The Gospel of Matthew records a discussion in which the Pharisees questioned Jesus’ hanging around “many tax collectors and sinners” (Matt 9:10-12). Jesus replied to the Pharisees questions saying, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.” If you spend time at the hospital emergency room, you will notice something common among almost all those who come in: they come when someone is sick. Those who are healthy nor have a family member of friend who is sick don’t visit the emergency room.
All too often, God is seen as an emergency room doctor for spiritual needs. After September 11th, churches were filled with people suffering trauma, loss, and other strong emotions who found themselves seeking hope, love, and meaning. That was almost five years ago. Today, those who fled to churches and God seeking help for their spiritual sicknesses and needs are no longer seeking God.
Why do people come to church only on such occasions? The answer is people only seek God when they think they need Him. When they feel spiritually “sick,” they rush to the spiritual emergency room called church and seek the services of the emergency room doctor: God. What people do not realize is, that while God is an emergency room doctor, able to heal spiritual sicknesses, He calls us to practice preventative medicine.
Church is a place to go in order to worship, praise, fellowship, and learn about God. In order to maintain a healthy spiritual life, in order to find true inner peace, you don’t react to the emergencies, but you live so as to maintain health. A person who wants to loose weight and keep it off must eat healthy and exercise on a regular basis. People who want to reduce their risk of serious diseases and have a longer life must live so as to maintain health.
Doctors recommend people undergo regular check-ups, eat healthy, get regular exercise in order to live a physically healthy life. God also calls us to undergo regular check-ups, eat healthy, and get regular exercise in order to live a spiritually healthy life. How can we do this?
God’s Prescription for Spiritual Health
Spiritual check-ups are done when people attend a Bible-preaching, Bible-believing church. We are told to attend church as a family rather than skip it to go fishing, hunting, sleeping in, or other reasons (Hebrews 10:25). Those who skip church are not getting check-ups. A major cable news station encourages men to “Check up or check out.” Church attendance is commanded by God and is how a person undergoes spiritual checkups. These must be a regular activity, not sporadic. Attending church on Christmas and Easter only, or just on other special occasions, do not constitute regular check-ups. If you have neglected regular church attendance, it is time for you to get back on the path to spiritual health: go to church.
The Word of God is our spiritual food. Some denominations believe the wafer or bread of communion is the spiritual food we eat, but this is incorrect. We are to consume the Word of God as our food. While we are to participate and partake of the communion, this does not replace reading and studying the Bible. Just as you eat food regularly (probably almost every day if you are able), you must also study the Bible regularly. This means not just reading it like you read the sports page, the comic strips, or magazines. Rather, read it as you would read an email from your wife, spouse, or parent. Read it the way you read letters from your boyfriend or girlfriend. Read it as you would read a captivating novel. In other words, studying the Bible begins by engulf yourself in the text. Bible study does not end there. It continues by reading the text like an automotive repair instruction manual, or the directions of that recipe. Read the Bible so that you understand what it is telling you. Allow God to mold your life to conform it to what His word states. Let the Bible be the instruction book for your life.
Also, you consume spiritual food when you participate in Bible studies. Find a study group in your church, such as Sunday school or other small-group Bible study groups. Ask your pastor about groups that are available. Ask other members about available groups.
This is putting everything you’ve learned from God’s word in the Bible studies and church services into practice. You must live as God wants you to live. Maintaining spiritual exercise means fellowshipping with other believers. Do things together in and out of the church setting. Make friends, participate, and find ways to help in the church.
Also, exercise comes when you share your faith with others. You do this when you help someone with a physical need and when you tell them about Jesus. When you provide food to that hungry person, tell them that the food may fill their belly, but tomorrow they will be hungry again; but Jesus can fill the heart and soul, and they will never long for hope again. When you help someone with a task, tell them Jesus helps you so you want to help them. In other words, help people with needs and share Jesus with them.
People spend too much time expecting to maintain a healthy spiritual life by only treating the church as an emergency room: seeking the doctor in a time of great need. This behavior is not what God wants. Rather, we must practice preventative spiritual medicine. Get a regular check-ups by attending church regularly, eat healthy by studying God’s word, and get exercise by living as God commands.