Changed: A real life story from Element Church

Yesterday at Element Church, I taught about honoring God with our bodies!  This affects every part of our physical lives, but I focused on how we care for our bodies physically.  This is only second time in my 20 years of ministry that I’ve spoken on the subject and both of them have been here at Element Church.  The last time I spoke on it, Kim, a member here at Element, shared a personal story with me.  This was in January of 2012.  As we headed into addressing it again I asked if she could update me on her story and what God has done since.

Kim attends Element with her husband Todd and their three daughters (Morgan, Emma and Hannah).  They are all heavily involved in the ministry here and truly a part of our home!  I was not expecting the update Kim gave me.  What she gave was actually better than what I expected.  Her story doesn’t include all the “results” that she was hoping for, but her relationship with God has!  That’s the whole point!  Caring for our bodies is not about results, it’s about our relationship with God.

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Please read Kim’s story below.  This is is her words and I couldn’t have said them any better.  As we seek to honor God with our bodies, let’s remember, as Kim says, that true joy and strength are only found in Jesus:

At the end is my original email I sent to Pastor Jeff in 2013.  I don’t know why I held onto this email, Jesus does though. It was a great story, still is, but only the beginning of what God had in store for me. A few months after writing that original email, I completed my first 5k and then my anxiety came back with a vengeance. I got back on medication and started to battle the weight gain…again.

Over the next four years, I got off and on meds, ran race after race, and slowly started gaining back some of the 67lbs I had lost.  I’ve been disappointed in myself, ashamed before Jesus, and overwhelmed with the balance of taking care of the temple God has gifted me with, all the while living in a world where stressors can be debilitating. Now though, here’s the difference.

Before, I struggled with weight without Jesus.  Now I continue to struggle with weight but WITH Jesus. Yes, the crappy food choices still sometimes win, BUT now I try to pray through these choices. Now I’m able to acknowledge what I am doing and turn to Him to help me through it. The enemy hasn’t won, I’ve still got fight in me and will continue to try to make healthy choices to strengthen the temple Jesus lives in.

I was sitting, praying, wondering how to bring God the glory through this story. Because let’s be honest…this isn’t fun for me to be vulnerable about something I’ve tried to hide most of my life. I was reading a Bible plan about feeling overwhelmed when I was presented with a moment in Elijah’s life. He was tired and worn and just wanted to give up! He had nothing left in his tank. The Bible says:

1 Kings 19:4-6  But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again.

Wait?! What? Cake?! Jesus came to him, at his lowest and his help came in the form of cake!!! See! When you are down, tired, and your tank is empty Jesus says in scripture to eat cake!! It sounded too good to be true. (Jeff speaking here, this is AWESOME by the way!  HA!)  This was in the ASV version the Bible. I decided to look at the NLT version and it said “bread” instead of cake. Well? I like bread, I can get behind that too! Then it hit me…bread…Bread of Life.

The scripture says the angel came back a second time, had Elijah eat again and Elijah was STRENGTHENED by the food and was able to get up and continue! Praise God! Food gives us sustenance but only the Bread of Life(Jesus) can strengthen us.

Over the course of four years, I’ve realized my weight issues aren’t a food issue but a JOY issue.  Food can comfort and bring me fleeting happiness but true JOY and STRENGTH is only found in my God! So there’s my story in a nutshell.

I’m still a work in progress, I’m still imperfect. I’ll still eat cookies, and Ben and Jerry’s and may skip some exercise days but I now turn to Him to strengthen me to bring Him glory through my struggles. Here’s to losing the weight again and to glorifying Him through my body!

Here is my original story:

Dear Pastor Jeff, 

I am writing you to thank you for your BOLD sermons. One of those sermons is changing my life. I remember sitting in the second row during a sermon series called “The Year of the Comeback”. It was the final sermon of the series titled, “Self- Discipline”. The date was January 26, 2012, just over a year ago.
I was sitting there a bit defensive and annoyed at the topic. I have struggled with weight since I was 15 years old. I’ve been on numerous fad diets, that worked for a bit but then I gained the weight back. I was at the point where I had resigned myself to being “ok” with being overweight. As you spoke I looked at you and thought, he’s never been through the weight struggles, how can he preach to me about self-discipline, it’s easy for him! Then you showed us the before picture when you were 70lbs heavier. I had no more excuses.  It was time to listen.
I could feel the Holy Spirit move inside of me and I was able to listen without all the walls up. You spoke about taking care of our bodies as an act of worship to God! Wow! I had never thought of it that way. Here is this amazing gift God gave me and I wasn’t using it to glorify His name! I was lazy, tired, and full of excuses why I couldn’t lose the weight. I wasn’t focused on the right reasons to lose it.  I had never included HIM each time I struggled to lose the weight.
This time I realized that if I truly wanted to walk the Christian path I had to lose the weight with His guidance. Four days after your sermon I joined Weight Watchers for the sixth time in my life. In the past, I had lost 25 lbs and would quit. This time, it was different. I wanted to make my life better so that I could show others what God can truly do in your life if you just seek Him. I have now lost 60lbs! I am 25 lbs away from my goal! I just entered my first 5k which I will be running in August. I am a better mother, wife, daughter, and friend because of this change.

So to sum it up.. thank you for being the type of Pastor who will say what needs to be said to help us grow closer to God and be the best Christians we can possibly be.

Kim, thank you so much for letting me share your story.  I hope and pray that it encourages people in their own struggle to honor and worship God with their bodies.  I know it wasn’t easy for you to be vulnerable like this, but I know that it will not only help others but help you on your journey as well.
For everyone, please remember that It’s not about how much we weigh or how we look.  It’s not about how good or bad we follow an eating plan or exercise routine.  This starts on the inside and works it’s way to the outside.  It starts with my desire to worship Jesus with my body and leads to how I care for it every day!
Jeff Maness
I am a follower of Jesus first, husband to a beautiful wife, father to four amazing children, lead pastor of Element Church in Cheyenne, WY, and blogger of all things life.

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