Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Thoughts on Dieting

(Written from 8/23/09 to 5/5/10)

"Food is given to you so that you might eat it in such a way it will be plain that food is not your treasure; Christ is." - John Piper
In this short article I hope to admonish Christians to get free from the power that food has over them. You may find this article offensive. But it is how I believe by what I read in scripture. Please understand that in this article, I am also admonishing myself for I too am overweight and guilty of the sin of gluttony.
According to the CDC, most Americans, including me, are overweight. I have confessed of my sin of gluttony and will now by God's grace, be obedient and cease from this sin.

I started working on this article in August, 2009 when I also started watching my food intake. As the weeks and months went by, I would jot down my thoughts as they came to me whether it was during my Bible reading time, during meditations, during my daily 3 mile walk, while eating, or just out of the blue. This article is a compilation of those thoughts that empowered me to stay on the course of losing weight.

It's my hope and prayer that what you read here will help you to get back to a healthy weight.

"For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God." - Acts 20:27

In decades of attending various churches in various states, I have heard many sermons of the sins of immorality, drunkenness, gossiping, lying, slandering, etc. But I have never once heard a preacher admonishing the congregation to abstain from gluttony! This should not be, my brethren!

Preachers need to be prayed for that they would be faithful and preach the whole council of God. I would be fearful too if I were in the preacher's shoes!....the sins of jealousy, immorality, lying, etc. are hidden sins that you can hide while you're in church. But to sit in the congregation while obese and to hear a sermon on the sin of gluttony would be very embarrassing and offensive! For you cannot hide that's obvious to all. If the preacher gave such a sermon, there's a good chance many people would not show up any more!

I belong to a Baptist church. Over the years one of the faults of many (if not most) Baptists is that instead of hanging our head in shame with our over-indulgence of food is that we actually take pride in it! This should not be that way, my brethren! Several years ago I was out of town and went to a Baptist church one Sunday which happened to be a Sunday where they were going to have a lunch fellowship after the morning service. The preacher (a heavy-set man) was all excited and mentioned, as he pulled his suit jacket back and proudly showing off his large belly, how he was going to eat the entire bowl of Mrs. Wilson's banana pudding. He and the congregation laughed. I remember looking around at everybody laughing and thinking, "this is not right!".

"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
" - 2 Corinthians 5:17

I am concerned about our testimony to the world. We've all heard testimonies how Christ delivered someone from alcoholism, drug addiction, or adulterous affairs. Can't Christ deliver someone from the power that food has over them? Won't our obesity be a stumbling block to those we give the gospel to? If we can't show the world that Christ can deliver us from gluttony, why would the world believe us that Christ can deliver them from eternal torment?

"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." - 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

When we Independent Fundamental Baptists (IFB) see someone with tattoos or with strange nose, tongue or lip piercings we look down on them and with our self-righteous attitude think, "How dare they abuse the body they were given by God by drawing all over it and poking it full of holes!". Yet, it's ironic that overeating and unhealthy eating does more damage to our God-given bodies than 50 piercings or covering every square inch of our skin with tattoos! I am not condoning tattoos but if you are overweight, you have no right to condemn somebody because of their tattoos or piercings. This reminds me of the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:4, "How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?"

"No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it." - 1 Corinthians 10:13

"You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;" - Hebrews 12:4

We give in too easy to temptations to overindulge. For that matter, we don't put up much of a fight. In fact, we don't fight at all; we welcome it with open arms!

"Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine. Or with gluttonous eaters of meat" - Proverbs 23:20

We Fundamental Baptists are quick to mention the evils of alcohol but we ignore the sin of gluttony.
Note that this verse says "heavy drinkers" and not "any drinkers". I know many Baptists who would not want to associate with ANY drinkers of wine. This verse says that we are to not associate with those that have lives in excess whether that is in food or alcohol. Wow! What conviction! We Fundamental Baptists are pros at exercising the first part of this verse but we ignore the second part! What if we exercised the 2nd part the next time we had a church lunch fellowship? We'd probably all be sitting at tables by ourselves! Could it be that one reason we're pros at the first part of this verse is it soothes our conscience because we are such huge failures at the second part?

"For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry." - 1 Peter 4:3 (NIV)
I noticed today when I was tempted to snack on junk food between meals, this verse popped in my head. I have spent enough time in my past on overeating and eating things that are not good for me.

"Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall." - 1 Corinthians 10:12

Today I'm down to 195.5. This is the lowest I've been in at least 10 years. I still have a way to go. I felt proud and felt that one day this week I'm going to treat myself to a large amount of food as a reward. As soon as I thought that, thoughts came to me that it is never right to loose control and fulfill the lusts of the flesh like this. It is not right to put in X number of days of being nice to people and then reward myself one day by beating somebody up!

I must not boast of "my" accomplishments. I must be diligent and stay focused on controlling what kinds of food and how much of it I put into my mouth. If I lose focus or "take a break" from my dieting, I could quickly fall back into bad habits that could take me many months to recover from (if ever).

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." - Philippians 4:6

On several occasions this week I've felt stressed and anxious. At the height of my stress and anxiety, I was tempted to seek relief by stuffing my face with food. On one such occasion, right as I opened the pantry door to grab a handful of cookies, I remembered 1 Peter 5:7, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." I immediately shut the pantry door. I was convicted because I was attempting to go to food for comfort instead of God.

"After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat." - Acts 27:35

Today was a good day on my diet. I had a small breakfast, a small lunch with no snacking between meals. By supper time I was really hungry! As I sat down for supper, I had a great flood of thankfullness to God flood my heart. I prayed to myself, "Thank you God so much for this food! Oh how we take it for granted! Forgive me for my ungratefullness!"

As I sat there enjoying the lovely meal which my dear wife prepared, I reflected on the fact that we Americans really don't understand hunger. Nor are we very grateful for our food. We thank God for our food during our meal-time prayers but we've been thanking Him like this for such a long time that it really just rolls off our tongue without it really coming from the depths of our hearts. Thanking God this way is very mechanical. In America whenever we have a miniscule touch of hunger, we are immediately able to stomp it out by grabbing food that's easily available.

This prayer of thankfulness for my food tonight was a prayer that come up out of the depths of my heart. It was such a refreshing prayer!

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." - Galatians 6:7

There is in life the principle of sowing and reaping; we reap what we sow. We may be tempted to think that this principle is not true because usually there is a vast period of time between sowing and reaping. So we therefore think that the two events are not related but they are. I see this especially true in how we treat out bodies by the way we eat. We may spend several decades of overeating and making poor food choices but there will come a time where we must reap at least one of the following consequences of this lifestyle:

  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Back pain
  • Joint pain
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Fatty Liver Disease
  • Circulatory problems
  • Stroke
  • Hernias
  • Skin disease

"He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much." - Luke 16:10

Most of us Christians think that we are just oh-so-faithful. We think that if a band of terrorists stormed our church during a service and demanded us to renouce Christ or die, that we'd just have to die. Oh, really? By looking at this little things that we do in life, we can get an idea of how faithful we'd be in the big things.

We think that we are the type of Christian that puts others before self. We think that we are not enslaved to anything. Oh, really? When we are at a church lunch fellowship, look at how we always strive to get to the dessert line before everybody else does! We quickly finish our plates so we can get back in line for seconds before they run out. Why act like this? What's wrong if dessert runs out before you get some? What's wrong if others are able to get seconds but you don't?

"seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence." - 2 Peter 1:3

I've heard Christians say things like, "No matter what I do, I just can't lose weight!". Such Christians don't know their Bible. Christ has freed us from having to suffer eternally for our sins. But as this verse states, He has also given us the power to live lives of godliness and this includes freedom from the enslaving power that food can have over us.

"Do not let your heart envy sinners,But live in the fear of the LORD always." - Proverbs 23:17

I don't think any of you, if you were to see someone snorting cocaine, would think, "Wow, I so wish I could do that!" Yet, if we were to see a skinny person eating enough food for a family of 4, those kinds of thoughts immediately come up out of the depth of our heart.

"God is opposed to the proud, but give grace to the humble." - James 4:6

You say, "I just can't lose weight!" Is there some area in your life that you are not submitting to God in? Are you giving yourself a pity party due to the situation in life that God has placed you in now? If so, God is not going to give you the grace to overcome your weight problem. You need to confess of your sin and submit yourself under the mighty hand of God and He'll give you the grace to overcome.

"All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything." - 1 Cor. 6:12 (ESV)

When we think of things that we are not to be enslaved to, we limit to such sins as alcohol, drugs and pornography. This is a very narrow view. We should not be enslaved to food as well. We should not let food have such a control over us that it affects our health.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" - Eph. 1:3

He HAS blessed us with EVERY spiritual blessing. So we don't have to wait for God to give us some special power to overcome our desire to damage our God-given bodies by overeating. Nor do we need the aid of secular programs to help us overcome what is really a spiritual issue. Do you believe it's a spiritual issue? If you don't, chances are that you won't have lasting freedom from being overweight.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace , patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" - Gal. 5:22-23

Obesity indicates a lack of self-control. Not having self-control is a sign that you're not being led by the Spirit but by the flesh.

This reminds me of a story a good friend of mine told me. My friend's church was looking for a new pastor. They had several candidates come preach over a period of several Sundays. My friend was on the nomination committee. He vividly remembers several of the Godly women of the church coming up to him and mentioning that they felt candidate "X" should not be in the running. My friend was surprised at this because he thought Mr. "X" preached very well. My friend asked these women why. These women said that with this man being quite obese, they were concerned that this is evidence that he is not being very submitted to the Holy Spirit. They thought this was a red flag and thought it not wise to have such a person lead the church. May that not be said of us men!

"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves" - Phil. 2:3

When we think of considering others more important than ourselves, we tend to think of short-term actions like: letting someone else get in front of you while waiting in line, or letting someone else have the last cookie, or deferring to someone else when asked what would you like to watch on TV or where would you like to go out to eat at, etc.

But it's MUCH, MUCH more honorable to consider others when it comes to very long term actions.

If we live a life of abusing out bodies by overeating, we stand to cause our friends and loved ones to have to care for us earlier rather than later due to an earlier onset of health deterioration. We should strive to live to the best of our abilities to stave off early health deterioration. If we choose to live a life of unhealthiness, we are in affect telling our children, "I want to please myself now.....I don't care about the consequences and what this may mean for you!"

Of course there is absolutely no guarantee that eating healthy, maintaining a healthy weight will lead to a long life. However, we must do what is right which is putting others first both in short-term actions as well as long-term actions.

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