How to Be (Spiritually) Healthy
I am not a doctor, and the following is not medical advice.
It seems like now more than ever the world is focused on health and longevity. Three basic things always seem to be included in the popular view of how to be healthy: diet, exercise, and supplements. While these are not groundbreaking and are common sense for most, the same three things help us spiritually. Our spiritual health and longevity matter even more than our physical health. Here are three things we should keep our eye on and be sure to practice for spiritual health and longevity.
Pretty much every doctor has something to say about how we eat. We all know that certain foods can be good for our health or bad for our health. What we eat (and how much of it) can affect our health for good or bad. The same is true spiritually. What we “eat” (ingest/consume) matters for our spiritual longevity and wellness.
If we do not have a steady diet of God’s Word, our spiritual health will undoubtedly decline. Jesus reminds us from the Old Testament that men should not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). In the context, Jesus was responding to Satan’s temptation by affirming that God’s Word is more important even than physical food! Christians are instructed to, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good (1 Pet. 2:2-3 ESV). We should give attention to ingesting that which is spiritually good for us!
Just like there is good food and junk food, there is good spiritual food and junk spiritual food. That which is brings us closer to God, builds our faith, and helps us be more like Jesus is good spiritual food! The Word of God will always do those things. However, that which drives us further from Jesus, causes us to sin, makes us scared and doubtful, and takes away our peace of mind is spiritual junk food. Spiritual junk food should be avoided while God’s Word is prioritized in how we spend our time and what we allow our mind to ingest. A regular diet of God’s Word is vital to our spiritual health. Hopefully, as we feast on the Word of God, we can transition from the “milk” of the Word to the “sold food” of the Word as we mature and grow.
Along with diet, one of the most popular and longstanding pieces of advice for physical health is exercise. When I was a kid, we were told in school that, to be in good health, we were supposed to exercise 30 minutes a day. Of course, that is nothing for a kid! We all know that some sort of regular exercise is vital to our physical health, but it is also vital to our spiritual health!
As Christians, our responsibility is to “work out” our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12) while God works in us to will and to work for his good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). Just like in physical exercise, to work out our own salvation requires training and discipline. We must train ourselves for godliness (1 Tim. 4:7), “for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8).
Exercise is rarely pleasant, but it is done for the sake of the future. So it is with spiritual self-control, discipline, and training for godliness (see 1 Cor. 9:24-27). Sometimes we will have to say “no.” Sometimes we will have to deny ourselves something our flesh really wants. Sometimes we will struggle just to keep afloat. But such is the will of God. Like physical exercises, spiritual exercise is never easy, but it is worth it! Remove the sin in your life, focus on Jesus, and run with endurance (Heb. 12:1-2)!
Popular modern medical advice usually includes supplements because very few of us receive the complete nutrition we need from food alone. Whether the supplement is a general multivitamin or something specific our doctor says we are lacking, supplements are a mainstay for many who seek to have a healthy lifestyle.
Similarly, supplements are a requirement for spiritual health. Because God has saved us by his grace, Christians should “make every effort to supplement” their faith with virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love (2 Pet. 1:5-7). It is only by supplementing our faith with these Christian graces that we can prevent being “ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:8) and make sure that an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is richly provided for us (2 Pet. 2:11).
If you have faith, that is great! But you need to supplement your faith. Look for ways to serve more, know more, love more, and be godlier. If we take our spiritual supplements, we will “never fall” (2 Pet. 1:10), but to neglect them is to forget that we were cleansed from our former sins (2 Pet. 1:9).
There is an interesting overlap between advice for physical health and what the Bible says about spiritual health. God made our bodies and our spirits alike, so it makes sense that there would be some parallels. Let’s ask ourselves if we are spiritually healthy. If not, it’s not too late to start!
The Kingdom is Open to All
Jesus' church is not for any specific culture, nation, or ethnicity of people. The kingdom of God is for everyone! This means that no matter how unqualified we think we might be to be part of God's kingdom, we are wrong! Also, it means that those of us who are Christians should be willing to share the gospel with anyone. Notice what the Bible says about who can be in God's kingdom.
The Promise to Abraham
Diversity is a buzzword in today's culture. However, before any modern cultural pro-diversity movement, God was working on a plan to unite a diverse group of people into one family. The original promise made by God to Abraham (Abram at the time) was, "I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen. 12:2-3 NKJV). In this promise to Abraham, God is reminding us that He is not the God of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles also (Rom. 3:29).
Foreseeing the Church
The church was prophesied as "the mountain of the Lord's house" into which "all nations shall flow" (Isa. 2:2). The prophet Daniel likewise foresaw the glorified, ascending Christ: "Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed" (Dan. 7:14). There is not a nation, ethnicity, or sub-group of people on earth for whom the kingdom of God is not open! The church is where God fulfills His promise to Abraham and His promise to build a booth for "all the nations" (Amos 0:11-12; Acts 15:16-17).
The Church's Commission
In the great commission, Jesus' command is to "go therefore and make disciples of all the nation" (Matt. 28:19). The Greek work translated "nations" in Matthew 28:19 and throughout the New Testament refers to "a body of persons united by kinship, culture, and common traditions" (BDAG276) and is the Greek word from which we get our English words "ethnic" and "ethnicity." The point here is that God's family (the church/God's kingdom) is supposed to be comprised of people from every culture, nationality, and ethnicity to comprise a new, holy nation offering spiritual service to God (1 Pet. 2:9).
The Church in Glory
In the book of Revelation, the glorified, eternal city of God is described: "The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.
And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it" (Rev. 21:23-24). Even the tree of life, which is in the middle of that city, is there "for the healing of the nations" (Rev. 22:2). God's family is not a monolith of culture, nationality, or ethnicity. God's family looks unlike any other family on earth because it does not derive its bonds from physical relations but spiritual unity!
The Fulfillment of God's Promise
All nations, ethnicities, languages and cultures are added to one family in Christ, fulfilling God's promise to Abraham: "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and the heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:27-29). When we are in this family, Christ is our brother (Heb. 2:11-12), God is our Father (Eph. 4:6), and we enjoy fellowship in the Holy Spirit (Phil. 2:1). No place in the world is like the church -- various cultures and nations of the world united with one creed (God's Word), one love, one Lord, one Faith, one God and Father.
To be a part of God's church is to be a part of a group of people like none other: "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy" (1 Pet. 2:9-10). As Christians, our job is to be representatives of God, proclaiming His praises and sharing this mercy He's given us with others. As God's own special people, our conduct should bring glory to God (1 Pet. 2:11-12 as we strive to share the gospel with all people no matter their culture, nation, or ethnicity.
3 Simple Phrases to Jumpstart your Prayer Life
Do you find it hard to pray? Whether yu don't know what to pray about, find yourself praying the same things over and over again, orjust don't know where to start, here are a few simple concepts to help jumpstart your prayer life.
Dear God, Please/Help...
One of the fundamental expressions of prayer is what is often referred to as supplication (Eph. 6:18; Phil. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:1). The word most often translated as supplication and sometimes as prayer (Luke 1:13; Rom. 10:1; 2 Cor. 1:11) describes an urgent request to meet a need. There is an aspect of prayer that is closely connected to the idea of begging or pleading (Matt. 8:7-11; Luke 18:1-5).
The word supplication refers to something that needs to be supplied.
When we make requests or supplications to God, we are recognizing that we need something that God can more ably supply than we can. Through Christ, we can approach God's throne of grace, "that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16). Truly, Christians can say, "Our help in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth" (Ps. 124:8). We should ask for His help as frequently as we can.
If you feel like your prayer life is in a rut, ask yourself what requests or supplications you can make to God. What can you ask God for? Maybe there is something that seems to be lacking in your life (necessities, peace of mind, financial security, etc.). Maybe there is a stressful situation at work, school, or in your home. Maybe you don't even know what to say and all you can muster is "Dear God, please act."
Certainly, all of us have some things that we need to ask God for -- things that we can request. They might not be in the forefront of our minds, so "please" or "help" can be a helpful prayer starter when we are talking to the Father.
Dear God, Thank You...
The more we have been asking God the more we should be thanking God. No matter where you are, if you are a Christian, you have a reason to thank God. And, the more we ask God for, the more we can thank Him. Starting prayer with thanks is not only a way to jumpstart your prayer life, but it is a good way to stay in a positive mindset of gratitude. Sometimes we do ourselves a disservice by dwelling on the opposite of that which is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). Prayers of gratitude help us meditate on the good in our life and thank the One who is responsible for it all.
The Scriptures are filled with examples and commands for God's people to be thankful and to vie thanks. God should be thanked for His salvation (Ps. 118:21) and forgiveness (Isa. 12:1), what He's done for us through Christ (1 Cor. 15:57; 2 Cor. 9:15; Col. 1:12), and our basic necessities and provisions (John 6:11; Acts 27:35; 1 Tim. 4:4-5).
All in all, Christians are to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18), abound in thanksgiving (Col. 2:7), and our prayers should always be accompanied with thanksgiving (Phil. 4:6; Col. 4:2). Sometimes we read what the Bible has to say about how thankful we should be and think, "that's impossible." But how often do we try to be as thankful as possible? God knows what's best for us, and being thankful has proven benefits in addition to being what God commands. The next time you are not sure what to pray about, "count your many blessings, name them one by one" and give thanks to the Father.
Dear God, Forgive...
One of the many blessings of being in Christ and walking in the light is, "If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). One of the most sublime blessings of being a Christian is having an advocate with the Father in Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1). We can go to the Father through Jesus and confess our sins to receive forgiveness.
The next time you are not sure what to pray about, ask yourself if there is anything in your life you need to repent of. Even if there was no "overt" sin you've committed, maybe there is something you should have done that you didn't (Jas. 4:17). It is good to get into the habit of asking God for forgiveness because "Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy" (Prov. 28:13).
We should strive to be like David describing the blessing of his own forgiveness: "I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,' and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found" (Ps. 32:5-6a).
A regular prayer life requires mindfulness and effort. Maybe you are struggling with getting into a regular habit of prayer. If so, I hope you will find this shortlist to be helpful.