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Bodily Weakness Is Contagious

According to wise old king Solomon, our eyes are never satisfied.1 This statement extends beyond beyond food, but food is a bit of a softball when it comes to applying Solomon’s words. If there’s room on the plate, then there is room for more food, right? I’d like to make the quick case that being weak in handling food/fitness can lead to weakness in other areas of life. Very simply, if we cannot buffet the body regarding food /fitness, we’ll find it an uphill climb with other desires of the flesh.

Obedience and discipline aren’t on a switch we can turn on / off depending on the current moment. In other words, I can’t be strong against lust when I eat whatever is in my sightline. I cannot contend well with anger when I contend poorly with overall bodily fitness. If I am soft when it comes to my mouth, I’ll be weak in other areas where the flesh is demanding. Weakness in one area equals weakness in more than one area. Thomas Boston once said, “They that would keep themselves pure must have their bodies in subjection, and that may require, in some cases, a holy violence.”

Basically, being soft in our bodies inclines us towards weakness and softness in our spiritual lives as well. Bodily weakness is contagious. I’m not making this up, but ripping it off from the Apostle Paul. Speaking to a church that struggled with the flesh out loud for all to see. “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things...So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”2

Paul is connecting the discipline he applies to the exterior man with the result in the inner man. He knew that being weak in discipline regarding his physical body will without a doubt drive towards spiritual weakness and possibly disqualification. Jerry Bridges agrees with Paul:

“When the body is pampered and indulged, the instincts and passions of the body tend to get the upper hand and dominate our thoughts and actions. We tend to do not what we should do, but what we want to do, as we follow the cravings of our sinful nature.” 

Andrew Murray more bluntly says, “Overeating or eating for mere enjoyment, weights and makes the body heavy and unfit for prayer. That is the time the devil can come to you. A man may be living in victory over some sin but through the pleasure of eating the devil may get power over his flesh.”4

How we handle food and fitness is not an amoral issue outside of how we engage God, but a vital part of who we are as worshipers and disciples of Jesus. When strategy and discipline launch from this footing, it’s worshiping God. When discipline derives from what culture deems “beautiful” however it’s self-worship. This is why you can be fit and healthy and yet be in sin of self-worship. Step one is seeing weakness over your own body as a moral problem. Step two is developing a strategy for God’s honor, not your own.

(1) Proverbs 27:20
(2) 1 Cor. 9:25-27
(3) Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness, page 152
(4) Murray, The Spiritual Life, loc. 396

 

Posted by Luke Thomas with

"Why Your Resolutions Don't Stick"

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I’m an unabashed history dork, currently on my second biography of Teddy Roosevelt. Of all his noteworthy moments, the one that sticks out for me is a page from his workout program - I’m fascinated by his “Body by Ted” program. While president, Roosevelt would often grab some aids or even guests, choose a distant point off in the distance and head for that point only to then return.

 The catch? They would do so in a perfectly straight line no matter what was in the way.

 “The rule was that no natural impediment should cause them to digress or to stop. So they went through the fields and over the fences, across ditches and pools, and even clambered up and down a haystack, if one happened to be in the way, or through a barnyard. Of course they often reached home spattered with mud or even drenched to the skin from a plunge into the water, but with much fun, a livelier circulation, and a hearty appetite to their credit.” He called this “hiking”.

 We can learn much in our goal setting from this practice of “hiking.” There’s something to be said for having your eyes set on a goal and refusing to let impediments interrupt your journey. Sure, we all desire discipline, but accomplishing goals in a disciplined manner isn’t always good. Your accomplished resolutions may be carrying you in the wrong direction.  

 Matt Perman’s incredible book What’s Best Next (a must get) argues that improved productivity is no longer efficient if it’s carrying you in the wrong direction. You must first know what the right direction is for productivity to matter. I couldn’t agree more. One of the key ways in which our discipline can carry us in the correct direction is to staple it to a personal mission statement. Mission statements act like Roosevelt’s lighthouse or mountaintop, dictating direction no matter the obstacles. Perman notes,

 “...the purpose of your mission statement is to define the rock-bottom principles that define you even in times when you don’t know what you are doing or where you are going. You want your mission statement to orient you even when your entire world seems to be giving way —when you’ve lost your job, lost your house, aren’t sure what city to live in, and the wonderful plan you have for your life seems blown apart. Your mission statement is a good one if it is able to help you then, in those circumstances. Only then will it be able to guide you in the ordinary circumstances of life.”

 This year, before sitting down to list out new goals and aspirations, first ask, “Why am I here? Where am I going?”. Let the answers become beacons to your calendar, expenditures, and decisions so that you're not productive in the wrong direction.  Most people fail in their resolutions simply because they are irrelevant to their overall mission, and therefore peripheral rather than central. In fact, what’s worse, someone inefficiently moving in the right direction or someone efficiently moving in the wrong direction?

We clearly see Jesus and Paul with their eyes fixed on an end without veering or shifting in their journey. Sure, they were disciplined, but they were also tethered to a defining mission. Their decisions were guided by an ultimate goal. Have you considered yours? Take some time to today draft a mission statement that becomes the “rudder” for all your resolutions, aspirations, and goals. Maybe this year you’ll head in the right direction no matter what’s in the way.

 William Thayer, Theodore Roosevelt; An Intimate Biography (Public Domain Book) Kindle Location 2378
2 Matt Perman, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms The Way You Get Things Done (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2014) pg. 148
Posted by Luke Thomas with

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