“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
Recently, when my wife Martie and I wanted to meet our sons and their families for a quick bite to eat, we decided that, with everyone’s busy schedules, it would be easiest to meet at a nearby fast-food joint. When I called my son Joe to suggest the plan, his response was, “Well, I can meet you there, but I can’t eat that stuff. I’m training for a marathon.”
Joe’s comment lodged in my brain, particularly because at the time I happened to be preparing a sermon regarding spiritual food, and his offhand remark illustrated a great spiritual principle. Let me explain.
Joe had a goal in mind—the successful completion of the marathon. He knew that reaching the goal was going to require months of disciplined choices, like waking up early to run longer and longer distances. And it meant that he would need to carefully guard and consider everything that he took into his body. Each meal—in fact, each snack—became an opportunity to choose to nourish and energize his body toward a successful marathon run.
Spiritually speaking, we have a goal in mind. Paul expresses it clearly in 1 Corinthians 9:27 when, using an illustration of running a race he states, “I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” In Philippians 3:10-11, he clarifies that the prize at the end of the race is the goal of knowing Christ “and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
I don’t know about you, but that’s a goal I want to strive toward. I can’t imagine any other objective more rewarding than finishing well and living for intimacy with and empowerment by the indwelling Jesus. But the reality is that many of us are not very committed to the training process that gets us to the goal.
A key part of the training is learning how to guard what we “eat” spiritually. Just as those training for a marathon need to guard and carefully consider all that they take in, those of us in training toward the goal of knowing Christ more fully need to guard and consider all that we take in. Paul gives us a phenomenal nutritional guide in Philippians 4:8, using words like true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy to describe the spiritual health food for followers of Jesus.
Which should lead all of us to evaluate what we’ve been feeding our hearts and our minds. How well does our TV viewing fit the criteria of true, noble, or right? What about the conversations we have at work? Do they fall in the categories of pure or lovely? Is there anything admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy about the movies we watch or the music we listen to?
Imagine how nutritionally strong we would be—when faced with a situation that we know would hinder our goal of finishing our race well and knowing Jesus more intimately—if we were to say, “I can’t. I’m in training.” That kind of spiritual dieting and discipline would groom our lives to run our race far more successfully.
We could all stand to take a lesson from Joe—no junk food! As they say, “You are what you eat!”
- What does your spiritual diet consist of?
- How would you rate the moral “nutrition” of your entertainment choices?
- What do you consider to be your ultimate goal in life as a follower of Jesus? How do the choices you make today impact the outcome of that goal?
- Read through Psalm 119:9-16 as an example of how nutritious, good, and right God’s Word is!