Something interesting happened to me. Some time back, I meet up with a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and he diagnosed me as having a very low metabolic rate. In TCM terminology, my body was too cold.
Now if you see from my Facebook pics how scrawny I am, and watch how I usually eat a lot (shoveling French fries down my throat like there's no tomorrow) and notice how difficult it is for me to sit still, you would understand why I was very skeptical of this diagnosis. The practitioner then convinced me by mentioning that I don't sweat easily, even out in the sun. And that was evidence of a low metabolic rate. At that time we were in an air-conditioned place, so there was no logical way of him knowing about my sweating habits. And that lent further credence to his diagnosis.
Then why am I so thin? Because my metabolic rate was too low, even my digestion was ineffective. In other words, I was unable to absorb and utilize the nutrients in my food. It was like someone giving me a wallet with $20 every day, and I would take $5 and throw the rest of the money away along with the wallet… I am convinced of his diagnosis, so I have started making some lifestyle changes to bring my body to a more optimal level of health.
His diagnosis also got me thinking: how many Christians have a spiritual metabolic rate that's too low, and therefore cannot even digest the Word of God properly?
How will you know if you have an optimal spiritual metabolic rate?
1. You will be hungry for spiritual food, the Word of God. Physically I can eat a lot, but a couple of weeks ago I could also miss a meal here and there and not feel hungry. I should have recognized that as a bad sign. The same thing applies spiritually. If you aren't craving and hungering for the Bible, something is wrong with your spirit's metabolic rate (1 Pet 2:2).
2. You will have loads of energy for the things of God. Physically I was active, but I found myself unable to bring my fitness to the next level. In fact, my energy level was dropping. Spiritually, how does worship, prayer, godly fellowship and acts of righteousness make you feel? Bored and listless? Or excited and enthusiastic? You can discern your spirit's metabolic rate right there.
3. You will sweat. As I mentioned earlier, physically I sweat very little. Just on Monday I sprinted for 3-4 minutes (late for an appointment and I missed the correct bus-stop) and didn't break a sweat. Bad sign. Remember, sweat helps your body remove toxins and waste from your system. Spiritually, that translates to you sweating out bad thinking, wrong ideas and lousy attitudes. Do you feel yourself getting rid of the junk within your spirit (2 Cor 7:1), the things you know are toxic to your walk with Christ? If you have difficulty in this, take a good look at your spiritual metabolic rate. Something might be wrong there.
What are the causes of a lousy spiritual metabolic rate? Here are a few.
1) Lack of proper feeding. If you don't feed on the Word of God in the first place, don't expect your spirit to have anything to properly metabolize.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Col 3:16, NKJV)
I hope I don't sound too harsh, but I get really frustrated when I hear the excuses some Christians give for not spending proper time in God's Word. Some of them would be hilarious if they were not so pathetic. God, give me patience with Christians who think getting life lessons from Korean soap operas is a viable alternative to feeding on the Scriptures!
2) Lack of action. Worship, prayer, godly fellowship and acts of righteousness are the natural fruit of feeding on God's Word. I pity the sermon junkies, people who go from one preacher to another, expecting to find someone who can preach them into feeling good without them having to take corresponding action. Ultimately, these people are doomed to a Christian existence (notice I didn't choose the word 'life') of boredom and frustration.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25, NKJV)
When I hear people complaining about sermons after the service, saying that this sermon wasn't 'anointed' or 'spirit-filled' or things like that, I wonder what they were expecting. Were they expecting something that would zap them into feeling good before they start obeying the Word of God? I heard a popular preacher who helped propagate that myth. He would talk about how some people would suddenly, naturally and effortlessly start living the life God intended for them after listening to his sermons long enough. The end result was a congregation of spiritually passive people, people who were waiting for God to zap them into wanting to forsake sin, read the Bible, pray and then live out godly lives.
3) Spiritual Indigestion. If you feed on the wisdom of the world instead of God's Word, you of course cannot expect to get the same results as feeding on the Bible.
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. (Col 2:8 NIV)
There are two types of thinking often confused with the Word of God, secular positive thinking (self-help and personal development) and secular morality. Don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against secular positive thinking and secular morality in general, in fact, I do read up on them at times. But I have long decided that if I have to choose between those teachings and the Word of God, I'd take the Word of God.
I'm sure there are other Christians who claim they would decide the same way. My question for them is this: are you so familiar with the Bible that you can tell when a thought or concept is from the Bible or from some self-help author? And has the Scripture taken such a hold of your heart that the Scriptures, rather than Napoleon Hill, James Allen or Stephen Covey, are what your heart leans on when the crisis of life strike?
And there is one final group of people with a messed up metabolism. They are spiritually active and feed seriously on the Bible, and yet find themselves running out of steam, making big mistakes in their lives, and are unable to hear the voice of God and discern his will for their lives. They are those who have, in the midst of growing in doctrine and faith, forgotten how much they have been forgiven by God.
No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more. (Heb 8:11-12, NIV)
Think about it: if those who know their God will be strong and do great exploits (Dan 11:32), and we can know God only if our sins are forgiven (Heb 8:11-12) then those who start off strong and later lose momentum may have forgotten how deeply God has forgiven them of their sins. I used to think that it was good enough that God has forgiven me, even if I forgot to acknowledge truth at times. But now I have changed my mind. I now believe that if I don't regularly acknowledge my forgiveness in Christ, I shall live as if I am not forgiven.
… that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. (Philemon 6, NKJV)
The above passage suggests that if I do NOT acknowledge every good thing that is in me in Christ Jesus (including forgiveness and redemption) then the sharing (or fellowship in the faith) becomes ineffective, useless and nullified. And that has been my own personal experience also. Whenever I find my spiritual hearing dulled and my discernment inaccurate, it is usually after an extended season of paying so much attention to the other teachings in the Bible that I forget to meditate on the forgiveness and redemption God has given me in Christ.
Spiritual metabolism, converting what you get from the Word of God into action in our lives, such a vital topic because it determines whether we live our Christian lives as God intended. I am sure I can't do justice to it with just one post. Nevertheless, I hope that this would at least get you started in looking at your own spiritual walk with God. Is there anything you realize needs some tweaking?