Are You Nourished on the Words of the Faith?Fr. Barnabas Powell
I love to eat. And what makes matters worse, what I love to eat is all the “comfort foods” I grew up with as a child. If you know anything about Southern cooking, you know we love to fry things! Anything! Everything!
But the longer I live and the more I learn, I’m discovering that this isn’t just not healthy, it isn’t even properly nourishing. Oh, this diet was great for my grandparents when they were working from sun up to sundown on the farm and doing tons of manual labor. They needed those fatty calories to keep up their energy. But what was a great diet for them is a deadly diet for me!
Look at our lesson today in 1 Timothy 4:4-8, 16:
TIMOTHY, my son, everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving; for then it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. If you put these instructions before the brethren, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and of the good doctrine which you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless and silly myths. Train yourself in godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Well, what’s true for your physical body is equally true for your spiritual life. What you feed your soul matters. In fact, it matters a great deal more what you feed your soul than what you feed your body! If all you are consuming is the spiritual “junk food” of that which keeps you malnourished spiritually, you can’t be surprised when that malnourished soul doesn’t have the strength to endure when times get tough!
Notice what St. Paul calls a healthy spiritual diet. First “words of faith.” These “faith words” cannot be reduced to mere “positive confessions.” No, the words St. Paul is talking about are the words of the Holy Scriptures, wise prayers, the faithful testimony of the saints. All those “words” that nourish your own faith to stay strong and grow! Next, Paul mentions “good doctrine.” Well, if he says there are “good” doctrines, then those “bad” doctrines must be the empty calories of the shallow theology that leaves us malnourished! The “good” doctrines are the solid and timeless theology of the Faith once for all delivered to the saints. That theology that St. Vincent of Lerins said is found in “what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all.” That’s where you’ll find the “good” doctrines that nourish your soul. Finally, Paul mentions spiritual exercise! He tells Timothy that bodily training is good (man I have to get in the gym this week!), but “godliness” is valuable now AND in eternity. The spiritual exercise of a daily practice of the Faith takes all that spiritual nourishment you’ve received and puts it to work! Prayer, Fasting, and Generosity are the basic exercises of a Purposeful Orthodox Christian Life!
Of course, Paul warns Timothy to avoid the empty calories that don’t nourish the soul: “godless and silly myths.” Frankly there should be a warning label on some silly teachings that circulate in our world! How can you recognize these “godless and silly myths?” The first giveaway is the silly notion that this is a “new” discovery or held by the “secret” society. It isn’t hard to discover the healthy from the unhealthy. It’s hard to avoid the unhealthy and practice the healthy.
Today, watch what you eat, both physically and spiritually. Pay attention to what goes into your stomach and your heart and mind. When you’re healthy physically, that’s a blessing. But when you’re healthy spiritually, that’s an eternal gift that also blesses everyone around you. When you determine to be Orthodox on Purpose, you decide for a healthy spiritual life!
P.S. We have two more weeks left in 2016. You may be already setting some goals for yourself for 2017. Please consider adding Faith Encouraged Ministries to your thoughts about next year. As we’ve shared these devotionals, our new book, our Outreach video series “A Journey to Fullness,” we’ve started receiving more and more notes and requests here at Faith Encouraged. When you help support the creation and sustaining work of our outreach, you empower us to respond to those who reach out to us! Invest in outreach this year by clicking here and making your gift to FE. Thanks and have a great weekend.