Christian LivingDoctrine

On choosing a Christmas diet

Here is a scary question: in the average day, how much time do you spend thinking about food? As Christmas looms, most of us spend even more time than usual thinking about menus. Who and what will you serve this festive season? There’s endless inspiration to fill our thoughts on TV, Facebook feeds and as we chat to others. We happily spend hours considering what to feed our bodies, but how much time do we spend thinking about what we are feeding to our souls?

As English speakers living in the West, we have unrivalled access to preaching and teaching. From online sermons, to books and blogs, we have the opportunity for truly feasting on God’s word! Yet I have been recently caused to question, at this ‘all you can eat’ buffet, what am I choosing to put on my plate?

Just as parents carefully consider what to feed to their children, our Heavenly Father sets out what our diet is to be. Timothy, a church leader in Ephesus, is clearly instructed what to feed the church;

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Tim 4:1-2)

This is a weighty charge. “Preach the word.” Timothy is to bring God’s word to God’s people, week in, week out. He is to do this “in season and out of season”, when it feels comfortable and on trend, and when it doesn’t. When the pews seem to be emptying to follow flashier messages down the road, he is to continue to “preach the word”. This is what the Lord Jesus wants his church to be feeding upon.

If it doesn’t feel palatable to those listening, why is Timothy to persist? The previous verses hold the answer, and it all rests on the power of God’s word. These sacred writings “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15). It’s through hearing God’s word that people come to Jesus and follow him in faith.

The Bible we hold in our hands is not just a book. The words on the page are carried on the very breath of God. This means that they are not only sufficient for the beginning of the Christian life, but for all of life! “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching… that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16). Don’t we long to be competent? To be equipped for all that’s on our plate? There is only one resource that we need. There is no activity, thought or feeling that God’s word does not equip us to be godly in. The words of the Bible are spoken by God himself—we can and should be confident that he will do what he has promised.

If this is what God’s word is able to do, it should come as no surprise that this is what God wants his people to feed upon. But are we really confident that it is God’s word alone that will nourish our Christian life?

When it’s Sunday morning and we arrive at church frazzled and crotchety, what are we longing to feed upon? Are we eager for meaty, expository preaching that is saturated with the Scriptures? Or do we secretly hope for something a bit lighter? Are we tempted to join the mumblings in the pews that often rates a sermon according to its brevity rather than the richness of its content? If we are confident that God feeds us through his word, this will transform our attitude to hearing the sermon on Sundays.

Through the week, our inboxes and Facebook feeds are often inundated with talks and podcasts, books and blogs. If we are confident that God feeds us in his word, this will affect the way that we approach this resource smorgasbord! When I feel incompetent to be godly in the trenches of daily life, what do I turn to? I confess that I am often drawn to the ‘10 top tips to be a better mum/wife/daughter/church member’, rather than to the book or article that engages deeply with God’s word and his character.

When I’m tired and spent, I am eager for the ‘quick fix’. I want the quick caffeine and sugar burst from a strong cup of tea and a biscuit! It is instantly gratifying, picks you up and gives you a buzz of activity—but it is short lived. If all we ate was biscuits and tea, we would be sluggish and ineffective, with serious long-term health consequences! These blog posts, books and talks that are full of tips and wisdom are in many ways similar. Don’t get me wrong: there is nothing wrong with occasional ‘snacking’ on these sorts of things, and they can be really helpful in showing us practical ways to apply Christian thinking as we learn from brothers and sisters. But just like the sweet snack, while they can give us an instant rush of activity as we seek to implement the ‘4 things to do before bedtime’, the sugar rush quickly dissipates. 

Looking to the craziness of the Christmas season ahead, where do we feel ill equipped? Where are we struggling to be godly? Where are we not competent? God is exhorting us to turn to his word, confident that “all Scripture is breathed out by God, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work”. So, as we think about sustaining ourselves and our families in the coming weeks, what will we put on the menu?