Two Sumo Wrestlers
Last summer, ten of us headed out in three vehicles. Halfway there, we stopped for gas. Only, I got distracted thinking about lunch.
Just as I started my pump-up, a friend asked if I’d be in charge of picking where we’d have lunch. Visions of Wendy’s Frosties danced through my head. I didn’t realize until we were back on the road an hour later—my belly full of chocolate Frosty—that my pump never filled my tank! I was running on “E,” and ended up being left behind by my friends who were happily on their way to Dayton.
I think a lot of Christians are like me and my GMC Envoy. We make all the right stops for fuel—church, Christian school, volunteering—but we don’t really get spiritually filled up. They’re sometimes merely superficial stops, and all the while, our minds are on things our flesh craves—Frosties, Facebook, sleeping in, or the next great movie. Often, the appetites of our flesh are stronger than those of our spirit.
The spirit and flesh are in constant battle to be fueled. Our spirit is the eternal/inner self that houses the Spirit of God and communes with Him. Our flesh is our body, emotions, and appetites which seek external fulfillment through the physical world. These two are often at odds. Think of it as two sumo wrestlers. One is your spirit. One is your soul. The one that you feed is the one that will always win!
We fuel the spirit with things like:
- Reading the Word
- Hearing the Word
- Listening to worship music
- Asking a spiritually mature person for advice
- Being mentored
And these cannot be superficial stops where we dutifully put in our time with God. They must be intentional encounters where we wait on Him for a true connection.
We fuel the flesh with things like:
- Talking on the phone
- Watching TV
- Listening to secular music
These things are not bad in and of themselves, but we all know they can become consuming to us and distract us from feeding our spirit. Sometimes feeding our flesh can include sinful things such as looking at porn, overeating, gossiping to make yourself feel important, and other vices. But not always.
I shared this sumo wrestler battle between the flesh and the spirit on the Pure Freedom tour in Adrian, Michigan, Wednesday night, and was shocked at how responsive the girls were to the concept. It resonated deeply with them. Here’s the thing—most of them weren’t struggling with anything outright sinful or evil. They were broken over the fact that they were starving their spirit by . . . mere busyness. In fact, some of the busyness was a result of too much church, too much service, too much Christian-ese and not enough solitude and feeding of their spirit on their own.
I shared with them the story of the ten virgins from Matthew 25:1–13. You are likely familiar with the story. Ten virgins are awaiting the Bridegroom. When he comes, five foolish virgins have oil lamps that have gone out and are not ready for his arrival. They plead with the wise virgins for some of their oil. But the wise virgins cannot give them their oil. To me, this speaks volumes about the fact that we cannot solely feed our spirit by relying on our pastors, youth pastors, parents, teachers, and others to fuel us. You must feed your own spirit!
You’ll notice that the five virgins who were ready when the Bridegroom returned had been in solitude. Picture them sitting in their houses covered in aromatic oils, tending to their lamps. It was something like a spa experience, what a young Jewish bride experienced in waiting for her groom. She had that lamp lit and ready for him to arrive. We might liken this to sitting in solitude to saturate our spirits with God’s presence.
The teens who I shared this with in Adrian were so very hungry in their spirits. Of course, they did not realize it until I began to talk about how we feed our sumo wrestling flesh so easily. We prayed with many of them to simply have a renewed appetite for the things of God. Keith Green once wrote:
If your heart takes more pleasure in reading novels, or watching TV, or going to movies, or talking to friends, rather than just sitting alone with God and embracing Him, sharing His cares and His burdens, weeping and rejoicing with Him, then how are you going to handle forever and ever in His presence with no TV, movies, or singles’ retreats? You’d be bored out of your mind in heaven if you’re not ecstatic about God now!
It would be crazy for you to think God would invite you to heaven, where the most exciting thing to do all day is gaze upon His glorious face, if you’re not in heaven right here on earth when you’re alone with Him! Do you think that after you die, suddenly you’ll be in heaven and “poof!” all at once you’re not going to like worldly things anymore? All of a sudden you’ll love more than anything else just to hang out with God, when you couldn’t stand being alone with Him even twenty minutes a day?
—From Will You Be Bored in Heaven?
How about you? Are you feeding your spirit or your flesh more? If they were sumo wrestlers, who would win?
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