I am living in sin. Many of us joke about it. We take medications because of it. We call it a “struggle” or “the way I am”. We’re insecure about it and blame it on everything from stress to genetics to diets not working to medical conditions. We’re depressed, broken, and unhealthy and we don’t call it what it is. We look for quick fixes and extreme measures to cover up this sin. But until we DEAL with the sin that it is, the nasty dark side of this sin, it will continue to completely consume us.
I am overweight. I am overweight because I have chosen to live in sin. I have refused to accept the fruit of the Spirit of self-control. I have given in to my laziness and refuse to accept the only possession that God gifted me with His own hands. I was knit together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:19) and have allowed myself to unravel my threads one at a time and have done nothing to stop it besides blaming it on my circumstances instead of acknowledging that I have been the one untying the strings myself. That I am slowly committing suicide.
God and I work things out together a lot. When we have major things that He is revealing to me, it becomes consuming. It’s like He knows me well enough (duh) to know that if He isn’t INSISTENT then I will brush it off and move on to dealing with the “acceptable” sins. My brain has been so muddled with this concept that I’m trying to make sense of it all myself. So, hang with me as we process it together.
I also want you to hear me say that this is not just an issue of a person whose pants are too tight. I openly acknowledge that I also struggled with this same sin when I was a teenager/young adult and I battled with my own bodily abuse by calorie restricting and personal starvation. Or when I was a healthy weight, but had high cholesterol to a point where my doctor wanted me to go on medication. I was “skinny fat”. Healthy weight, but feeding my body crap food without regards to the necessary fuel my system needed. I also want you to know that God made us in different shapes and sizes and we’re not all called to weigh 105 lbs and be a size 2. Some of us DO have conditions and genes that make weight loss harder than others. But hear me, this is NOT about weight loss. The vast majority of us who fall into the “overweight” or “obese” category are there on our own doing. Or lack of doing.
I have been in church three times a week for 35.5 years. We are also completing Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and I began to think about how often, in churches, we discuss “being good stewards” or “stewardship” in regards to caring for our finances or our church buildings. While many of these are gifts from the Lord, none of them were handed to us straight from His hands like our bodies were. Why is all of our focus about being good caretakers about those things and I venture to say never hear anyone discuss the sin of lack of exercise or continual poor food choices. (And, if I’m being fair, we often hear about substance abuse because…. well, if I’m being honest, those things, if we’re using them, rarely do we carry them with us for the world to see…) I HAVE heard many lessons and sermons about “speaking the truth in love” and “holding your brother and sister accountable” but, do you know, as I have progressively packed on a lot of weight, I haven’t had a single person discuss it with me? I wonder how it would have been differently if I had begun to openly engage in an affair? Would everyone that I love just accept it as a “struggle” and the way I “deal with stress”? All the while, Americans who qualify as “overweight” or “obese” are filling our pews and we continue to NOT address the personal abuse we are inflicting on our bodies. Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans, and a huge number of those are self-inflicted by our lifestyles. Substance abuse isn’t even listed in the top 10. But which are we spending our time talking about?
I am not advocating for people of healthy weight to begin to confront those of us who aren’t there. That isn’t helpful. (And may end with some people receiving black eyes) But, we often see our spouses, family, or friends who are trying to go through the muck of coming out from drowning in these sinful decisions that aren’t bathed in the Spirit and ask them to get ice cream or pizza. Or to just cuddle and watch a movie instead of going for a walk. Or bring them a cake as a “gift” and instead actually pose as a stumbling block to our sister or brother that causes them to slip back into old patterns (Romans 14:13). I equate this to the same level of going to a friend struggling with pornography and inviting them to see a new website that they may love. I mean, it was a tough week. Didn’t they deserve it? Can’t they just go straight back to not watching porn the next day? (*insert facepalm*)
We know the truth. In elementary school, we were given clear guidelines for fueling properly: eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. Lean protein. Whole grains. Limit sugars and fats. Move and increase your heart rate for at least 30 minutes a day for 5-6 days a week. We have portion sizes that tell us when to stop. But we refuse to listen to our bodies as our stomachs are full because we have no self-control. None of that is defined in crash diets that discuss being “skinny” or “cheating”. Since when did we start to look at overcoming sin through those lenses? There aren’t quick fixes for overcoming addictions. It is daily making a choice to not engage in activities that will lead you to temptation.
And don’t get me started on how often I tell my children that they can only have one sweet a day all the while I hide from them to eat more than my share of processed sugars because “I’m an adult”. Or I tell them to “Get up and move” because they have been watching too much TV all while I sit dormant. I have attempted to lose weight and blamed it on the program not working. When, in reality, I was the one that wasn’t working. I felt entitled. Like I could wish away the consequences of me living contrary to God’s Word.
In my opinion, one of the biggest problems is that our culture has disconnected our physical health from our sinful nature. This has been a struggle that we allow programs and trainers to fix instead of begging for the Holy Spirit to give us more than a portion of self-control and to lead us not into temptation and to deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:13) We give over our desire of health to become the god of sex-appeal or desire to one-up our neighbor. We would rather take a pill than address our weaknesses and desires for a change with those that are directly causing us to stumble. (My toes are getting so walked on right now that I literally am picking them up while I’m writing.)
It is time we finally pick that piece of sawdust out of our eye before we continue to pursue the plank in everyone else’s. (Matthew 7:3) Until I address, repent, and run from this stronghold and these chains that have bound me and so easily entangle me with every meal and with every desire of laziness, I won’t be able to fully run the course that is in front of me. (Hebrews 12:1) Both literally and spiritually.
Why do we refuse to give Christ this victory? Why do we not think that because of Christ’s love that we are more than conquerors? (Romans 8:37) Why do we insist on living in chains? Why are we determined it’s too hard or that it’s too big for the Lord to help us climb out from under this nutritional debt? Why do we pray more for the rescue of loved ones from THEIR own sins while an overwhelming majority of us Americans can’t qualify for insurance incentives because of our weight, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol… (I ran into that last week….)
Am I saying that we are never allowed a treat? No. You absolutely are. But when those “treats” become an addiction that have adverse affects on our health, they have gone past a “treat” and has ventured into being a weapon of mass destruction. 1 Corinthians 10:23 says “‘I have the right to do anything’ you say, but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything,’ but not everything is constructive.” Ask yourself that. Is what I’m eating, drinking, or other ways in which you get substances in your bodies, building my body up to be as healthy as possible? You have two options: CONstruct or DEstruct. As our bodies are changing each day, we have to daily do our jobs to maintain them. Including taking a sabbath. If you’re not growing, you’re dying, right?
And why are we so quick to dismiss health and fitness goals as “vanity”? (Y’all are seriously getting to wrestle with me here…)
The other day, I was doing a hard workout. A workout I didn’t want to do. I was finishing my workout and considering dropping down to only giving a small portion of my effort until my 7 year old daughter walked in the room to watch me. Then I was flooded with the words from Titus 2:3-5 “… teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live… to teach what is good…then they can urge the younger women…. to be self-controlled…” I had to show Nina that she has to consider her health. As the sadomasochist instructor on my workout video celebrated that it was “time for a bonus round!” and instructed us to get our weights and get in a squat and hold it until she said to get up. I wanted to skip it. I felt the desire to only drop half into my squat. Then I turned and stared into that sweet face. The face that came in to watch me work hard. The one who has heard me talk about me making poor choices for so long and now I have to work really hard to get my body healthy again. She came to watch me make changes. She came to watch me KEEP MY COMMITMENT TO MYSELF AND TO MY FAMILY. I had no choice but to drop into that squat and let her see my legs shake, my face grimace and for her to hear my grunts and see me sweat. It's time my daughter watched me FIGHT for what's right in own body as much as she sees me fight for other types of righteousness.
My job, as her mother, is to teach her about Jesus. It is my job to teach her to be compassionate to others, to be a productive and independent human being. But it is also my job to not teach her about being “skinny” or about doing as little as possible in my workouts so she can check it off her list or that having an occasional treat as “cheating”. My job to teach her to be a good steward of the only possession she came into this world with. I I refuse for her to hear me speak of my fitness journey as what I "can" and "can't" eat but what is the best fuel. My job is to teach her to invite the Holy Spirit to fill her with ALL of His fruits and not just the ones that are easy. A daily dose of Him to fall on us like the manna on the Israelites. (Exodus 16) For each day to get the amount of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. for THAT day. (Galatians 5:22) To not crash diet to reach a point or an occasion. To not only overcome sin until reaching a desired number on the scale. But to be a continual steward of my body. To love myself as Christ loved the church. To teach my children when we rise and we go to sleep (Deuteronomy 6:4-7) that considering my physical health with all of my actions isn’t an action of vanity but of being a good caretaker of what I was given. That loving yourself isn’t selfish but that it’s necessary. That exercise makes me feel better, function better, and makes me a nicer person. That overcoming sin in their life and in my life IS possible. But that I need a heck of a lot more than a diet plan or a workout agenda. That I need Jesus to wrap me up every day. To offer me grace so that I am able to offer it to myself and to others.
The greatest commandment is this: to love the Lord your God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Mark 12: 30) Until we give our physical health over as “sin” and not as a “struggle” or “the way I am”, those aren’t possible. I was told one time we shouldn’t say “Forgive me of my sins” because we don’t know what we’re turning away from until we acknowledge that a certain action is indeed sin. We have to name it and then tell someone that you’re struggling in your sin. The only way to offer our bodies as living sacrifices is to renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2) and to put on our new selves and die to our self. (Ephesians 4)
In the same way we encourage others to flee from their sins, it’s time we, as both the Church (Big C church) and as Christ followers that gluttony is a sin and that we bask in it. We encourage it. We laugh at it. We celebrate it. We have competitions to see who can be the biggest glutton of all. How would our other sins look if we exercised the same “all or nothing” mentality we bring to our health and fitness journeys? Proverbs 23:21 categorizes us gluttons with drunkards. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 reminds us that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we should honor OUR temples as we honor our church buildings. That we should stop calculating those who make their fitness a priority as them making it a god or as vanity because we’re insecure that they’re more disciplined than we are. (Oh, how my own insecurity is one of my biggest enemies.)
1 Thessalonians 4:3-4 tells us that controlling our bodies is the will of God and it is our sanctification.
2 Timothy 1:6-7 tells us to fan the flame of the gift of God by power, love, and self- control. Gal 5:1 tells us that we are set free by Christ FOR FREEDOM and to stand FIRM.
Proverbs 5:23 tells us that we will die because of lack of self-discipline.
Colossians 3:9-10 tells us that we can’t lie to each other about our old and new selves by that we are being renewed in the image in which we were created; the image of God. Romans 8:21 tells us that we will be frustrated by our sin and that we will be liberated from its bondage.
And Paul lays is ALL on the line in 1 Corinthians 9:27 when he tells us that we will be DISQUALIFIED FROM PREACHING the Truth if we don’t discipline our bodies and keep them under control.
I often say that the day I stop learning is the day I die. May today be the day that I say the same about the day I stop disciplining my body.
Hebrews 12:28 says “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”
Let us be consumed with Christ as we receive His gift of life and accept that we are called to have life and have it abundantly.