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Friday, February 17, 2006

Trusting in Diets Instead of God

In the area where I live, it seems that people are becoming more and more health conscious. Note that I live in California, which is already a relative "health mecca," so I'm speaking of even more radical lifestyles.

Now, at face value, I believe this is a good thing. Yet more and more often—even among Christians—I hear of and meet people who think that if they can just eat a certain diet or do a certain exercise regimen, they will be cancer free, have better quality of life, live longer, etc. While this isn't entirely false, it is fundamentally flawed because ultimately it is God who grants us life each day, in sickness or in health. Again, I am not against eating better or exercising more as a generally wise and responsible way to live. But what I often see, and I am speaking of Christians, is people placing trust in their diet & exercise habits instead of in God. This seems the exact opposite of the spirit of Psalm 20:7:
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
The psalmist writes of his expectation to be victorious in battle but makes it very clear that his expectation and trust are in God alone to achieve that victory on their behalf. That doesn't mean he throws away his weaponry or sends his horses home. But his expectation of victory—and where we ought to put any of our hope for good health—is in the merciful hand of our God.

I know several cancer survivors who have become so health conscious that their devotion to their diet plan effectively makes it their god. I know they don't realize this but the way they live their lives reflect that. We know a dear friend who is a cancer survivor and has been cancer-free for some time now. When critized by another cancer survivor for having a little sugar in her coffee, she responded with: "God is the one who healed me not because I have a sugar free diet." I was very encouraged by that because not a lot of people have this perspective. Indeed, it is God who heals, not because we eliminate all sugar and carbohydrates, eat organic food only, have a salad only diet, or ingest a daily truckload of vitamins. In the pursuit of faithful stewardship of our bodies, we must not forget this truth: God is sovereign and He is in control. Let us give thanks to Him who each day mercifully gives us breath. We must never come to a point that we credit our diet for giving us even one more day of life.

One last point: probably the greatest danger of the above thinking on diet & exercise is that our chief end in life rather than "living a life worthy of the gospel" becomes "living a life that is healthful and long." And that would be a crying shame, for God has not called us to the hope of a healthful life, but "that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:7). Let us pray with missionary/martyr Jim Elliott who wrote in one of his journals:
God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus.