assess a person's physical wellbeing, so shall we check in on ourselves concerning the basics of healthy spiritual living. We must commit ourselves to the means of God as His Spirit works out our salvation in us.

There's no substitute for God's simple design. It's the Christian's duty to recognize this in the stewardship of life and to commit to the Lord's prescriptions for living. Let us pay attention to body and soul as we step through this life together.

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