So we’ve talked a lot about God’s sovereignty, but what about this whole living under grace part?
God loves to lavish us with his grace (check out Ephesians 1). He loves to swoop in and save us, when we cannot save ourselves. He is always the rider on the white horse.
And, as I mentioned last time, God is the only one who can bring true, lasting heart change.
Sometimes, he works in us outside of any asking or effort of our own. Sometimes, it’s like a collision – a massive wake-up moment we weren’t expecting or wanting, but there it is. And sometimes, it’s slow, and quiet, the works of many quiet moments, until weeks or months or years later, we wake up and realize that we are somehow different – older, wiser, more Christ-like.
God’s grace is always, constantly at work in our lives.
And then. Then there are these areas that John Piper excellently calls “means of grace” – prescriptions for our sick souls, written on God’s script, that open clogged mind-arteries and lower sin-pressure in our hearts.
Like reading the Bible. Praying. Memorizing Scripture. Fasting.
And, I would suggest (as would John Piper) that included among these means of grace are the basic tenets of healthy living: proper nutrition, rest, and exercise.
Alcoholics Anonymous has this marvelous acronym: H.A.L.T.
It’s the last stop between an alcoholic and a drink – that last barrier between sober and binging. It provides this one last foothold to dig into, to ask oneself these questions:
The program is excellent because it understands that humans are a complex mashup of bodies and souls, and not one can be addressed without addressing the other. That the urge to deny sobriety may spring from either a physical or emotional cause, both equally potent, and equally worth attention.
As John Piper illustrates in Desiring God, if he gets a good night’s sleep, he is more likely to display patience, an attributed Fruit of the Spirit.
Does this mean patience is something man can conjure up for himself, merely by sleeping, not by walking step-by-step Spirit-life?
But it does mean that sleep is a means, a helper, a conductor of that grace.
Because you and me? We’re walking mysteries – matter and soul inextricably bound into one – and only God knows the true connection between the blood and hormones coursing through our bodies and the whispering of our souls.
But we do know they are connected.
We know that when we don’t sleep, grouchiness and irritability bully patience out of our lives.
We know that when we are stressed and worried, the physical, chemical composition of our hormones changes.
We know that eating well fuels us, and that eating poorly leaves us with frayed nerves and aching heads.
We know that how we eat and sleep and move directly impacts the chemical composition of our bodies, which in turn affects our brains, which stems into how we think and feel and perceive the world (and our Creator).
And vice versa.
Have you ever gotten goosebumps at the thrill of the Holy Spirit’s presence? Butterflies from your loved one’s kiss? Quickened heart beat from worry? That awful, dead, squeezing weight in your chest when you grieve?
Our spiritual existence and physical existence are indistinguishable more often than not.
Which is why we need to approach our physical lives with a little bit of gravity.
Before scientists could ever explain hormones or their affect on the neurons in our brains, Jonathan Edwards was living this out. He wrote of being careful to maintain a light diet, digested easily, so that his pursuit of God’s Word would not be hindered by indigestion or a dull mind (you know, those afternoon doldrums?). He went so far as to carefully take note of which foods caused an adverse reaction in him, so as to face no incumbrance in his walk with the Lord.
And John Piper knows that if he doesn’t run three mornings a week, he will be less equipped to live a life of grace.
Do you see? How you treat your body has vast implications for the level at which grace can flow through your life.
Remember when I talked about God’s sovereignty? And I said that his laws are loving because they allow us to live according to the reality of the universe – a universe that is by him, through him, and for him? That he told us how to live that it may go well with us?
Then, remember how I talked about God’s design of the body – how he designed it with the potential to be healthy?
Same thing. When we treat our bodies the way they were designed to be treated, it goes well with us.
Tell you what. I don’t want imbalanced hormones, lack of sleep, bad food, or lackluster energy to prevent me from following God. I want to do everything I can to allow his grace to flow into my life – to my marriage, my work relationships, and my study of Scripture and prayer. This body is the screen through which I follow God – everything, my whole life, happens inside these cells. I don’t want to spend life hampered by a dull mind and indigestion! This body is my resource, my tool, to be the hands and feet of Jesus!
[If you are in a situation where a physical ailment or handicap prevents you from certain aspects of health, don’t despair. These things are a means of grace, not the Source of grace. God is bigger than your situation, and he sees you.]
Manifesto for Healthy Living in Christ, Principle III
Giving our bodies the rest, nutrition, and exercise they were designed to have allows God’s grace to flow into our lives and equips us for following him with fewer inhibitions.