“For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Philippians 3:18-21 (emphasis mine)
I heard a sermon in September by Dema Kogan, Pastor of Kid’s Ministry at LEFC, which I thought was extremely good.
Our stomach represents a mindset of selfishness – it is telling us “feed me, give me, let me devour and consume.” When we’re hungry, we can become cranky! And until we’re feeling “full” some of us are never satisfied. Our stomach grumbles and wants to be filled in a self-absorbed way. We eat things we know to be bad for us because it feels good, tastes good, and gives us a gratification.
How many of us plan our days around the meals we’ll eat? How much time do we spend looking for recipes, making our plans or going out to eat? How much money do we spend on food (yikes!) versus charitable giving? Like the above verse, is our stomach our god and is our mind set on earthly things?
The pastor gave the following examples of “enemies of the cross” (Philippians 3:18 from above) verses “friends of the cross.” His first example was Adam (in Genesis 3:6) who partook of ‘the most expensive meal in history.’ Eating that apple that God had told him not to got him kicked out of Eden and had a negative impact on society as a whole. Because he didn’t say no to food he knew to be wrong, everyone would suffer the consequences. Pastor Dema compared Adam to Jesus (in Matthew 4:2-4) who fasted for 40 days and was hungry but would NOT turn the stones into bread to eat but rather focused on living on the words of God.
The next examples were Esau (in Genesis 25:29-34) who sold his birthright for mere stew because he was hungry after hunting. He gave up so much for so little! He wanted to eat right now versus waiting until he could find another option (I’ve written about him, so I’ll post it in the near future). Completely the opposite was true of David (in Samuel 23:13-17). He was in a stronghold and proclaimed his thirst, so three men risked their lives to get him a drink. Instead of consuming it, he poured it out before the Lord, noting that these men risked their lives so this water was like their blood and he couldn’t drink it. Even though he was extremely thirsty, this was a picture of self-sacrifice, worshiping the Lord verses his own desires.
The final example was the Israelites (in Numbers 11:4-6) which I’ve already blogged about. They whined about eating only manna and longed to go back to slavery so they could eat meat. They were filled with thinking about themselves and their bellies rather than God’s dreams for their lives. On the other hand, their leader Moses (in Exodus 33:14-18) was so committed to God that he didn’t want to go to the Promised Land without Him. He begged God not to leave them.
At this, Pastor Dema asked the question, if you could get to heaven – where there was no sickness and no pain, there were streets of gold and all the wealth you can imagine, if your loved ones were there and you had everything you asked for – BUT God was NOT there, would you want to go? This thought challenged me. Would we want to be anywhere without God? While having everything material may sound nice, what are we truly seeking? I thought about it this way, would I be satisfied here on earth with lots of possessions (nice house, car, jewelry, fashionable clothes), my health and my children but my husband weren’t part of the picture? For me, the answer is no. I’d rather live in a cardboard box and be together than be separate. And, after thinking about it, I feel the same way about God. What is heaven without Him? What do possessions matter if we’re missing the most important thing, our relationship with the Lord? Money, beauty, and even our bodies are here today and gone tomorrow. But, God remains forever and so should our relationship with Him.
Are there times that we live very self-absorbed? Is everything all about me? Do we make our church experience, our Bible study, our worship and our prayer time all about ourselves? Are we focused on our bellies and what we want to consume more than looking up at our Heavenly Father to guide us?
Pastor Dema gave the following solutions for the “belly problem.” The first was fasting (Isaiah 58:10-11). Last week in my Bible study, I read the following quote: “Sometimes we have allowed our prosperity to fill us with ‘junk food’ of the world so that we have no appetite for Him and His Word.” (found in Following God, Learning Life Principles from the Women of the Bible Book 1, by Wayne Barber, Eddie Rasnake and Richard Shepherd, 1999). Fasting empties us to the point that we need to rely on God to make it through our day. It gives us an appetite for Him when we’re not filled with other things and content!
The second gut buster was generosity (Proverbs 11:25, Hebrews 13:16). Instead of hoarding and being self-absorbed, we are to take care of others, realizing that God will take care of us. The third gut buster was community (Galations 6:2). Let’s take our eyes off ourselves and love God first and others second as Jesus commanded us. Finally, the ultimate belly buster came from John 7:37-39, where Jesus told us to drink from Him, His Holy Spirit.
If your belly is big, has your stomach become your god? If so, our hope is found at the end of those verses above from Philippians 3:21, which reminds us that “the Lord Jesus Christ,who by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word! Please forgive us if we have lived a self-absorbed life. Forgive us of serving the god of our stomach rather than being focused on You and the great things You have in store for us. Help us give up our selfishness and see the world as You see it – may we care for others and experience joy in generosity. May we not be so filled with ‘junk food’ that we’re content to be lazy. May we have an appetite to seek You wholeheartedly, and may we find You. God, we don’t want to walk any part of this life or the next without You. Pierce our bellies and give us Your heart instead. And, we humbly ask that You would transform our lowly bodies to be glorious like You, all for Your honor. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!