In the month of March, there was an event hosted by Breaking Chains Ministries here in North County. The premise of the event was “breakfast in the park” with “loaves and fishes”. We enjoyed delicious fish grilled on the BBQ and pita bread along with snacks and drinks which we shared while having fellowship with those who had gathered.
Coming away from that event, as we drove home, something birthed in my heart, which since then has been nudging me to research, to expound and to delve a little deeper into why the body of Christ, the church worldwide might not be reaching her full potential across a myriad of ministries. SPIRITUAL OBESITY. Please don’t get me wrong, there are those that are out there actively plowing, sewing seed, watering…allowing Christ to give the growth, and then bringing in the harvest of souls. Praise the Lord for that!
Being a melancholic perceiver I always look a little deeper than surface level – and tend to see what others sometimes don’t really want to see, and so sharing it is often difficult but of late this topic has been rolling around within me, and so with caution I want to bring this twist and take on what might be considered as one of the building blocks to walking in such a way that our lives are a wonderful testimony and pleasant aroma of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives as we serve the Lord.
How many of us wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and sigh with disappointment? We remember years ago how trim and fit we were and today look at the extra ‘luggage’ we carry around with us. For example, before coming to the USA I cycled competitively, and trained on average 20 miles every single day. I watched my diet, ate healthy food items, cut out the bad and forced myself to enjoy the not-so-tasty so that come race day I would be able to compete with relative success. Now, 8 years down the road, keeping the pounds off is a challenge. Those things that are harmful taste incredibly good, and once they are onboard are near impossible to shed off. So…the mirror is not my friend! In the USA obesity is ravaging across the nation and threatens to become the next great pandemic. Doctors will tell us that we need to adapt a balanced diet and exercise regime to avoid becoming obese. Obviously the more we eat and the less we exercise, the probability of becoming obese and unhealthy with possible complications, should not take us by surprise.
Journey with me into the spiritual parallel for a moment, as we pull up scripture and find a balance:
1 Peter 2v2 – “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation…”
James 1v22-25 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.”
This tells us that if we eat more than we exercise (not putting into practice what we know and have received and understand what God wants us to do) over time we risk the possibility of becoming spiritually unhealthy and obese. Often the Lord refers to scripture and Himself as food:
John 6v35 “I am the bread of life.”
Luke 1v53 “He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.”
Mark 14v22 “And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them and said, “Take eat; this is My body.”
1 Corinthians 10v16 “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”
The Pharisees could possibly be documented as the first spiritually obese group to exist back in the day. They were much ado about pointing fingers, praying the loudest, finding fault in every possible thing Jesus and the disciples did around them, robed in outward righteousness, not allowing the Lord to touch their hearts beyond their cloaks, always learning and studying manuscripts, and very astute in the laws of Moses and Caesar for that matter. They were unwilling to be challenged, were never wrong, did very little to expand the kingdom, wailed the loudest in the synagogues, and were swift to bring any transgressor to book. Their attitude might be summed up as being arrogant;
1 Corinthians 8v1-2 “Now about food sacrificed to idols” We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but loves builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.”
The Pharisees are a mirror image of this scripture, they were filled with knowledge, laws, precepts and wisdom in their natural minds, but nothing had engaged in their hearts, affording them the stature of being “puffed up”.
Just knowing God and what He wants us to do, does not make us a healthy Christian. We run the same risk of feeding on His word, doing nothing about it, week after week, month after month, year after year…resulting in spiritual obesity. I am guilty of this 100%. Go to church, attend meetings, classes, events…raise my spiritual hand to my mouth and fill up, go home and repeat the cycle over and over again. In this state it is easy to become frustrated, it is easy to nit-pick ministries, it is easy to judge another forgetting the log in my own eye while trying to remove the speck. Head knowledge is good, don’t misunderstand me; but there comes a time where we must allow the acquired head knowledge to filter into our heart, so that we can become effective for the Lord. This is where the latter portion of James 1v25 comes into play; “…not forgetting what he has heard, BUT DOING IT, he WILL be BLESSED in what he does.”
So what are some practical spiritual exercises we can begin practicing right away?
Ephesians 4v17-30 “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
Spiritual growth is generated by nourishment and exercise by feeding on the word of God and exercise by doing, or practicing, to the best of our ability what the Spirit, through the Word, directs us to do. However, they must be balanced.
So, do we go out tomorrow and stand on the corner and scream “REPENT THE END IS NEAR”? If the Lord leads – yes. But for the most part, it must become a process, by which we acknowledge that over the course of time, we have become comfortable, and have lived in spiritual seclusion and hidden those talents Christ gave us the day He saved us, in so doing to some extent we have taken on a form of spiritual obesity and it has brought a lethargy upon us collectively so much so that our service to the Lord has become dare I say it, a habit, getting to church on time, saying the right things, dressing a particular way, flying under the radar of reality, and putting on the pounds week after week.
In pointing one finger three are reversed and jabbing me in my chest. How many opportunities have been passed up to serve the Lord in some way? More than I can imagine in my own life. I have said this often, that the best place to begin is in our own circles of influence. It doesn’t take much. A smile. A hug. A chat with someone that everyone avoids. An email, a phone call.
The other day, I was taking a walk here in San Marcos, and came upon a man who stopped and asked if I knew where the nearest gas station was. In that split moment I had the option to point him in the direction he wanted to go, or I could offer him the gallon of gas I keep in my garage. You know immediately the Lord is in something, because right then Nancy was driving down the road on her way to Mary, she pulled over, we drove back home, collected the gas, came back and helped the man on his way. He could not stop thanking us, and audibly said this was his miracle of the day, that God sent someone to help him with gas. One thing led to another, and we began chatting. He was curious about my accent, and so in the space of 15 minutes, we became friends, parted company and the Lord used that moment to sew a seed in this man’s life.
We often disqualify ourselves from being effective for the Lord. The cry of my heart today is that we as His children, saved by His loving grace would see the state of our hearts, realize that there is far more to just being in the sheepfold, and that within our circle of influence God has given us the boldness and ability to exercise some of the spiritual/scriptural intake we feed on, by allowing us opportunities to burn those God-inspired calories and stay in shape for Him. We do not need to become famous, this is not the objective; but we do need to learn how to step out of our comfort zones, and practice the very principles we receive week after week, in so doing, as individual members of His collective body, the church will take her place, and as His bride we will become more and more effective.
In conclusion Paul says the following:
1 Corinthians 9V24-27 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 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.”
In receiving the word into our hearts, as we begin to step out, we effectively embark on a weight loss program and begin shedding the gospel as the Lord leads guides and directs. We start running that race He has called us all to run, and when the finish line is crossed, we receive our crown. Let us not grow weary, let us not become disqualified, but let us remember we are in the winning team, and boot camp has begun, no more spiritual obesity – by His grace and tender mercy we will run the race that is set before us…if we choose to join His fitness program.