October, November and December are months filled with celebrations in my family. It seems we’re continually enjoying birthday dinners, Halloween candy, Thanksgiving delicacies and Christmas treats at a fairly steady pace for a long stretch of time. Although we generally try to eat healthy food, it seems there is always an excuse for a “splurge” during those months. This December, my husband and I realized that our “fun splurges” were becoming a regular part of our diet. By the end of the Christmas holidays, we were both feeling the effects of too many months of making bad choices with food. It was time for a change.
My meal planning and cooking had been on autopilot for quite a while. I’d chalked it up to a busy schedule, but the truth was, I was getting pretty lazy. We were eating the same four or five meals all the time and making things interesting by eating plenty of unhealthy snacks and desserts in between. We didn’t feel good physically and often criticized ourselves for the bad food choices we were making. Then, we’d do the same thing again the next day.
Driving home from a visit with family over the holidays, I began perusing a book that outlined a twenty-eight day plan for eating healthy, cleansing our bodies and rebooting our metabolisms. It sounded a bit daunting, but after some serious thought, we decided the health benefits were worth the effort.
To implement this plan required full buy-in for both of us. We had to commit to following all of the guidelines of the plan for twenty-eight days. There was no way to eat on autopilot anymore. I was checking our book so much that the pages were dotted with splotches of food from reading recipes while I cooked. I had to write meal plans for the week in a spiral notebook and check it frequently. My husband would regularly ask, “Is this in the plan?” I’d grab the book to check, not trusting my memory to guide me.
Having to think about meals so much required more effort than our old ways of interacting with food. We had to be intentional in planning menus, preparing ahead and anticipating possible challenges along the way. However, we were also seeing the benefits of the plan and were feeling great. I’d never given so much thought to what, when and how I was eating until then- but my metabolism seemed to be responding well.
I realized a striking similarity between our new eating plan and our spiritual lives. We can’t go on autopilot. We can’t just check off our thirty minutes reading the Bible and praying in the morning and then move on with the day. Instead, we need to be in tune with God’s Spirit and connecting with Him at regular intervals throughout the day to get the strength and wisdom we need. My eating plan required healthy snacks and meals at regular intervals to fuel my metabolism and keep it burning. Our spiritual metabolisms also need regular fuel to function fully. I’m finding Beth Moore’s words to be true: “Dependable discernment comes only by walking in the Spirit, and walking in the Spirit comes only by walking and talking with God Himself…The Spirit of God fills us only to the extent that we yield to His authority and welcome His Presence. (Beth Moore, Faithful, Abundant, True: Three Lives Going Deeper Still p. 138)
There is an obvious comparison between eating healthy and maintaining spiritual well being. Both require constant vigilance. We need to be intentional with our efforts to connect with God instead of becoming lazy spiritually or relying on others to keep us growing in our faith. Beth Moore uses the story of the Israelites and Moses from Exodus 20:18-21 to illustrate this:
When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.
Beth explains: “That’s how a lot of people still want their religion today. We still say in effect, ‘I’m not looking to be close to the Father God and to get to know Him intimately through His Son Jesus Christ. I just want someone to tell me what to do and what not to do and I’ll go on with it from there’…What people with this mind-set don’t understand is that they’re missing the most satisfying love relationship of their entire existence…We will never live one single day in the Spirit accidentally. It simply cannot happen…You show me a godly woman, and I’ll show you a woman who pursued God” (Beth Moore, Faithful, Abundant, True: Three Lives Going Deeper Still p. 137 & 139).
Not surprisingly, the Bible has quite a bit to say about staying tuned into the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:25 tells us: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Our job is to match the cadence of our steps to those of the Holy Spirit. We can only do this through consistent time in God’s Word and prayer.
Over the past few years as I’ve learned more about the Holy Spirit, I’ve incorporated a few regular phrases into my prayer life. They help me keep in step with the Spirit and remain intentional in my pursuit of Him. The first is: “God, pour out your Spirit on me today.” When I pray this, I imagine God taking a pitcher of water and pouring it over my head so that everything around me is soaked with His Spirit. Although I know that His Spirit already resides in me, asking for more of Him increases my capacity to be filled and used by Him. Ephesians 5:18b admonishes us to be “filled with the Spirit.” The footnotes in my study Bible explain this verse well: “The Greek present tense is used in this verse to indicate that the filling of the Spirit it not a once-for-all experience. Repeatedly, as occasion requires, the Spirit empowers for worship, service and testimony.” (Zondervan NIV Study Bible p. 1832)
Another regular prayer of mine is “God, align my heart with Your Spirit.” Essentially, this means asking God to make me want the things He wants. This is what it means to pray “in Jesus’ name.” In John 14:13-14 Jesus says “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” When we ask in Jesus’ name, it acknowledges our desire for God to be glorified by our requests. It’s not like a closing salutation for a prayer; it is a statement of wanting our wills to align with God’s and to ask in prayer for the things we know He wants.
Just like I read my meal-planning book throughout the day, we have to consult the Bible regularly to stay aligned with God’s will and Spirit. We have to be actively engaged in studying His word, praying and seeking Him. We can’t base our faith on memories of the past. That would be like cooking on autopilot and making the same default meals over and over. God has something new to show us all the time. He wants to keep our spiritual metabolisms moving to ingest new truths so that we can use our gifts to bless others and honor Him.
“I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols. See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.” -Isaiah 42:8-10
Maybe it’s time to think about your spiritual metabolism. Are you on autopilot cruising along spiritually without giving much thought to your need for the Spirit? Is there an area you need to surrender so that you can obey God more fully? It may seem daunting, but once you address these things, you won’t want to go back to autopilot again. God has too many great things in store for you and will give you exactly what you need to live walking in His Spirit.
I’ve attached a link below to a song that is a little older. It is called “Rushing Wind” and is by a Christian musical artist named Keith Green who passed away in a plane crash in 1982. Although it may not sound as current as some of the songs I usually include, I hope it will bless and inspire you. I first heard it as a freshman in college in 1988 and it is still one of my favorites.