Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5
I found The Nester through A Holy Experience and I am intrigued. She is hosting a 31 day challenge, 31 days of writing on one topic, any topic. I like the idea of being mindful about something, of spending the month challenging myself to think about one topic and, hopefully, make some changes in my life as a result. So, I will be spending the next 31 days thinking about, studying and writing about healthy, holy living.
But what does that mean?
I recently read a book that really caused me to stop and think about one aspect of my walk with the Lord. The book, EveryBody Matters: Strengthening Your Body to Strengthen Your Soul by GaryThomas, really convicted me about the link between physical discipline and spiritual discipline. You see, I tend to think of my walk as a purely spiritual exercise. Like many Christians, I put an emphasis on the growth of my soul and have largely ignored the connection between my spiritual life and my physical life. Gary Thomas asserts that physical discipline is necessary to become “instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” (2 Timothy 2:21)
This really shouldn't be news. The Apostle Paul referred to physical discipline in 1 Corinthians 9:27: “No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” This verse is toward the end of a passage that compares living the Christian life to running a race. Paul says that part of running our race is keeping our bodies under control. A commentary on 1 Corinthians 9 by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown calls this the “keeping under of our natural self-seeking, so as, like Paul, to lay ourselves out entirely for the great work.” This kind of physical discipline isn't about maintaining a certain dress size or looking good for summer swimsuit season, it’s about putting to death the desires of my flesh so that I can live more fully for the Lord.
Paul writes more about this soul/body connection in Romans 8. What interests me most about this chapter is the comparison Paul draws between life controlled by the Spirit and life controlled by the sinful nature. Romans 8:5 says, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” We all have a choice. We can choose to live according to the desires of our sinful nature, the desires of our flesh, or we can choose to live according to the desires of the Spirit. We cannot have it both ways. But the good news, according to Romans 8:13, is that it is “by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body.” Putting to death my sinful nature isn't something I am called to do on my own; it is something I can only do by the power of the Spirit.
I was talking to someone about this recently and the person commented, “well, but we don’t want to get too carried away with this. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with my comfort food.” I had to think about this for a while. On the one hand, that’s true. There’s nothing wrong with your chocolate cake (or whatever) in moderation. It’s the idea of comfort food that gets to me. You see, turning to that piece of chocolate cake for comfort is making the cake an idol. I think this is part of what Paul is talking about in Philippians 3:18b-19, “…many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.” These people, who Paul describes as enemies of the cross of Christ, put their appetites and desires first. Think about that: how many times have I turned to food for comfort or fulfillment or pleasure instead of turning to the Lord, who is the only One who can truly satisfy my desires?
It’s funny that it took a book to connect all of this for me. I have experienced the real comfort of the Lord and can compare it to the false comfort of chocolate. I know that my most meaningful times of prayer nearly always happen when I am running. I know that when I am being more disciplined about my physical life, I tend to be more disciplined about my spiritual life. To me this is all a part of following Paul’s instructions to “honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:20)
So this is what I want to focus on in the next 31 days. I want to talk about the practical aspects of being physically disciplined and to that end I will post my food and exercise diary, possibly some recipes and thoughts about the kind of exercise that works for me. I also want to talk about the spiritual connection. How does being physically disciplined help me in my spiritual life? What is God showing me through this renewed dedication? I am really looking forward to this opportunity to be more deliberate and thoughtfult as I learn to take better care of this body that God has given me as an instrument of His service.