The Proper Diet

It’s a good idea to eat before you do anything that requires extensive physical exertion.

Last week I played in a couple of tennis matches with my men’s team and I was reminded of that truth the hard way.

I’ve played so much tennis in my life that sometimes I forget I’m 30 and not 18 anymore. I forget that my body needs a different level of preparation to play than it did in my teenage years. I also forget that part of that includes giving my body enough energy to sustain me through the match.

Honestly, last Saturday was not a shining moment in my athletic career. While I did get about 12 hours of sleep the night before, that was about the only thing right I did in terms of preparation.

I grabbed a banana the morning of and one 32 oz. water bottle and headed out the door to play tennis in 90 degree heat — a forecast I didn’t bother to check before leaving for my matches.

About halfway through the second set of my first match, I felt like I was going to black out. My vision all of a sudden became bright, the edges of what I could see were closing in, and I could barely keep my body upright.

Like a car that ran out of gasoline, I couldn’t go any longer. Embarrassingly, I had to exit the doubles match I was playing and inconvenience my partner and two other guys while I found some shade, ice, and water to recoup.

What I needed most, though, was food. My body needed energy and fuel if it were to recharge and allow me to be worth anything on the tennis court the rest of the day.

In a lot of ways, this is exactly how we treat our spiritual walk with Jesus, especially if it’s something we’ve just grown accustomed to like I did with tennis. We forget all that it takes to stay filled up. We forget to nourish our souls with enough spiritual food to sustain us through challenges.

Our souls become weak. Just as much as our body needs food and energy, our souls need fuel. They need prayer and time with the Lord.

In John 6:35, Jesus refers to Himself as the bread of life, saying He will provide a never-ending satisfaction from spiritual hunger.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

This is why people fast. It is a spiritual declaration that food alone will not suffice us. It’s not necessarily always about food, but rather an invitation to remove so much of what regularly fills us — which can be food, but also screen time, pleasure, sports, music, or anything else we fill our time with — and instead invite God to fill our souls.

Our bodies and our souls need spiritual food.

Matthew 4:4 says, “But he answered, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

So what does this look like? Well, I’m no pro at it, by any means. But for me it’s pretty easy to tell when I’m starving spiritually. My guess is that’s the case for you, too. Perhaps you’re feeling angry, irritable, or upset regularly. Joy seems like a foreign concept.

Maybe morally you know you’re living in sin but don’t know how to turn away from it. Maybe you’re feeling anxious, unable to be kind to others, and lacking self-control. Those are all pretty good indicators that you’re starving spiritually.

When you fill your soul with time in the Word and time in prayer with God, that will produce the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)

The Bible is so full of metaphors between food and our spirit. There’s a clear connection here that God is trying to communicate with us.

When I was nearly passed out, I could’ve put any food in my body and it might have sustained me briefly. But if I wanted to fully recover, I needed to put the proper food in my system — mostly protein, a banana to help fight cramping, maybe something with a little sugar to balance my blood sugar, and of course water. If I filled my body with things like too much candy, soda, or something else that wasn’t full of nutrients, I was only setting my body up to be weak again later.

And it’s not just in that moment that I needed to fill my body up. If I want to avoid that same scenario from happening, I need to eat well and prepare my body regularly so I’m ready for the next match. Both athletic preparation and spiritual preparation are not just something you do the day of a battle. You prepare every day so that you’re ready to fight the battle.

When your soul becomes weak, what are you filling it with? Are you filling it with the Word, prayer, and scriptural truths? Or are you running to bad habits, toxic relationships, and immoral behavior?

How often are you filling it?

Take some time to reflect on what fills you up. What would your life look like if your soul was full with truth from the Word of God? Start today with a plan to get in spiritual shape and fill your soul with the right fuel every day.