Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"Food For Worship - and Joy!"

     (The following is in no way intended as dietary advice, but rather as a consideration of Biblical truth relating to food and drink).

    Do we enjoy our food?  Unless physically hindered, we should.  Our Heavenly Father gives gifts such as food and the taste buds with which to experience His sustenance not merely as a matter of survival, but of delight.  "Every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labor, it is the gift of God" (Ecclesiastes 3:13).

    This raises interesting questions and issues, particularly about what it means to "enjoy our food."  We live in a generation that can make this quite difficult.  On one hand, the world calls us to sumptuously feast.  On the other, it warns that food will kill us.  Recognizing such conflict and hypocrisy emanating from fleshly and perhaps even devilish sources, how are born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ meant to view the matter of sustenance?

    First, we rejoice that this most basic issue of our physical being provides opportunity for loving worship and devotion.   "Whatsoever ye do, whether ye eat or drink, do all to the glory of God" commanded the Apostle Paul (I Corinthians 10:31).  Moreover, Paul also declared that "unto the pure, all things are pure" (Titus 1:15).  God grants to us the privilege and responsibility to honor Him in all things.  Indeed, we do well to build an altar in our hearts, as it were, whereupon we sacrifice all reasons other than the glory of the Lord Jesus as our paramount purpose for the food we eat and the drink we drink.  This is living Christianity, in which our intimately involved God blesses us with the opportunity to know and love Him in the most common and everyday matters of our existence.

    Perhaps our first step in such worship involves the grateful recognition that every morsel of sustenance comes to us as God's gift.

     "The Lord... giveth food to all flesh.  O give thanks unto the God of heaven" (Psalm 136:1; 25-26). 

     The most important part of any meal is the time when we bow head and heart to say "Thank You" to the One who gives to us "life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25).  No morsel of food can be fully enjoyed if we fail to acknowledge our Lord as "the Bread of life," whose nail-scarred Hand "satisfieth the desire of every living thing" (John 6:35; Psalm 145:16).  Partaking with a heart of true acknowledgement and gratitude initiates the experience of eating as God intends it be, that is, the enjoyment of Him, as well as the food He provides (Frances reminds me that we can also express gratitude throughout the meal, which I've often done when eating something I particularly enjoy).

    For some, pace can be a matter of eating with genuine appreciation to the Provider.  By nature, I am a very fast eater, eclipsed only by the world speed eating record holder, Frances (uhoh, maybe I shouldn't divulge that!).  Over the years, however, we both have wondered whether we really enjoy our meals as we race through them.  Frances and I are both still working on this, and would covet your prayers.  We are learning in principle that true enjoyment of God's gift of food takes more time than we naturally want to give.  So, we are trying to slow down in order to, as the saying goes, "savor the flavor," that is, to view meals as a gift meant to be truly enjoyed.  Indeed, in most cases, the longer it takes to eat, the more we truly acknowledge and appreciate the blessing.

     Quantity also provides opportunity and challenge for believers.  Too much food can no more be enjoyed than too little food.  Think of it.  Overeating may give a momentary bit of pleasure, but the aftermath is difficult both physically and emotionally.  The pleasure we are meant to find in eating does not manifest itself when we are overly full.  Even worse is the dissatisfaction of realizing, "I wish I hadn't eaten all that."  This is not true enjoyment of food as God intends, and thus it is not the experience of His provision that eating can and should be.  Those who truly enjoy food and eating thus plan to eat amounts that please and satisfy in a manner whereby we enjoy the experience before, during and after meals.

    Regarding the "before" aspect of eating, we cannot truly worship when consuming food by impulse rather than conscious deliberation.    Eating and drinking worshipfully and gratefully involves making determined choices rather than being carried along by whims of impulseWe will see every morsel and sip as the gift of God, and as the opportunity to gratefully experience true worship as we choose to eat and drink for His glory.  Eating on a whim hinders this rich opportunity to experience consumption as both a conscious spiritual and physical partaking of our Lord's goodness.

    We add a complicating factor to eating if appearance becomes a significant issue.  Certainly what and how much we eat affects our physical stature, and I don't suggest that we must completely discount the matter.  However, the Lord Jesus Christ commanded that we "judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24).  We add unnecessary temptations to either pride or despair when we partake primarily to affect the shape of our bodies.  When I find myself overly attentive to my physical appearance, I try to remember and affirm, "Lord, "I'm here to glorify and reveal You rather than myself or my physical frame."

   Biblical consideration of food and eating leads to the godly enjoyment whereby our hearts rest in this elemental aspect of our existence. We don't live to eat in gluttonous excess, nor do we merely eat to live in the failure to realize the reason for food's flavor and our tongue's taste buds.  We rather eat to glorify the Lord Jesus, and experience Him in worship, thanksgiving, and the realization that He can be known - and enjoyed - in the everyday realities of life.  This is His loving intention for us, wherein God dwells with us to reveal Himself in the loving provision of the daily bread meant to bestow not only survival, but opportunity for worship and joy.

"God... giveth us richly all things to enjoy" (I Timothy 6:17).

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