Appetite, Food and Exercise

 •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Some aspects of diet and exercise seem to be on the cover of almost every magazine today! People are very concerned about their health and their natural well-being. With the large variety of foods available in Western countries today, many are turning to unusual and sometimes bizarre diets, thinking that they are the secret to good health. Exercise too has an increasing place in the lives of many, whether it is jogging on a treadmill every day or something more serious like major body-building or running marathons.
However, we read in 1 Timothy that “bodily exercise profiteth for a little [time], but piety is profitable for everything, having promise of life, of the present one, and of that to come” (1 Tim. 4:88For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. (1 Timothy 4:8) JND). It is important to look after our natural bodies, but even more important to keep ourselves in good spiritual health.
Appetite
An individual in good natural health has an appetite for food, and this is especially true of someone who exercises regularly. A healthy body has a healthy appetite, and the same is true spiritually. A healthy believer has a good spiritual appetite as well. According to Peter, the believer in Christ desires “the sincere milk of the word” (1 Peter 2:22As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: (1 Peter 2:2)), just as a healthy baby wants natural milk. We need food to grow naturally, and we need spiritual food to grow spiritually. But there is one major difference between natural eating and spiritual eating. In natural things, eating satisfies; in spiritual things, the more you eat, the more you want!
There are three reasons why an individual may not have an appetite for spiritual food. First of all, he may not be a true believer at all. An unbeliever may masquerade as a believer for a long time and may even read the Word of God intellectually, but there is no real interest in it. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:1414But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)). There can be no growth if there is no new life.
Second, a believer may lack an appetite for good spiritual food because he is spiritually sick. He may have gotten away from the Lord and indulged in something that destroys his appetite. In this case, he needs medicine, and this is found in the Word of God, just as our food is found there. But he may need someone to administer it to him, as he may not realize just what he needs. As a well-trained doctor may administer medicine to one who is sick in the natural sense, so one with a pastor’s gift may administer spiritual medicine to a believer who needs it. Medicine does not nourish or produce growth, but it restores to health, so that he who receives it may be able to take in food.
Third, a believer may be filled with bad spiritual food, and thus have no appetite for good food. Indulging in light reading or in that which promotes either bad practice or bad doctrine or both are examples of bad food. Sad to say, many believers today are satiated with bad food, and thus have no appetite for good food. “No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better” (Luke 5:3939No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better. (Luke 5:39)).
Food
We have already spoken of the Word of God as our food, and also about good and bad food. We might also mention, however, that while our food is found through the Word of God, it is really Christ Himself who is our food. Our Lord could speak of Himself as the bread of life in connection with salvation, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:3535And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)), but He also spoke of Himself as the believers’ food in his life down here. “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me” (John 6:5757As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. (John 6:57)). It is the constant feeding on Christ that nourishes our new life and that is absolutely essential for spiritual growth.
We feed on Christ in more than one way in our lives, and this is typified by the Israelites in their journey from Egypt to Canaan. They fed on Christ as the roast lamb in Egypt, in connection with their salvation. Then they fed on Him in the wilderness as the manna, speaking of His perfect manhood, and thus He is our perfect food for the wilderness. Finally, they fed on Him as the “old corn of the land” when they entered the land of Canaan. We might term this the food for conflict, for in order to enjoy the land, they must engage in warfare. So we, if we would enjoy our heavenly blessings, must be prepared for spiritual conflict by feeding on a risen and glorified Christ.
Proper Ways to Eat
Just as there are proper ways to eat naturally, so there are proper ways to eat spiritually. First of all, it must be done regularly, in reasonable amounts, and not hurriedly. We must also meditate on what we eat, like the animals termed ruminants, who chew the cud.
Second, it is good to eat collectively, and not always alone. Others can provide help and food for us, and the enjoyment of Christ together not only increases our appreciation of Him, but also increases our spiritual growth.
Third, prayer is most important, for it brings us into the presence of God and, among other things, enables us to enjoy the spiritual food that we have eaten. It also gives us the strength to put into practical use what we have taken in, and this brings us to our final section.
Finally, we must remember that effort is involved in getting good spiritual food. We enjoy more what has taken some effort to obtain. To have good food, we need discipline and diligence, just as the Israelites needed these things to obtain manna. We may enjoy what someone else has gathered, just as it is nice to partake of someone else’s cooking in natural things. But to do this continually is not right in either natural or spiritual things; we should all seek to gather food. The clergy developed partly because believers were too lazy to find their own food; they would rather pay someone else to do it.
Exercise
We all know that, in natural things, growth is the result of a good diet and exercise. However, we must remember that in spiritual things, growth will be seen more in what we are, rather than what we do. If our life is in order, then our service will follow. But in order to be healthy, both naturally and spiritually, exercise is necessary. Speaking in a spiritual sense, we must not only digest what we eat, but we must walk in it. Then only is it truly our own. If we do not walk in what we have learned, we will lose it, for God will not allow us to have the theory of the truth in our heads without the practice of it in our walk.
Spiritual exercise is not seen so much in big things, but rather is seen in the everyday decisions and actions of life. Much of our Christianity will be lived out in our everyday walk, but it is here that we are prepared for major conflicts. We see this in David, who first had to learn to fight the lion and the bear out of the public eye before he could take on Goliath. If our daily walk is in communion with the Lord, then we will be in good spiritual shape for the occasional conflict that may come about. But even if, at any particular time, we are not facing direct conflict, yet we will find that “by reason of use” we will have our “senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:1414But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:14)). We must also remember that it takes just as much spiritual strength—and perhaps more—to suffer for Christ than, perhaps, to do great things for Him.
Finally, just as our intake of food must be regular, so must our exercise. We are all familiar with those who, in natural things, become upset because of their flabby physical condition and undertake a vigorous exercise program for a while. But they soon tire of the discipline needed to maintain it and fall back into an indolent way of life. In spiritual things, just as in natural things, it is easier to watch others engaging in exercise, rather than doing it ourselves. An athlete who wishes to excel in his field subordinates everything else in his life to that goal; the believer must do the same who wishes to “run with patience [endurance] the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:11Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, (Hebrews 12:1)). In a world of sin and with “sin which doth so easily beset us” (Heb. 12:11Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, (Hebrews 12:1)), we need self-control in every area of our lives.
Our Lord Jesus Christ has marked out the path for us, and just as His path ended in glory, so we are destined for eternal glory. The effort is worth it!
W. J. Prost