This Sunday is our kick-off for the Daniel Plan, and it is the last Sunday of the decade. In a few days, we will begin 2020. A new year and a new decade. What are your hopes for the next ten years? You all are at the top of my list. My hope is that everyone in our community will be healthier and have the energy and desire to take on the work of creating a vibrant community together. Are you all in?
I start with research when I prepare to write an article. I do the same for each Sunday’s message. Our topic for this week is health? I have read at least a hundred articles and dozens of books about health. I am not fixated on health. But I know that God has called me to speak and write about health. I also know that God wants me to take care of my own health. And this is where I fall short. I often fail to find a healthy balance between what I do for others and what I do for myself. It’s complicated. But I know that it doesn’t have to be. So why make it complicated? Why can’t I be all in?
I read another article this morning written by one of the doctors at Cleveland Clinic. It was more of a question and answer transcript. Here is how the article begins:
Poor lifestyle choices, such as smoking, overuse of alcohol, poor diet, lack of physical activity and inadequate relief of chronic stress are key contributors in the development and progression of preventable chronic diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and several types of cancer. 1
The top two leading causes of death in this country are heart disease and cancer. And the research is clear. What we put into our bodies and what we do with our bodies is the primary contributor to our quality of life and how long we live. Most of our health outcomes are not the fault of our DNA. So why don’t we just change our lifestyle over to a healthier lifestyle? Don’t we want to have less disease? Don’t we want to get well? Why are so few of us all in?
The Daniel Plan is the outcome of a collaboration of doctors and pastors at Saddleback Church in Southern California. 2 When the Daniel Plan was launched at Saddleback, over 15,000 people signed up, and the results were miraculous, but also predictable. They were miraculous only by comparison to the rest of us. The results were predictable because God wants this for all of us. But we have to be all in. This week we talk about the motivation for being all in.
One day Jesus was walking down the street during a religious festival. He spots this guy sitting beside a pool where people go for pain relief. There was a tradition that when the water stirred, the first person to go into the pool is healed. But the man could not get into the pool by his own power, and he had been this way for 38 years. Jesus walks up to the guy and asks a crucial question. It is the same question I am asking you in this article. Jesus asks the man, “Do you want to get well?” This might seem like an odd question at first. This guy’s been sick 38 years. Of course, he wants to get well.
So why would Jesus ask such an obvious question? “Do you really want to get well?”
I believe that Jesus asked the man this question for the same reason that I am asking you this question. I don’t know the specifics of each illness that exists among us. I don’t know what worries keep you up at night. I don’t know what disappointments each of you struggle with from day-to-day. I don’t know what the doctor says to you in the privacy of her examination room.
But I do know this from personal experience, and I know this from observation. It is one of life’s axioms. It is both biblical and biological. Unless the answer to the question, “Do you want to get well?” is “yes,” the odds of getting well are minimal. It is not just about self-fulfilling prophecy. It is one of the most significant examples of God’s grace that we each experience each day.
Our body belongs to God and is on loan. Each of us is the manager of our body. When one of us tries to exert control over another person’s body, this is contrary to God’s plan because each of us is responsible for our own body. This is not to say that we don’t take care of each other. We must. If I am incapable of taking care of my own body, I need help from others. But I still get to answer the question asked by Jesus.
It is like the parent who allows a child to choose their vocation after realizing that at some point, love is best expressed through letting a person be who they are and not who we want them to be. It is the greatest show of grace that I can imagine. God loves us, and God proves it every day. And yet, God gives us the freedom to choose whether we love God back. And whether we return God’s love or not, we are still loved just as much.
“Do you want to get well?” The answer is often so evident that we say yes without really saying yes. We want to be healthier. We want to honor God with our bodies, but there are just too many temptations. And sometimes it is nothing more than doing what is not good for us just to prove that we are our own person. And if I want another snickers bar then I shall have one. “It is my body,” we say, but it’s not.
But this is the problem. You didn’t create your body, so you don’t own it. You don’t own your body, and your mother doesn’t own your body either. While she carried you, God created you. God knitted you together. God made the sub-atomic particles that cooperate together to make your eyes, and your ears, and your nose. And you becoming you was a labor of love.
In Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, he writes, “Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19). In verse 20, Paul concludes his message on the importance of our bodies to God with “use your bodies for God’s glory.”
Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?
1 Corinthians 6:19
One of the many things about Jesus that I really admire is HIs ability to be precise. After all of the parables, metaphors, and illustrations through storytelling, Jesus looks us in the eye and says, “If you love me, you will do as I say.” I believe that this statement can accurately be translated as, “If you love me, you want to get well. If you love me, you are all in.”
Are you all in? For most of us, it will take some self-reflection, prayer, and a little time to commit. After all, when we are honest with ourselves, this is a huge deal. Am I really willing to let go of the habits that are detrimental to my health and develop new habits that are good for my health? Will I commit with my words but continue to do whatever pleases me at the moment. It’s your choice.
There is a statement found in the Old Testament that occasionally gets dusted off as a reminder from ancient wisdom. It is simple and powerful. “Choose wisely.” For me, this means that I need to put aside my stubbornness and commit to God’s will. Not out of hopelessness, but because of the hope that God offers.
The Daniel Plan is called “God’s prescription for your health.” I like this statement because it is counter to the prescriptions written by my doctors and by doctors all over the globe. And I believe the wisdom that most of our prescriptions would be unnecessary if we made the lifestyle changes that are necessary for good health. This wisdom comes from doctors when they are not trying to stuff their own pockets with money.
Are you all in?
But without the motivation to be all in, sadly, we will be just another statistic. Most persons who commit to New Year’s Resolutions that will improve health, only to give up within a few months. Left to our own will power, this will happen. But God’s prescription for our health does not depend on our own will power. It depends on God’s power. We surrender our will power to God. Are you all in?
Here at Asbury, we worship each Sunday at 10:30 am, and I believe that God is calling you to join us. Come and participate in worship, not as a spectator, but as someone who belongs to God. I lead a short Bible study in the Asbury Café at 9:30 am. You can find more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.
1 “Lifestyle Choices: Root Causes of Chronic Diseases,” Mladen Golubic, MD, PhD. © 2013 Cleveland Clinic.
2 Warren, Rick, Dr. Daniel Amen, Dr. Mark Hyman. The Daniel Plan. Grand Rapids: Zondervan;