Monday, January 16, 2012

Looking up, and away from the plate.

Have you ever gotten a double whammy of conviction?  You know, found something in God's Word that hit you hard and then found the same lesson in a totally unrelated place in the Bible?  I know, all of the Bible is related, but I got hit several times by the same conviction over the past 2 weeks.  And that in an area I had already started to work on!  Of course, I had started to work on that area in the physical arena, and was neglecting the spiritual aspect of the battle.

How many times do we try to 'conquer' some area of our lives only to fall short?  With New Year's Resolutions, many people have already done that this year.  "I'm going to be more organized", "I'm going to get in shape", "I'm going to spend more time with my family", "I'm going to lose weight", "I'm going to read my Bible more", "I'm going to have a better attitude", etc.  And we put on our best 'game face' and try to accomplish it solely in the flesh.  And we would think we are doing the right thing because my organization, my schedule, my weight, and my health are all physical areas of concern.  God showed me that my weight is no where close to a physical area in my life these past few weeks.  Let me tell you how:

We are reading through the New Testament together as a family and as a church this year.  This involves reading 1 chapter a day on Monday through Friday.  The first week we read about the temptation of Jesus in the desert.  When tempted with food after 40 days of fasting, Jesus says "Man shall not live by bread alone."  I have always looked at food as something I needed desperately - several times a day!  How can Jesus deny himself something that his body needs like that?  I realized that Jesus placed his love for his Father above his desire for food, as Paul tells us "I buffet my body" to bring it into subjection.  I was challenged to work on the spiritual discipline of fasting.  No month long fasts for me, but baby steps means that I have skipped meals with the purpose of controlling my appetites, of subjecting my appetites to my love for God.

Last week, we came to the passage of "No man can serve two masters".  I was so glad I wasn't chasing after money the way Judas did at the end of Matthew.  You know, where he decided to betray Jesus after the waste of costly perfume that could have been sold.  Judas tried to serve two masters and failed.  He thought he could serve money and Jesus.  When he heard that Jesus was convicted, he 'repented', that is, he changed his mind about betraying Jesus.  He went and gave back the money and hanged himself.  His repentance did not lead to salvation, but he realized he had made a mistake.  I believe he thought he could earn some extra money and Jesus would get out of the trap as Jesus always escaped the religious leaders.  He thought he could serve two masters and win.  My master wasn't money, my master was the appetite for food.  I like to eat, I love to eat.  And I love the flavors that I can enjoy in my mouth.  I love the texture of a flaky pastry, the creaminess of cheesecakes and chocolate.  I love the satisfied feeling of a fully belly.  But I cannot serve this appetite and God.  God wants me to be a good steward of this body.  God tells me I can't live by bread alone.  God tells me I need to subject all my desires to him.  Even food.

In preparing for yesterday's opening sermon in the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon taught how pleasure cannot satisfy.  Pleasure is vanity.  And it hit me again.  If I eat for pleasure, I have no reason to stop eating.  As weird as that sounds, I've been there.  When things aren't going right, or when I was looking for satisfaction in food rather than God, I would eat almost all day.  I felt unhealthy, I knew I was getting heavier, I just felt bad most of the time.  But that food sure felt good going in.  I learned that I need to be careful not to eat for pleasure.  Am I taking seconds because I need more fuel for my body, or because it tastes good?  Am I reaching for a snack to keep my body in balance, or because I crave the joy of tickling my taste buds?  Don't get me wrong, I still want to enjoy what I eat, but my purpose in eating should be to strengthen my body, not to energize my taste buds.

For me, this is a battle that has gone on for years.  (Well, actually off and on for years)  One that I do not think will ever go away completely.  But, with the Lord's help, an area that I can live in victory when I follow God's plan.  If no one can serve two masters, I have to make sure the master I serve meets all of my needs.  The only one that does that is God.

"Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you"
- Matthew 6:33