Don't sacrifice the future for the pleasures of the present

Posted: Friday, June 06, 2003

Like many Americans, I resolved to make some positive changes in my life not long after the first of the year.

The nature of some of these changes, like many my age, was to lose some excess weight. So, with the help of Dr. Atkins and a little patience from my wife, I am making good on my resolve.

As everyone knows, however, losing the weight is only half the battle. Keeping it off once the goal is achieved is the more significant half. That is where one's thinking must change. My eating habits were the result of my incorrect thinking.

What led me to this resolve was seeing some of my friends who had lost weight after they had changed their diet following heart attacks. Now I'm not the sharpest pencil in the can, but it did occur to me that it might be smart for me to make the change in my diet before I had my heart attack.

My problem is that I love food and I hate to be hungry. When I come home after work, I am looking for something to eat right now. Mind you, I'm not going to starve to death, but I feel like I am.

If my wife doesn't have dinner ready as soon as I am home, I tend to eat the first available thing. which is usually some form of junk food.

Now my wife is a great cook and I know that if I were to wait instead of filling myself with chips and cookies, I would be much more satisfied, her food would taste better than the salty and too sweet choices that are immediately available and I probably wouldn't have as much of a problem with putting on weight.

It's a choice. Waiting for something better is difficult when the promise of something immediate beckons, even when that choice is ultimately less satisfying and problematic. So, as a result, when dinner is served, I'm not as hungry and I eat less of what is better-tasting and better for me than if I had the discipline to wait.

No doubt you can see a spiritual parallel coming.

Many times we make choices in favor of the immediate at the expense of the better. I meet people who don't frequently attend church because they feel they don't have the time, yet they watch a little television religious programming, or listen to some tapes from some far-away preacher and feel like they are spiritually nourished. Understand, I'm not against television religious programming or listening to preaching tapes or viewing religious videos. These things are great. However, like chips and cookies, they are not qualified substitutes for the main course.

It's a lot like watching sports instead of participating in sports. We get some visual stimulation, but do not benefit like we would from playing sports. We believe that such things can replace the real thing. This is mistaken thinking in my opinion.

From the book of Daniel we see an interesting illustration. From the first chapter we learn that Daniel and his three friends were taken as captives to Babylon. It was there that the king wished to groom them for leadership. Part of the preparation was to eat the food that the king himself ate rich foods and wine, things that Daniel as a Jew knew were not for him.

But Daniel determined that he would not defile himself by eating the king's food or drinking his wine, so he asked the head of the palace staff to exempt him from the royal diet.

This caused some great concern for the one who was entrusted with Daniel's care. No doubt at this point it would have been easy to compromise and give in to the diet the king ordered for him.

However, Daniel knew that this was something that would be wrong for him. So, he proposed a test. Daniel and his three friends were to eat only "plain food" lentils and vegetables and drink only water for a 10-day period. If they looked like they were about to die, they would eat the king's diet. If they looked healthy they would be allowed to keep their own diet. Daniel 1:8 (The Message Bible).

At the end of the 10 days, they looked better and more robust than all the others who had been eating from the royal menu.

What a surprise. Healthy food actually was better for them! Because of this, Daniel and his friends were given favor and promoted to very high offices in the kingdom of Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel 1:15 (The Message Bible).

What choices are you making? Are you trading the future for some quick junk food that is convenient now, but harmful in the long run?

Believe me, I know how difficult it is to change the way we think and behave, especially if we are comfortable and mostly happy with the present. The wise person will look a little further into the future and make some changes now before he or she is forced to, or worse, before it's too late.

Well, I can see it's about lunch time....

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