I recently went in for my annual physical and got the results from my doctor. I’m alive. That’s good. Another piece of good news is that my liver, kidney and thyroid are all doing their jobs and my PSA level is satisfactory. But my total cholesterol was inching toward that dreaded 200 mark and my triglycerides were off the chart. The doc wants me to exercise more, watch my diet and come back in a few months to get my blood tested again.
I was thinking about this in spiritual terms the other day. How easy it is to get out of whack doing some spiritual disciplines while wholly neglecting others. Some churchfolk are busy worker bees who fill committee chairs and volunteer for canned food drives, but brush aside prayer and Bible study. Others love to worship and listen to inspirational preaching, but can’t be bothered with serving and giving.
Last year, a friend of mine died unexpectedly in his sleep of a heart attack–at the age of 53. Being a fairly active fellow who biked and played tennis, he was not overweight and seemed to be in good health. But his diet was poor. He ate a lot of chicken tenders, bacon, French fries, pancakes–a steady diet of junk food. I never once saw him dine on a salad. One day at lunch, after ordering his usual chicken and fries, I asked him if he ever consumed fresh fruit and vegetables. With a grin he said, “I think so…when I was a kid.” My friend exercised, but ate all the wrong things. Sadly, I believe the gross neglect of his diet contributed to his passing.
The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, preached a lot on the “means of grace”–those outward things and practices that God Himself has provided to keep the spirits of His children whole and healthy. Wesley made a list: private and public prayer, searching the Scriptures, receiving Holy Communion, fasting, doing works of mercy and holy conferencing, which is meaningful Christian community or fellowship. As a doctor of divinity, he prescribed these means of grace to every Methodist for optimal spiritual vitality.
It takes commitment to eat right, stay active and get enough sleep to keep our bodies humming. The same principle applies to our spiritual lives, too. We must take advantage of all the means of grace to keep our hearts for God strong. Consume the Word. Exercise your spiritual gifts. Rest in the Lord. By the way, researchers are discovering that there are actual physical benefits in praying, attending church and forgiving others, too.
Now if you will excuse me … I better go take a walk and prepare a healthy dinner. I have to get those triglycerides down.