I mentioned yesterday about the lectures in my PT sessions on various aspects related to heart health. There was another universal truth (or at least it should be) that the nurse spoke about. When one speaks or reads about all the various things that can happen to parts of our incredibly complex human bodies, one can begin to worry and start looking for symptoms of this illness or that. Our minds can play havoc with our emotions. But, said our teacher, beyond taking reasonable actions in modifying our lifestyle for our good, we cannot live in fear. This is a truth that is found throughout the Scripture. Our Lord tells us continually not to worry or be anxious, and this includes our health. That doesn’t mean that we will never get sick or have a serious illness, or even one that is terminal. We live in a broken world and things happen to us. But we also believe that nothing touches us that our Lord doesn’t know or care about. He does not cause all that happens, but He cares about it and can work in it for our good. To spite all the miracles recorded, there were a number of illnesses in the New Testament that weren’t healed. Paul, himself, reports that he had what he called “a thorn in his flesh”. He prayed three times for the Lord to remove it, but He didn’t. Rather God told Paul,”My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”( 2 Corinthians 12:9) This has been proven in the lives of so many Christians through all the centuries. We are called to be good stewards of all the gifts God provides, including our bodies, but we are not to fear. We live in trust that our God is sufficient for all times of life.
I’m a pretty healthy man, but over the last ten or so years I’ve picked up a list of doctors that I see periodically. There are seven or eight with specialties that run into six syllables. One of my men joked that without the doctor’s visits he wouldn’t have a social life. We find this number of doctors grows as we get older, but the point is that we need their help to stay healthy. This is even more to the point for our spiritual health. Paul wrote, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”(Colossians 3:16) There are four things here necessary for our spiritual health, meditating upon our Lord in the Holy Scriptures, fellowship together in the Body of Christ, worship both in church and privately, and learning to give thanks in all circumstances. We cannot stay spiritually healthy if we neglect these things any more that if we stop following medical advice for our physical health. Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.”(John 10:10) And He really meant it.
Scanning through the magazine section of the Sunday paper, among a very few articles of interest, are a multitude of advertisements. Undergarments to make us look slimmer, skin cream to get rid of sagging skin, hair removal preparations, cough and cold medicines, medication to reduce heart attack risk, and on and on. True, some of these things are helpful and necessary, but it just struck me how much money we spend to keep looking good and staying healthy. You’ve probably heard the old saying, “If you’ve got your health you’ve got everything.” Well, not exactly. Health is important. I, for one, am not a happy camper when I’m not well. But good health is not the source of life. The source of life comes from within, from a heart that has been redeemed and changed by the Lord. This is the true source of life, contentment, peace, and joy. There are many healthy people who are selfish, irritable and nasty to be around, and there are many ill people who have looked beyond their illness bringing joy to others. True health is not in a magazine or a pill. It is in a life lived in relationship to Jesus Christ.
It has often been said that if you have good health you have everything. Certainly, I do not discount the value of being healthy. I know that I am not a good patient when I’m not feeling well. So, I want to get back to health as soon as possible. But health is not everything. We are reminded that life has a spiritual dimension as well as a physical one. The health of our spiritual life, our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, is ultimately more important than our physical health. I know people who are not well physically, who are very limited in body, but have a vibrant, dynamic spiritual life. It is wonderful to have both physical and spiritual health, but ultimately the spiritual health really is everything. It is our spiritual health that gives life to all aspects of our being, and brings joy to others no matter what condition we find ourselves in.
In John 16:33, Jesus said to the disciples, “In this world you will have trouble.” Now that is not very encouraging! We work hard. We try to do everything we can to have a life of peace and pleasure for our families, and we do have many good times. But somehow trouble has its ways of breaking in. Maybe it is physical; bodies do break down. Maybe it is financial; money gets tight. Maybe it is family; we can’t control the choices of those around us. Maybe it is opposition to the message we try to share, or the life we try to live in Christ. Jesus’ words are true. In this fallen world, trouble touches us all. But that wasn’t the end of His comment. He said, “Take heart! I have overcome the world.” In that simple sentence we are assured of His presence and strength in all of our times of need. He has promised never to leave of forsake us, and we have found that true and sufficient for each day. Know that He is your strength today.
Scripture uses a lot of different images to convey God’s truth, especially agrarian ones. Paul writes in Galatians, “A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”(6:8) Like this, Jesus told the parable about two kinds of seed being sown in a field, good seed, and weeds. (Matthew 13:24f) We have our salvation by the pure grace of God through our faith in Jesus Christ, but our growth comes by sowing good seed. That seed is God’s Word, and our hunger for a deeper understanding of who our gracious God is. And like our need to eat regularly, so we have the real need to be fed spiritually every day. Scripture, prayer, and worship are our daily food. We use a variety of images, but the same truth remains. As we sow to the Spirit we reap eternal life.
The esteem and honor given to a cure is directly related to the seriousness of the disease. If a scientist were to find a cure for hangnails, so that no one would ever get another hangnail, that would be a rather ho-hum event. If someone where to find a complete cure for all cancer, he would be lauded world wide and given the Nobel prize. The problem with the acceptance of Jesus is that too many don’t see the seriousness of the disease of sin. All people are infected with the disease of sin. We are corrupt to the core and separated from God. The only remedy is the atoning sacrifice of Christ. The Apostle John wrote, “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for those of the whole world.” (I J.2:2) For those who see the seriousness of sin in their own lives, Jesus is everything, and we worship HIm for the wonder of His grace. Oh, that all might see the seriousness of our disease.
In some ways we have listened too closely to Jesus. He told His disciples, “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man,…” (Matthew 15:11) We have taken this quite seriously with our fast food and over eating. We are a substantially overweight culture with many diet fads that watch carefully what goes into the mouth. But Jesus went on with HIs lesson. “What proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man. … The things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man.” (vss.18-20) Being substantially over weight is a serious problem, but it is only physical. What is in the heart is spiritual, and that touches one’s whole being. It is always the heart that need to be on a good diet of God’s Word, and staying close to His life.
Fruit is good. We are told that we should eat a serving of fruit each day for our health. We also speak of fruit in other ways, a fruitful life, or a fruitful days work. Scripture speaks of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 and 23, the characteristics of life that are pleasing to God, and good to others. The writer of Hebrews speaks of our praise to God as being the fruit of our lips. (13:15) He follows this by saying, “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” We are reminded that as fruit is good for the health of our bodies, the fruit of our lives is good not just for ourselves, but for those around us. We want this day to accomplish the necessary things, but also to be useful for those around us. Let this be a truly fruitful day.