Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Breakfast of Champions

For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.

-- Deuteronomy 20:4

Legend has it that about 500 years before Jesus proclaimed the Gospel, a professional courier named Pheidippides completed the world's first marathon. Following the Greek army's decisive victory over the Persians at Marathon, he was dispatched to share the good news with the people of Athens. Pheidippides faithfully ran the more than 20 miles to his destination. And after announcing, "Rejoice, we are victorious," he dropped dead from exhaustion.

These days, thousands of runners compete Wheatiesin marathons all over the globe. And many of them prepare by adhering to a special diet to carry them over the finish line. In her Runner's World article The Healthy Runner's Diet, Liz Applegate recommends a regimen of seeds, fruits and vegetables, plant foods with their skins intact, milk and milk products, foods originating from cold water (like fish and other seafood), plus meat, poultry, and eggs from free-range or grass-fed animals. These powerful foods, says Dr. Applegate, promote good health and peak athletic performance for long-distance runners. And as most marathoners understand, eating the right foods can mean the difference between victory and dropping out of contention with miles left to go.

A similar dietary principle applies to Christ-followers. After all, our faith-journey isn't a sprint or even a jog. Instead, it's a life-long marathon. And it's to this end that we strive for lives that produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But if we're constantly feeding ourselves with negative influences--such as poor choices in relationships and entertainment--we shouldn't be surprised if we follow our old sinful natures from time to time. Expressions of jealousy, bitterness and frustration are common examples of what can happen when we fail to consume the right spiritual foods for going the distance. As the Apostle Paul explained to the Galatians: "Our sinful selves want what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit wants what is against our sinful selves. The two are against each other, so you cannot do just what you please."

It's obvious that every Christ-follower--just like every participant in the famous Boston Marathon--needs to prepare for the long and demanding race ahead. But rather than carb-loading to maximize the storage of energy in our muscles, we need to follow a determined spiritual regimen that will help see us to victory.

Let's start with ongoing prayer and a continual awareness that we can't make it without the Holy Spirit living within us. So instead of living one day at a time, we're to proceed moment-by-moment. Second, let's deliberately filter our thinking. Do the movies we watch, the websites we visit and the friends we make feed our spirit or our sinful nature? And finally, we need to die to ourselves every day by constantly watching for the traps and obstacles in our lives that can run us off the track. In 2 Timothy, Paul wrote that his spiritual diet and rigorous training paid off for his journey of faith:

"I have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. At last the champion's wreath that is awarded for righteousness is waiting for me. The Lord, who is the righteous judge, is going to give it to me on that day. He's giving it not only to me but also to all those who have set their heart on waiting for his appearance."

Whether you're a brand-new Christ-follower or you've been a believer for years, the old saying is true: You are what you eat. Let's be sure to choose the right spiritual diet to see us to the winner's circle.

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