Spiritual Athletics-Nutrition for the Spirit
Do your kids or the kids you teach in church participate in sports? Or do they have a favorite athletic activity? If so, you have an opportunity to use it as an illustration to help kids understand spiritual health.
Anyone who is athletic and wants to excel in their chosen sport, learns to care about diet, exercise, skill and rest. They want to get every possible edge in order to do well. My kids are always trying to come up with the best protein shake or recovery drink, the best exercise to improve that weak muscle, and the best technique to master a particular skill. Great attention to even small details can make all the difference. at these areas of diet, exercise, skills and rest one at a time to think about how to use them as illustrations for our children.
First comes diet. An athlete pays close attention to the quality of food. The right thing going in means the right muscle and energy coming out. A common saying is “garbage in, garbage out”.
The same is true of us spiritually. A diet of TV and online garbage makes for a sluggish spiritual life that just can’t perform well when needed. We can’t be full of courage, and overflowing with love for God and others if we spiritually eat a smorgasbord of fear, discouragement and unloving thoughts. We can say to our kids “good food for your stomach, good food for your spirit” and present good choices for their media diet. Even if the media we look at isn’t negative, just neutral, it can prevent that quality nutrition that our spirit needs to grow.
Definitely take precautions to guard your children from garbage they can access on devices. Do your best and then, assume it’s not enough. They WILL stumble across bad stuff or be shown it by peers. Teach them to make quick, good choices and enjoy the result of a clear conscience.
Watch their spirit–if it’s going downhill, they’re probably consuming something unhealthy. When my oldest son was a teen, there was a particular time when his attitude took a nosedive. I swiped his device, listened to the most frequently played song and was horrified at the screaming anger because it was from a supposedly Christian band. He was not happy about having his favorite song deleted but a few days later admitted he felt much better. We didn’t have a rule that all music had to be Christian, but when my daughter seemed down in the dumps I suggested she choose only Christian music for a while and see how she felt. Making it her choice gave her the opportunity to compare and take responsibility for her spiritual nourishment.
Besides thinking about the quality of our food, we have to think about the quantity of food. In the same way that our body is dependent for food, our spirit is dependent on nourishment. We can rush around trying to live the Christian life on little substance as if we’re athletes trying to survive on one potato chip. We need to feed on the Word of God like we’re starving and our very existence depends on it. I don’t eat breakfast and then hope to survive all day on it, yet I’ll sometimes have morning devotions and then starve my spirit all day.
Kids need reminders too. Can you think of an incentive for them to bring their morning devotional scripture to the dinner table? Do they have age-appropriate devotionals? Children’s devotional books for different age levels can be found on Sharing Scripture at meals goes well with saying “Good food for your stomach, and good food for your spirit.”
Matthew 5:6 says “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled. Teach kids to recognize that their spirit is hungry for God’s goodness. When an athlete is working out hard, more nutrition is needed. There are emotional signs that our spirit is starving and needs more. A steady diet of God’s encouragement is just what our kids—and each of us–needs.
Next time we’ll look at spiritual exercise.
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