What is Your Obsession?
Anything can become an obsession. There are things that consume our time and thought to which we become devoted. There is a danger in becoming more devoted to anything than we are to God. Over the years there has been much talk of letting worldly things consume us. Parents have let their children become so involved in sports that they play in soccer tournaments instead of being at worship services on Sundays. Parents and children have been so focused on grades and extracurricular activities that many hours are spent on secular education, while a few hurried minutes are spent filling in answers to a Bible class lesson. Men and women have put so much effort into their careers that they work long hours and spend little time with their families. As these types of things consume us, other things are neglected: worship services, Bible study, teaching opportunities, families, and friends. Spiritual things are pushed down on the priority list, and worldly things take over.
Lately I have noticed something else with which many people are becoming obsessed: physical health. Diet plans, nutrition, exercise, organic food, GMOs, essential oils, vaccinations…the list goes on. With so much focus on physical health, it is obvious what is being neglected: spiritual health. Worship services, Bible study, teaching opportunities, families, and friends are being neglected, just as they are when worldly activities take over our lives. Of course we are supposed to take care of ourselves physically. Eating nutritionally, being physically active, treating medical conditions, and getting enough rest are all important. Just as there is nothing wrong with playing sports, getting good grades, or having a good job, there is nothing wrong with trying to lose weight, learning about nutrition, working out, or any other health related pursuits. The problem comes when these areas are the main focus of our lives—our time and our thoughts are consumed with them.
Paul says that our focus should be on heavenly things, not earthly things:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)
Christ is our life! He gives us physical life and spiritual life. As you read through the rest of Colossians 3, our spiritual well being is addressed. We are given instructions about how to act and how to treat other people. There are no diet or exercise tips. Spiritual health is the priority.
Paul addresses physical exercise in 1 Timothy 4:6-8:
If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.
First, notice what Paul says Timothy would be nourished in: “words of faith and of the good doctrine.” Healthful physical nourishment is important, but not to the neglect of nourishing our souls. Is more time spent reading books and blogs about nutrition, or reading the word of God to nourish our souls? Next, Paul tells Timothy that physical exercise does profit him, but there is something more important: exercising towards godliness—spiritual exercise! Godliness is not just a little profit, but is “profitable for all things,” in this life and in the life to come! Is more time spent working out at the gym, or exercising our minds and hearts toward the characteristics God wants us to have?
In Hebrews 5:13-14, we read more about spiritual exercise:
For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
In order to grow spiritually, we must exercise our senses. We must understand what God says about good and evil. This exercise involves studying His word and practicing it. Note the writer says “by reason of use.” Just like not using the muscles of our bodies causes them to become weak, not using our spiritual senses causes them to become weak. Many people are more concerned about exercising their muscles than about exercising their spirits. An obsession with physical exercise will result in strong bodies and weak souls.
To clarify the balance that can and should be found with physical and spiritual nutrition and exercise, consider the following two examples:
A woman decides she needs to lose weight and develop a healthier lifestyle. She learns about nutrition and exercise, and goes to specialists in these areas for advice and training. She begins eating better and exercising regularly. Her social media posts reflect a changing attitude, with a complete focus on herself—her physical training and eating. As she progresses, she is very successful in having a healthier body.
A woman decides she needs to lose weight and develop a healthier lifestyle. She learns about nutrition and exercise. She begins a diet plan and adds physical activity into her daily life. She relies on Christian friends to encourage her. She delves into Bible study, and even begins to teach ladies’ and children’s Bible classes. Her social media posts reflect a changing attitude, with her goals focused on becoming a healthier person physically and a stronger person spiritually. She posts Bible verses and study opportunities. She does what she can to help other people. She gets down sometimes, but she focuses on God and on her Christian friends, and her self confidence grows as she grows spiritually. She is now healthier in body and in spirit.
The first example has an obsession: herself, her body, her own desires. The second has a balance: working to make herself healthier is part of her overall goal of serving God.
When we let anything consume us, we have a problem. The care of our bodies is important, but should be kept in perspective. Our only obsession should be serving God and attaining eternal life!
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. (Galatians 6:7-9)