I recently gained an important spiritual insight from an unlikely source. I was listening to a radio program touting the benefits of a new weight-loss craze called the Ketogenic Diet.
The basic concept of the Ketogenic Diet is that you should only consume calories during 8 hours of the day, such as from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The remaining 16 hours should be spent burning off the calories you’ve already consumed and the fat that’s already stored in your cells.
“Most of us Americans could live a long time just by burning our fat deposits,” the program host confidently pointed out. “Yet because we keep taking in more and more calories, the energy in those fat cells is never utilized.”
DISCLAIMER: This blog is not meant to be an endorsement of the Ketogenic Diet or any other approach to weight loss. I’m just exploring a similar spiritual principle.
Listening to this program, I was fascinated by the parallels between physical and spiritual obesity. Both conditions are the result of taking in more nourishment than we utilize. When we consume more food calories than we burn, the excess is stored as fat – and the same principle holds true when we consume an excess of spiritual calories.
Let me explain…
Me and Ezra
I’ve been a Christian a long time, ever since I was 18. I’ve heard countless sermons, listened to thousands of hours of Christian broadcasting, and read a myriad of books, magazines, and blogs. Not content to with secondhand spiritual nourishment, I’ve also spent a lot of time in personal Bible study.
I guess you could say I’ve been well nourished spiritually. For the most part, that’s a good thing, because I’ve met many Christians who seem malnourished and stunted in their spiritual development. Maybe they’ve been born again, but they’ve never learned the importance of receiving and digesting the truths of God’s Word.
So I’ve been blessed by the spiritual nutrition I’ve received.
Nevertheless, I’m troubled by the fact that much of the spiritual input I’ve received has never been implemented. I can quote a lot of Bible verses I’m still not walking in, and that’s a problem: It’s a prescription for becoming spiritually fat without becoming spiritually strong.
In contrast, Ezra is a great example of a Biblical leader who practiced “ketogenic” spirituality. Look at this beautiful description of his life:
Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel (Ezra 7:10 ESV).
Notice the 3 key verbs in this passage: STUDY…DO…TEACH. All 3 are necessary for well-rounded discipleship, yet very few of us are following Ezra’s model.
If we study (or listen to sermons) without doing and teaching, we will inevitably become spiritually flabby. But if we study with a commitment to put the lessons into practice and then pass them on to others, we’ll become spiritually strong, and our life will have great impact.
One of the reasons Jesus taught with such authority was that He not only had studied the Scriptures, but He also had put them into practice. In the same way, people will only respond to our teaching to the degree in which we’ve first implemented the teachings in our own life.
In addition to Ezra 7:10, I’ve found myself convicted by another Bible passage lately:
Sow for yourselves righteousness;
Reap in mercy;
Break up your fallow ground,
For it is time to seek the Lord,
Till He comes and rains righteousness on you (Hosea 10:12 NKJV).
What does it mean that we must break up our “fallow ground”? NIV translates this “unplowed ground,” while NLT says “hard ground.”
I picture this as fertile ground God has given us, but which we’ve never taken time to plow and develop. Like the unutilized calories described in the Ketogenic Diet, we’re sitting on untapped potential.
So let’s get personal: What are some things God has given you, but which are currently lying dormant and unproductive?
Here are a few examples to consider:
- Spiritual gifts or natural aptitudes you’re not doing anything with. Peter warned that God has gifted you, and you’re called to USE your spiritual gifts to serve others (1 Peter 4:10).
- Excess money in your savings account or retirement fund that could be invested for Kingdom purposes. It would be tragic to follow the example of the fearful servant who chose to bury the resources his master had entrusted to him (Matthew 25:14-30).
- A God-given dream for an invention or business you’ve never set in motion. A vision that isn’t written down or communicated to others is simply hot air, worthless in making an impact (Habakkuk 2:1-3).
It’s time to start burning your spiritual fat reserves!
My 3-Year Plan
Here’s the backstory on why I’m so grieved about this issue of unplowed ground and unutilized vision…
God recently brought to my attention that I have written more than 8 books that no one has ever read. And that’s not counting several smaller booklets that are already completed, nor the books I’ve started but never finished.
Do you see how horrible this is? Much of the “ground” God has entrusted to me still hasn’t been plowed and put into production.
This is unacceptable…even sinful! In the next 3 years, I must do everything I can to break up my fallow ground and utilize these resources the Lord has put in my hands.
Perhaps you noticed that Hosea 10:12 not only issues a challenge for us to seek the Lord, break up our unutilized ground, and sow seeds. It also contains a wonderful promise, that if we do those things, He will send us rain and grant us an abundant harvest.
So what are we waiting for?
In my case, time is already ticking on my 3-year plan. Like any good plan, it will never come to pass without focus on my part and favor on God’s part.
What is God calling YOU to do in the next few years? If you hear His voice, today’s a great day to get started toward your legacy (Hebrews 3:14-15).