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    May 02, 2010

    Food for the Race

    Preacher: John Repsold

    Series: Taking It On the Road

    Category: Stewardship

    Keywords: food, fellowship, symbolism


    This message looks at the connection between physical food and spiritual issues in both the Old and New Testament. Why has God made us beings who need to eat reagularly? What are the spiritual implications of food for us? How can we use food to glorify God?


    Stewardship of Food…in the Race

    May 2, 2010--Bloomsday


    Series:  Taking It On the Road—Stewardship of Life among the People of God

    STORY:  Dick Beardsley is, currently, the 3rd fastest American born man in the marathon discipline. This world-class marathon competitor of the 1980s was a 2-time Olympic qualifier runner and was joint winner of the first London Marathon in March of 1981.  Beardsley placed second (2:08:53) on the heels of Alberto Salazar in the 1982 Boston Marathon, which at the time, broke the Boston Marathon course record and the American record.

    Dick Beardsley’s race strategy for the 2nd marathon of his life is a classic primer on how not to prepare for and run a marathon.  He later described it this way--“It felt like an elephant had jumped out of a tree onto my shoulders and was making me carry it the rest of the way in.”

    Dick had run his first marathon on a whim when he was in junior college and finished in 2:47:14. Not too bad, especially considering that he hadn’t trained for the marathon distance.

    Two months later he learned of a marathon in nearby Minneapolis. It was Tuesday, and the marathon was on Sunday. He decided to “prepare” himself for this one. Relying upon advice in an article he found in an old running magazine, he decided to fast until the marathon, allowing himself only Gatorade, juice, and water.

    On the morning of the marathon, he put on his brand-new pair of running shoes and went out for an 8-mile warm-up. He went out fast in the first few miles of the marathon. He bypassed the aid stations—didn’t everyone know that drinking anything during a race would give you a side ache?

    Beardsley was still feeling pretty good, despite the blisters on his feet, as he ran past the 20-mile mark where someone had painted the words, “You’re at The Wall.” And then, just past mile 23, he felt like a sledgehammer had come down on him. “I went from feeling pretty good to where I did not know how I was going to get to the next telephone pole,” he said. “I was running with my eyes shut, hallucinating. Without a doubt, that was the worst wall I ever hit.” He collapsed at the finish line, severely dehydrated.

    It’s a testament to Beardsley’s superb physical abilities and mental toughness that he managed to finish the race, much less to finish seventh overall. He had made a string of errors, most seriously in terms of diet. 

    Mistake # 1: by fasting the week before the race, he probably started off in a state of near-glycogen depletion.

    Mistake # 2: running in a brand-new pair of running shoes. It is difficult to maintain your cognitive focus on race-related issues as you are developing painful blisters.

    Mistake #3:  His 8-mile warm-up was about 7 ½ miles too long. Mistake #4:  By going out too fast, he probably incurred some lactic acid buildup, which lessened the amount of glucose that he could metabolize later on.

    Mistake #5:  Not eating or drinking during the race was a recipe for glycogen depletion and dehydration.


    There is a HUGE connection between FOOD and running a good race, isn’t there?


    What’s the connection between FOOD and running a good spiritual race/your relationship with God?


    Group Questions:

    • Why did God make us so that we are people who have to eat regularly?
    • How has food at times either helped you or hindered you in your spiritual growth?


    REVIEW:  We’ve been looking recently into the training God was putting his people through in the book of Exodus when He brought them out of Egypt and into the desert to prepare them for the Promised Land in Canaan. 

    We’ve been gleaning some of the important truths for our lives today that parallel what God was doing with 2 million Hebrews 3500 years ago.  While their lives were vastly different than ours today, human nature was the same…and so was God’s nature.  The result is that what God had to say to them has profound implications for what He is saying to us today too. 


    Eric started us thinking about this whole food thing last week in his broader look at the stewardship of our bodies for God’s purposes.  Today, I’d like to continue that study but with a slightly different emphasis.  What does food have to do with spiritual development?  Does it impact in any way my spiritual life.  And, if so, how?


    FOOD figures rather prominently from beginning to end of God’s dealings with people, doesn’t it?

    • Genesis 1—God gives “every seed-bearing plant” on the face of the earth to Adam and Eve as food and every green plant to the animals to eat.  In fact, the whole beginning of human history takes place in the setting of a garden—not a warehouse or cave or skyscraper or housing development—but a garden.  Gardens are all about food and beauty, right?
    • Food had a lot to do with Adam and Eve’s relationship to God, sin and the consequential judgment of God upon all mankind.  In Genesis 3, The Serpent used food to move Eve away from Adam and away from God.  Eve used food to move Adam away from God and actually away from her, though I question if she really knew that would be the effect.  Food was integral to the first sin in human existence and thus the sin nature that every human being has been born with since that fateful day.
    • Food even had something to do with the first murder—Cain killing Abel.  Genesis 4 tells us that Cain was a farmer who worked the soil while Abel was a herdsman who tended livestock.  Since God had not given mankind permission to eat meat yet (that came after the flood of chapter 6), it’s safe to suppose that God’s plan was for everyone to be herbivores or vegetarians at the time.  So if Abel didn’t raise livestock for the meat, he must have raised them for the milk, milk products and what else???  The same thing God had used them for with Adam and Eve—clothing…and sacrificial offerings. Cain apparently felt that food was enough of an offering to God.  In doing so, he rejected God’s plan for dealing with sin though blood sacrifice and ended up letting sin take control of him to the point of murdering his brother.  Who says food doesn’t matter? J
    • There is not a single book of the Bible where food isn’t either mentioned or plays a really important part in people’s relationships with each other and with God.
    • The book of Revelation even ends God’s written revelation with numerous references to food.  Revelation 3:20 speaks of Jesus’ invitation to “eat with” anyone who hears his voice and, through repentance opens the door of their life to his loving discipline afresh.  The book ends in chapter 21 with visions of the Tree of Life on each side of the river that flows from the throne of God.   That “tree” which straddles both sides of that river, bears fruit every month for the healing of the nations and the blessing of the redeemed. 
    • Our “marriage” to the Son of God at the “wedding of the Lamb” is even celebrated with a “supper,” a “wedding supper of the Lamb” to which every child of God not only receives an invitation but is the object of the unbounded love of Jesus Christ. 


    Why is food SO important?  Why does it hold so much power for good and for evil, for strengthening us or for destroying us?

          Humanistic naturalists or evolutionists would simply have us believe that food is just a necessary part of the life-cycle of every living thing, nothing more.  This need to eat, we are told, is just evolution’s way of providing for our survival.  And in this naturalistic worldview, food certainly has nothing to do with God or ones relationship with Him.  (After all, God isn’t needed in a purely naturalistic worldview so he probably doesn’t even exist!)



    But that is NOT what God’s Word indicates.  In fact, in that little camping trip we’ve been looking at in Exodus where God took his kids into the desert for a few months (which turned into a few years, thanks to their rebellion), food played an important part in both their spiritual development and their spiritual failures. 

    • Their very deliverance from Egypt involved plagues that decimated both the crops and livestock of the Egyptians while leaving the flora and fauna of God’s people unscathed. 
    • The first and most important feast and holy festival instituted by God among his people had to do with food.  The Passover was about God’s grace with his judgment “passing over” the people of God because of their faith in his specified blood sacrifice.  But the instructions about what to do with the 1-year old lamb/goat that they sacrificed reads more like a cookbook than a spiritual guide.  Exodus 12:8 gives the recipe—roast it over an open fire, the whole thing, with bitter herbs and eat it with unleavened bread. 

          God, of course, went on to explain the significance of all the food elements: 

    • unleavened bread was symbolic of what? (Lives that put away the “leaven” of sin through humble repentance and confession.) 
    • Bitter herbs symbolized what?  (Reminder of how bitter their time in Egypt was.)
    • Passover animal that had to BE a certain kind of animal (without any defect or blemish), prepared in a certain way (whole, without breaking any bone) and eaten in its entirety was symbolic of the Lamb of God who has now taken away the sins of the world.   [The sacrificial lamb131 was to be without defect (Exod. 12:5), just as the Lord Jesus was without blemish (1 Peter 1:19). It was the shed blood of the lamb which saved Israel’s firstborn from the plague (Exod. 12:12-13, 22-23), just as it is the shed blood of the Lamb of God which saves men from the judgment of God (1 Peter 1:18-19; Rev. 5:9). As there was to be no bone broken of the Passover lamb (Exod. 12:46), so no bone of our Lord was broken (John 19:32-36).]


    So, I think that it is safe to say that food matters to the faith of God’s people because IT IS SOMETIMES SYMBOLIC OF SPIRITUAL REALITIES that God wants us to remember regularly. 

    Symbolism is important. 

    ILL:  5 kernels of corn at Thanksgiving dinner every year now. 

    God has given food to us as a regular reminder of spiritual realities that, if we forget, we do so to our peril and loss. 


    The Israelites in the Old Testament had a HUGE list of foods that had spiritual significance, both things they were to avoid and things they were to eat that were to remind them of spiritual parallels and truths. 

    EX:  Take the prohibitions on eating certain kinds of animals.  Eric touched on that last week. 

    • Pork:  it was on the “non-kosher” list.  God didn’t tell them exactly why.  But the more important question is, “What was the purpose of any of the “unclean” animals or insects being on a list?”  Why would God call some foods “unclean” and others “clean”??? [Wait for answers.] 
    • My conclusion: 
      • 1.) To teach God’s kids that they must not look at any and everything in life the same.  They needed to learn to discriminate between things that God said were good for them and things that weren’t. EX:  Which is easier, to tell the difference between chicken and pork…or the difference between kindness and selfishness?  It’s like raising children.  You begin with the very concrete, physical rules (take a nap now; don’t throw your food on the floor; don’t pull the dog’s ears, etc.) and graduate to the more challenging moral and ethical decision-making (tell the truth; choose your friends wisely; have compassion for the helpless). 

    ILL:  Teaching Andrew that he would have to eat what we fed him…or it would reappear the next meal.  He learned after opting out of 2 meals.  Now he’s free to make every decision about food every moment of every day…and he’s on to deeper questions of the heart like “What are the right or wrong motivations for being the best musician I can possibly be?” and  “What should I be doing as a musician to lead people into the presence of God when I play?” 

    • 2.) For physical health and dietary reasons.    
    • 3.) For nothing other than developing obedient FAITH that trusts the Father rather than one’s own judgment or will.  ILL:  Telling Joanna “no” when she had been asked to house sit as a senior in high school…not because I didn’t think she was up to it, wouldn’t be safe, etc., but because I wasn’t sure her heart was really in the right place—rightly submissive enough to her daddy’s leadership to trust me and hold our relationship as more important than her “freedom.”  Result:  she passed the “test” with flying colors by responding, “O.K., Daddy.  If that’s what you think is best, I’m fine with that.  I’ll tell them no.”  I wanted to jump up out of my chair and shout, “YES!  You did it!  You’ve got the heart that will serve you well!”    


    Then we come to the N.T. and what do we find?

    I Tim. 4:3-5--3They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.


    So God has declared all foods “clean”, right?  Does that mean that there are NO RESTRICTIONS on eating for you and me now?  Can I eat and drink whatever I want, whenever I want, in whatever amounts I want? 

          About the only restrictions I can find in the N.T. about food seem to come in the area where food is associated either with some pagan worship practice OR with the misuse of a Christian practice.  Let’s look first at the “pagan practices” that could bring some restrictions to a Christian’s food consumption.

          Romans 14 as well as 1st Corinthians 8 & 10 have extended discussions about how eating food offered to pagan idols in Paul’s day could have a very negative spiritual impact on other believers. Simply put, often the meat market “specials” were on meat that had first been part of a pagan ritual of idol sacrifice.  Paul said clearly there was nothing morally wrong with eating meat that came to the table via the pagan meat-market.  But then he clarified that since so many new Christian believers had been saved out of that pagan system of idol sacrifice, it might do damage to some of them if they attached spiritual significance to that chunk of meat.  If they still felt there was some spiritual connection or influence associated with the meat…and saw you (who didn’t think there was any connection) eating that meat…they might succumb to violating their own consciences through this new form of “passive Christian peer pressure.”  Rather than doing what their hearts were leading them to observe in this area of “freedom,” they would end up doing what you, the eater-of-pagan-meat Christian, was doing.  Your freedom to eat everything would have become the means by which they were encouraged to sin against their own conscience.  Paul let us know clearly how that should be handled:  no barbequed steak was worth doing damage to any brother or sister of Christ.  Where that was possible, Paul would always pass on the temple meat and go for the veggie burger.  

    ILL:  The closest I’ve ever personally experienced similar dangers were what I saw in how Philippinos in Manila celebrated The Day of the Dead when I lived there in 1981—leaving food on the graves of the deceased for “the spirits.”


    But is there any such parallel for you and me in Spokane today?  How could things we eat and drink still have power to lead us or others into spiritually compromising or sinful actions? 

    • ILL:  The last 2 nights we’ve been at parties, the first with about 40 Moody NW students of mine this term who came over Friday night for a BBQ and a movie, the 2nd with our neighbors at a 50th birthday party for one of the neighbors.  At the Friday party, there was NO ALCAHOL. That’s the policy of MBI for students and faculty.  It was a great time…and very unlike what many college student parties were like all over the country and in Spokane Friday night.  Saturday night’s party had plenty of wine, beer and other alcoholic coolers available.  Almost all of the adults had one or two drinks…except me.  I’m still “under the law” as a faculty member at Moody.  J I don’t resent it.  It doesn’t bother me.  I understand the wisdom of it, especially with the epidemic of college drinking that happens in many college dorms and houses. I willingly put myself under that “law” for the sake of my students whose growth in Christ matters a whole lot more to me than a glass of wine or a bottle of bear.  No where can you show me that the Bible prohibits consumption of alcohol…though it does prohibit excessive consumption that leads to drunkenness.  Had I not been a Moody professor, having a beer at the neighbor’s party would not have been sin for me.  I would not have been encouraging drunkenness nor would I have caused any of my neighbors to change their behavior and drink when they felt they shouldn’t have.  (They all did even though I didn’t.)  But because of a commitment I’d made as a teacher at Moody, what would have been completely right normally would have been completely wrong last night had I imbibed. 

    The same principle can be applied to other areas where food and drink is involved:

    • Eating disorders (too much or too little).  Going to an “all-you-can-eat buffet” for those with over-eating issues will often lead to sin.  Skipping meals or putting too much emphasis on physical appearance around those on the other end of the food-consumption spectrum who consume too little could encourage them to not eat what before God they really should be eating.  As God’s children, our actions…even our eating patterns…should be monitored by the law of love—what does my brother or sister in Christ need from me in this situation that will help them honor God with their body too? 
    • Then there is the whole aspect of our physical bodies actually being God’s physical dwelling place (temple) in the world today.  When we have the ability to eat right…which most of us do…might not lack of good nutrition be a sign of false gods in our lives—not valuing enough God’s claim on our lives? If we don’t eat enough, we’re not valuing enough something (our bodies) that God says belongs to Him, something he loves, something he created and through which we are designed to experience Him on this earth.  Eating too much also undervalues God’s chosen temple.  It says, like the one who doesn’t eat enough good food, “My body is meant for some other longing I have that I will make more important than good health that will allow me to serve God with health.” 
    • And what of fasting?  Why is it that Paul said when defending his Apostleship to the Church at Corinth in 2 Cor. 11--27I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food….”  For the sake of the Gospel, Paul often went without food.  I don’t think it was always forced.  I think Paul often fasted out of passion for the people of God and the lost of this worldJesus himself said in response to criticisms that he and his disciples didn’t fast enough, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast(Mt. 9:15).  Doesn’t that seem to indicate that we, the guests of the bridegroom, are to fast once he has been taken away from this earth???

    Food is sometimes symbolic of spiritual realities, both positively and negatively.  Both the use or the non-use of food can have spiritual consequences.  Whether fasting or over-eating, drinking or not drinking, eating good food or eating food that is harmful to my body…it can all have not only physical consequences but spiritual as well. 


    And it may even have nothing to do with the physical properties of the food we consume at all.  It may have everything to do with the spiritual condition of our hearts…or even the love or lack of love relationally we have with each other. 


    I Cor. 11 speaks about eating and drinking two very simple, daily, common foods in a way that could, in fact, be downright deadly for you or me as a follower of Jesus.  Speaking of what we know as the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion, Paul writes…

    27Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. 32When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.

    Context:  What was supposed to be a “love feast” had turned into a sadly embarrassing and terribly unloving “dinner of class distinction.”  People with little to no food were going hungry while people with too much wine and rich food were making pigs and drunks out of themselves. What God wanted to be used to knit the hearts of his kids together was actually tearing them apart.  And when part of that meal was the sharing of the bread and the cup of the Lord’s Table, it made a mockery of the sacrifice of Jesus and brought God’s disciplining judgment upon God’s own children.


    Q:  What do we know about how Jesus used food?  How did he use it?

    Was Jesus use of food ever self-centered or self-consumed?  Did he ever refrain from eating or drinking to do something for the benefit of others?  (The temptation in the desert at the beginning of his ministry and the refusal of gal on the cross at the end…plus the many times in between of doing the Father’s will instead of eating—Samaritan woman in John 4; Mt. 15:32—3 days preaching and no food; Mk. 3:20; 6:31—press of the crowd kept him and the disciples from eating.)  Jesus modeled the right use and non-use of food.  It was always for the glory of God and the blessing of people. 


    And this is what the N.T. consistently teaches.  The hundreds of O.T. rules and regulations about food have been boiled down to one simple lawSo whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (I Cor. 10:31). 


    So now eating has one focus:  to point to Jesus and move us into living that is more and more glorifying of God.  Every food can become a reminder to enjoy the God who gave it, a reminder to rejoice in Him and his abundant provisions. 

          God’s word has declared food “clean”.  But that doesn’t mean I just dive into every meal or every all-you-can-eat buffet without some spiritual connection.  We are to receive food with thanksgiving.  We are to listen to the Spirit about what He wants us to eat and not eat.  We’re not to judge others about the foods they eat but we ARE to let God’s Spirit judge and train us about what we eat. 


    So much of Jesus’ ministry took place around food

    His teaching used food as metaphors and symbols of spiritual realities—bread became an opportunity to speak about himself as “the bread of life.”  Leaven/yeast became an opportunity to speak about sin. 

          All kinds of meals became the stage upon which he taught, the venue by which he rubbed shoulders and opened hearts of sinners, pagans, prostitutes and tax collectors

          Meals became the place where he applauded marriage, did his first public miracle of turning water to wine, rebuked religious hypocrites, taught his disciples about serving and instituted the sign of the New Covenant in communion.


    Perhaps that is why shared meals formed such a HUGE part of the life of the early church together.  “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer….They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.”  (Acts 2:42, 46)



    We were made to be people who enjoy food and use food for the glory of God.  So here is what I want you to do as we end our study of the stewardship of food today.  I want you to talk among yourselves for a few minutes on as many different ways you can think of that you and I can use food to bring glory to God.  Then I’m going to ask you to make it personal before we leave here today by choosing one means by which you think God would have you use food this next month to glorify Him more.


    How food can be used to glorify God more?

    • Fellowship meals among us.
    • Teaching our children at home around the dinner table.
    • Bonding families together in shared prep, eating and clean-up.
    • Giving to the poor.
    • Helping the sick and infirmed.
    • Learning to serve more.
    • Learning to serve our families, spouses, parents, one-another more.
    • Times of teaching new believers.
    • Times of deepening fellowship with each other.
    • Small groups
    • Alpha Course
    • Building friendships with the unconvinced/unsaved.
    • Learning greater dependence upon God.
    • Growing gratitude.


    May 23rd—next scheduled Fellowship Luncheon after church.