Friday, February 17, 2012

D.I.E.T. Tips For Staying Strong

Earlier this week I talked about how hard it is to stop relying on our own strength, and rely on God's strength instead. However, even with the best intentions, fully relying on God is easier said than done.

When life is full swing, stress is high, and time is stretched, it's hard to remember to pause, and pray for strength. It's easy to keep plugging along in our habitual ways, even when we know that depending on Christ is the best way.  In fact, staying spiritually fit and healthy is affected by some of the same challenges as staying physically fit and healthy.  

For example, on a busy day, it's easier and quicker to drive through and get a fattening hamburger for lunch, than go inside the restaurant and sit down with a salad. When you get home late from work, it's easier and quicker to throw a frozen pizza in the oven, than to grill some chicken and steam broccoli florets.  Or when we are just plain worn out from trying to offer encouragement and prayers to everyone we love who needs our support, it's easier to lazily slump onto the couch and eat Oreos, than it is to take a brisk walk and spend quiet time with God to feed our spirits.

Let's face it, easier and quicker is not always better. When it comes to staying physically healthy, we have to commit to healthy habits, even though meals may not be as convenient to fix. In the same way, when it comes to staying spiritually healthy, we have to deliberately choose to focus on our faith, even though it may take more time and effort to do so.

Just like we have to make a conscious choice to make a healthy lifestyle a priority, we have to make a conscious choice to choose a spiritually healthy lifestyle as well, and we can do that by committing to a spiritual diet that feeds our spirits, lightens our hearts, and nourishes our souls.

Here is some 'food for thought' for a strong spiritual D.I.E.T. :

* training to act in accordance with rules; activity, exercise or regimen that develops or improves a skill

Being strong in Christ has to start with a strong commitment to living for Christ, and by His "rules". Christianity is based on a personal relationship, and not rules or regimen of religion. However, Christ gave us guidelines for living because He knows the consequences of living life apart from Him.  1 Chronicles 16:11 says "Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always."  As we seek God's face, He infuses us with strength - not because we followed rules, but because we followed Him.  A daily dose of disciplined faith, which includes setting aside time every day for prayer and bible study, goes a long way.

* done with intention, or on purpose;done in a way that is planned or intended; deliberate

A strong faith does not happen on it's own. It is intentionally sought after, strived for and worked towards. It will happen when a deliberate effort is exerted, not by chance or just because we want to have it. Inner strength from Christ is the reward we derive for intentional devotion.  Acts 2:42 says "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."   The believers of the early church were intentional in their faith - they broke bread daily together in homes and shared the Lord's supper. They were excited about the grace they received from God and anticipated living out their faith. Their intentional faith is a strong example for us to follow.

* serious in intention, purpose, or effort; sincerely zealous: showing depth and sincerity of feeling: earnest words; seriously important; demanding or receiving serious attention

In some ways, the words 'intentional' and 'earnest' are similar, but being earnest in our faith really takes our intentional efforts to the next level. Have you ever read a passage of the Bible, and then forgot what you read within five minutes? Have you ever sat through an entire sermon, and then an hour later, could not recall the topic that the preacher spoke on?  We can intentionally do something, without showing depth and sincerity of feeling, or giving our action serious attention.  Hebrews 11:6 says "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." When we sit down to spend time with God, read our Bible, or listen to a sermon, He longs for our full, serious, zealous attention - not a half hearted attempt at meeting a rule-based feeling of religious obligation. Intentional faith should fill us with an earnest longing to talk with God.

* reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence; confident expectation of something; hope.

In my own experience, I have found that the times when I am least trusting God's plans or purpose for the adversities I am facing, are the times when I feel the weakest. When I begin to doubt if God is really looking out for me, it is as if my strength plummets and my spirit wanes.  Trusting God, in the good and bad times, is an essential part of a healthy spiritual diet. Without trust, we are left to depend on ourselves, and when we depend on ourselves, life gets even harder.  Psalm 9:10 says "Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you."  Doubting God's sovereignty is a sure way to have weakness and discouragement become the reigning force in our hearts. What peace it brings to know without a shadow of a doubt, our Lord will never forsake us, and we can put our trust in Him. 

Could you benefit from starting a new spiritual diet this week? Have you been taking the easier and quicker way when it comes to your faith?  Is it possible that your spiritual diet has been causing you to feel weak, zapping your strength to handle life? Do you need to form some new spiritual habits?

These four little tips for staying strong in Christ may seem like a lot at first glance - but when we make them a priority in our faith walk, our spiritual health will soar. When it comes to learning to be strong in Christ, easy and quick is never the best route. Remember, anything worth having, is worth working for.

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Sandie said...

Tracie, I always enjoy the encouragement and insight I gain from your posts so much. I look forward to recieving each and every one. Again this one comes at the perfect time. I have recently shared "Made to Crave" with several of my sisters from Church emphasising that it is not the numbers on the scale that counts. To me it is about losing the fat mass of Satan that weighs me down and gaining the muscle mass of Christ that provides me with strength and endurance. Thank you again for another wonderful day of encouragement and food for my soul!

Lyn said...

Great post! This was exactly what I needed to hear after recent events got crazy. Lately, I've really been focusing on working in the Lord's strength so this is a great resource to have. Thank you!