Every year, many of us make similar resolutions: to lose extra pounds, eat sensibly, get more exercise. We know these will make us healthier, and a new year signals a fresh start.
It’s easy to focus on physical health, because it’s so obvious. Under stress, we may also be acutely aware of our mental health and try to improve it. Often, though, our spiritual health seems to slip under the radar.
Each of us is made up body, mind and spirit. If we’re to be whole, functioning as God intends, we need health in all three parts. This is also true of our corporate body, the church.
One essential of physical health is water. Dehydration impacts more than our skin and kidneys; persistent dehydration actually shrinks brain tissues, which accelerates the aging process and can lead to dementia. Continued lack of sufficient water causes us to lose the ability to think clearly.
“Come, all you who are thirsty,” says God through the prophet Isaiah, “come to the waters. . .” The Spirit of Jesus says in Revelation 21: “To him who is thirsty I will give drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.” Jesus offers us living water. When we don’t get enough, our spirit shrinks until we’ re spiritually confused and out of touch with God’s reality. If we want to be spiritually healthy instead of dried up, we need to drink deeply of Jesus.
Food is a second essential for health. When our bodies don’t get enough nourishment, we lose weight, energy and the ability to resist disease. When we don’t get enough spiritual nourishment, we diminish as fully-functioning human beings. Our mental and emotional strength declines, and we’re more susceptible to the diseases of sin and deception.
“Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” says God through Isaiah. “Listen, listen to me and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” David said: “Taste and see that the Lord is good…”. Jesus offers us the bread of life, the richest of fare. If we want to be spiritually healthy instead of getting thinner and thinner, we need to feast on the Word of God, to taste and see that the Lord is good.
Exercise is a third health essential. Without it, our muscles get flabby and eventually waste away. When our spirits lack exercise, they weaken. They lose the ability to lift us above our stresses, to pull us out of depression and self-pity, or to move us away from self-focus to God-focus. When we rely on our own strength instead of increasing our spiritual muscle, we end up feeling drained. We’re spending ourselves on what doesn’t satisfy. There are people in every church who do many things, but are drained because they don’t get enough meaningful exercise for their spirits.
Paul says we’re to “run in such as 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” (1 Cor 9:24-26). If we want to have healthy spiritual muscles, we need training; otherwise, we’ll be running aimlessly.
How will we take care of our spiritual health? Will we have dinner or get thinner? Will we drink or shrink? We we be trained or drained?
The prophet Amos said: “ ‘The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign Lord, ‘when I will send a famine throughout the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord’.” Jesus, the Word made flesh, said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
What are we hungering and thirsting for? Do we want more of what God offers or more of what the world offers? Are we simply spiritual Boy Scouts – doing our good deed for the day and being satisfied with that?
Throughout the Old Testament, when the Israelites had peace and plenty, they became self-satisfied and turned away from God. When Satan tempted Jesus, He had to chose God over the kingdoms of the earth, and it’s a temptation we all face. Our prosperity is both a blessing and a curse. We’re full of what the world has to offer, but increasingly empty of God. In the midst of our material plenty, there is a famine of hearing the word of the Lord.
How, then, can we feed our spirits, drink deeply of God’s living water, and exercise our spiritual muscles?
First, we need to feast on God’s Word every day. The Bible is God’s instruction manual full of wise counsel. It’s a fascinating history; it’s a love letter; but most of all it is His living word. The New Testament confirms it’s the inspired word of God. He gave it to us because we need it. It tells us where we’ve been, reveals where we are now, and shows us where we need to be. God uses it to speak to us as individuals in our particular circumstances if we will let Him.
God gives daily guidance through His Word, and it’s guidance we can’t get anywhere else. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
When we study His Word, God can speak to us about our right here, right now needs and concerns. The Bible is called the living Word because it has the divine ability to reach into our hearts and minds to challenge us, convict us, correct us, confirm God’s love for us, and comfort us.
As we become more and more familiar with His Word, God can bring it to our minds to guide and comfort us whether or not we have a Bible in hand. God’s Word – His thoughts and His ways – are so far above our own, they are able to protect us from deception – of ourselves and others. God’s Word can keep us honest, if we will let it.
God’s Word has a purpose, and that purpose is to accomplish His will. Like rain and snow, it has been given to water our spirits and make them bud and flourish, so that we in turn can sow spiritual seeds in the lives of others, and be more like Jesus, the bread of life. It was not sent out to come back empty. We, too, are not placed in this world to come back to God empty.
Next: FEAST OR FAMINE: HEALTH PLAN