This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. -Galatians 5:16
I’m back into serious workouts after a more than twenty years off the weights, and I’m glowing. Energy’s high, stress is hugely reduced, sleep is deeper, and (drum roll) I’ve all but lost my taste for fast foods.
That may be the biggest miracle, because hamburgers and burritos have been my bad company for too long, and those guys don’t let you go easily.
I met them when I started writing my first book in the early 1990’s. Up to that time, I’d been pumping iron, jogging, and eating only the leanest of meats and tons of vegetables. That had been my lifestyle for over a decade, and it enhanced everything.
Then came my first book contract, and my healthy habits, along with my common sense, tanked.
I was serving a full client load at the time, had just been elected president of a national ministry, and had family duties to boot, none of which could be put on hold while I wrote a book. So instead of taking time off to write, I ran my ministry and tended to family matters by day, then at about 9 each evening sat down to my computer and banged out chapters until 2-3am.
Something had to give, so my workouts, which normally took 2 hours daily, were the first to go. Regularly scheduled meals went next, since my routine had become too helter-skelter for that. So I started screeching through McDonalds at odd hours to shovel down some grease then get back to work.
At first, visiting the Golden Arches felt like dropping into a house of ill repute. The very idea of junk food, much less patronizing one of those places in broad daylight, was so contrary to my lifestyle it was akin to backsliding.
But not for long. With time, I got accustomed to my sin, then came to look forward to it. Juicy Big Macs and thick fries have their appeal, and I incorporated them into my routine just as I’d previously incorporated healthy habits. In doing so, I exchanged the vibrancy of good health for the quick, intense gratification of junk food which, with time, became business as usual.
God be praised, its business as unusual now. I way too old to be shoveling that stuff down, and I don’t miss it much. Occasionally, I’ll admit, the urge to chomp down on some manly, salty grease instead of spinach lettuce hits me hard. But I’m so in love with the calm energy I feel, and the countless other benefits of proper eating and exercise, that I find it pretty easy to say no to my appetite when it wants to binge. The overall benefits of the better way keep me motivated, and I’m not willing to give them up for a quick bit of comfort.
So it is with walking in the Spirit, a point Paul made to the Galatians. Wisely, he didn’t just say “Don’t fulfill the lusts of the flesh” because people get quite a payoff from the flesh. Fulfilling it with a bit of porn, a masturbation fantasy, an adulterous act, or a whatever, delivers a pretty intense reward, a quick distraction from a busy schedule and the stresses of life, plus a potent gratification. If a man isn’t strongly motivated by something beyond himself, something better and worth protecting, then he’s unlikely to ever really say no to what he’s been saying yes to.
But get him into the Word for even a few minutes daily, let him taste the joy of communion with God in prayer, let him enjoy the moment by moment sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence throughout the day – in short, let him walk in the Spirit – and he’ll experience something so deep and energizing that he’ll be less willing to give it up for a quick dose of something that will ruin it all.
Sure, the temptations, just like my occasional cravings for a Big Mac, will come. But how easy they are to refuse when you’re feasting on spiritual fruits. It’s not that you fear God’s wrath if you relapse; rather, you just don’t want to sacrifice the great for the so-so. You lose your taste for the junk food of sexual sin when walking in the Spirit goes from an occasional experience to a way of life.
So today. Lord, make us sensitive to Your Holy Spirit, and give us hunger to walk in Him, abide in You, know Your voice and guidance, and come to love the good fruit of communion with You more than the junk food of the flesh. Today Your feast will be our lifestyle, and, satisfied by the good, we’ll find it all the easier to snub the useless. Thanks so much for Your patience with us as we learn this obvious, necessary truth. Amen.