As a departure from the political/religious/economic topics I've written about lately, I wanted to talk for a minute about an interesting scripture in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. The discussion there is on sharing the Lord's supper and the problems the Corinthian church were having while coming together for communion. The problem arose because people were divided at the Lord's supper and were looking our for themselves rather than desiring to have unity with one another. These people also had no connection and communion with God, the real purpose of the Lord's supper.
When we take the Lord's Supper, we break the bread as a remembrance of the fact that the Body of Christ was broken for us. Specifically, He was broken so that we could be healed. Isaiah 53 shows this in verse 4 and 5, "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed."
That last phrase is key, "by His stripes we are healed." His punishment brings our healing. His punishment also makes it possible for us to have a relationship with Him. By His stripes we are healed and by the shedding of His blood we are forgiven. The second, you could say, allows for the first. When our sins are forgiven and we can reconnect with God, we can then receive from Him all that is necessary for healing. This is a physical, mental and spiritual healing. I'm not saying that a relationship with God means you won't have physical illness, but I do believe that good health begins with a relationship with God.
The person who is rightly connected to God is able to resist bitterness, is able to extend grace to others and forgive, is able to trust God in difficult circumstances, is able to go to God for answers in the midst of a challenge. Walking with God reduces stress! We don't have to have it all figured out, we can rest in Him. Just that alone is a great foundation for health. Add to that the leadership of the Holy Spirit in the various things we choose to do. For example, the Holy Spirit may lead me to drink less alcohol, eat less sugar, go to bed earlier, get more exercise, stop being so angry, let something I'm stewing over go. God actually leads me into a place of health. Connectedness with God is the beginning of the answer for every problem we face. Whether its relationships or work or depression or addiction or finances - you name it, knowing who you are in God and being connected to the source of your life is where you'll find the answers you need to deal with the problems that come up.
You might be wondering, "how can I tell how connected I am to God?" For me, a measure of my connectedness is 1) the quality of my praise of God and 2) my focus on others.
So the first measure of my connectedness is the quality of my praise of God. I heard someone say recently that happy people are first grateful people. Throughout all of life, there will be challenges. We all have challenges every day - everyone does. But at the same time we all have things in our lives that are going well. A happy person praises God for the things that are going well and trusts Him in the things that are difficult. If I am negative, upset, and focusing exclusively on the difficult things, then I'll quickly become unhappy. That unhappiness is evidence that I'm disconnected from God. But when I say, "God I trust you in this because you have promised me so many good things in your Word, plus I rejoice in and am grateful for all the good that I am experiencing", the weight of my difficult circumstances falls away. God comes through for the person who rejoices and gives Him praise - because that person is fully connected to God.
The second measure of my connectedness with God is the level of my focus on others. When I'm concerned mainly about me and what's going on in my life, I tend not to think about what is important to God and what is important to others. As the scripture began, "when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you." (vs 18) People are divided when they are concerned about themselves rather than loving those that God has brought into their lives. Factions and divisions are evidence of disconnection from God.
These scriptures point out the connection between our unity with God, our unity with others, the food that we eat and the impact of all of these on our health. The section culminates in vs 30 with this startling conclusion: "For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many die." We want the opposite of "weakness, sickness, and death." We want "strength, health, and life." These start with salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and continue with an ongoing spiritual connection to God through the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
I wrote this blog today because I was thinking about the scriptures in 1 Cor 11 in regards to what we normally pray when we sit down to eat dinner. I wanted to write a dinner prayer that I could pray with my wife and our family. Considering what I learned from these scriptures, this is what I wrote:
"Dear Lord, we thank you for this meal and the opportunity we have to share in it together. We thank you for our fellowship and pray for unity as we eat. May our communion with you and with each other and may the food that we enjoy together provide for strength, health, and life. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen."