By Patricia Ennis
I once had a minister who consistently stated, “No Bible, no breakfast!” As a certified Family and Consumer Scientist, I knew that breakfast was the most important meal of the day—failing to start the day without the proper nutrients was a sure way to set myself up for reduced productivity.
I quickly made the spiritual transfer. If I was going to be able to fulfill the special plan God had for me each day, I needed to be both spiritually and physically fit. My minister’s statement challenged me to begin to align what I knew nutritionally with what I was learning spiritually.
Physically our bodies have specific nutritional requirements for them to function properly. When you or I stand on the scale and observe the weight that it records, our response may be, “I surely have more than fulfilled those requirements in the past, and now it is time for me to consider a reducing diet—a new strategy for my nutritional intake!”
As we consider our spiritual nutritional requirements, we want to make sure that we are ingesting calories from God’s Word that produce peace in our lives (Philippians 4:8-11) rather than consuming empty calories from venues that initially taste good but may, at best, leave us dissatisfied or perhaps ultimately impair our spiritual effectiveness.
An intentional spiritual nutritional plan is as essential to our spiritual growth as a deliberate dietary plan is fundamental to our physical well-being. Peter taught that spiritual growth is marked by a craving and a delight in God’s Word with the intensity with which a baby craves milk (1 Peter 2:2, 3). He said we can develop a desire for God’s truth by:
• Remembering our life’s source (“the word of the Lord endures forever” 1:25).
• Eliminating sin from our life (“Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and all slander” 2:1).
• Admitting our need for God’s truth (“as newborn babies” 2:2).
• Pursuing spiritual growth (“that by it you may grow up in your salvation” 2:2).
• Surveying our blessings (“the Lord is good” 2:3).
When we make sound nutritional choices we have the opportunity to dramatically reduce our risk for many health challenges. The same is true in our spiritual life—when we decide to ingest a regular diet of God’s Word, spiritual vitality results.
So how do we correlate our physical and spiritual needs to potentially enhance our spiritual vitality? A variety of foods working together is necessary to physically nourish us. We can seek similar variety for our spiritual nourishment.
Dairy: Dairy products build and maintain bones and teeth; the calcium and phosphorus contained in milk help calm the nerves as well. The protein in dairy helps maintain body tissue, while the fat supplies energy and vitamin A for sound growth and general health. Milk fortified with vitamin D supplements this “sunshine vitamin,” which the body produces when exposed to the sun. Milk is incredibly important for a newborn baby, just as learning basic Bible doctrine is vital for the babe in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:2).
Proteins: Meat, eggs, soy, and legumes supply the protein necessary to build strong bodies and maintain body tissue. They are also a rich source of iron needed for red blood cells and the prevention of anemia, as well as the essential B vitamins. The word protein comes from the Greek for “first” and should be the first criteria when planning meals. The same is true in our spiritual lives. We need to mature beyond the more easily digested doctrinal truths we acquire as young Christians and move to solid food for a sound, spiritual diet (Hebrews 5:12-14).
Grains: The grain foods supply vigor and energy because of the carbohydrates, sugars, and starches they contain, as well as significant amounts of the B vitamins, thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin. Reading the Psalms and Proverbs is my choice to gain the bite-sized spiritual food that gives me spiritual energy.
Fruits and vegetables: Our gracious heavenly Father packaged some of our best cosmetics in the fruits and vegetables he created. Rather than beauty coming from jars, tubes, and fancy bottles, a healthy glow from within—the source of true beauty—is the result of a diet that abounds in the beauty foods of fruits and vegetables. A healthy body silhouette is a combination of balancing proteins, fats, and carbohydrates with plenty of low-calorie fruits and vegetables, complemented with exercise.
I am always blessed to read the account of Daniel and his friends (Daniel 1:1-17). Though I am not advocating that everyone adopt a vegetarian diet, I do know that I look and feel better when I have an adequate amount of fruits and vegetables in my diet. The same is true in my spiritual life. My outlook toward life’s challenges is better when I add color to my spiritual diet. Many Bible reading programs suggest diversity in one’s daily reading of the Word. If you need a way to incorporate variety, The Lookout has a Bible reading plan* that digs into several different sections of Scripture each day.
Fats & sweets: Fats, oils, and sugars are the “plus” foods—while they are to be used in moderation, each does contribute some nutritive value to our diets. Fats and oils provide the body with energy, bring some of the important fat-soluble vitamins into our system, aid in digestion of essential foods, and endow our meals with full-bodied flavor. Sugar and honey provide quick energy and help the body utilize other nutrients—although their most obvious contribution is taste, which makes many foods more appetizing.
As I seek to understand and obey God’s standards for a righteous life, my heart is always encouraged when I read Psalm 19:9, 10. These verses encourage me that his standards are not designed to restrict me but to sweeten my life, just as the honey or sugar adds extra enjoyment to my food.
SPIRITUAL POWER BAR
Grocery stores and other venues stock a wide variety of nutrient-packed bars that provide a quick way to supplement our dietary needs. They are often called power bars. When I shop for them, the first thing I do is to read the label to discern if the contents are nutritionally sound. Since label ingredients are always listed in the order of the quantity in the product, I know that if sugar and fat are the first two ingredients that the bar is going to give me an energy spike and then set me up for a crash. If I want sustained energy I will select a bar that offers nuts and whole grains as the primary ingredients.
Did you know that Psalm 119 is a spiritual power bar? Its contents teach me that if I ingest it regularly I will be happy or blessed (vv. 1-8), challenged to live a holy life (vv. 9-16), taught (vv. 17-24), strengthened and renewed (vv. 25-32), provided the direction for the course of my life (vv. 33-40), reminded of God’s unfailing love (vv. 41-48), and offered comfort in suffering (vv. 49-56). Now that’s a pretty hefty serving of spiritual nutrients—and I have not even listed them all. Let me encourage you to continue the list as you study the remainder of the psalm.
ASSEMBLE YOUR RATIONS
The book of Ephesians reminds us that the true believer described in chapters 1–3 who seeks to live the spirit-controlled life in chapters 4–6:9 will be engaged in spiritual warfare. Soldiers always pack nutritionally sound rations in their battle gear. I encourage you to use your spiritual nutritional knowledge to package your spiritual rations, or “combat cuisine,” so that you are capable of being strong in the Lord and standing against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:10, 11). The days I choose to do so make all the difference in whether I win or lose battles.
Patricia Ennis is a freelance writer in Fort Worth, Texas.
Use All Five Fingers
The Word Hand illustration, originated by The Navigators, illustrates five ways to consume God’s Word: hearing, reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating. The first four are the fingers, and meditating is the thumb—because it’s particularly powerful when used in conjunction with the other four.
1. Which of the five is your strongest Scripture intake method? Which is your weakest?
2. How have you seen each of the five methods at work in your life?
3. Practice explaining each of the five to a person who is less familiar with studying the Bible.