Obesity and the failure to exercise discipline in my eating have burdened my life for years. I have been a Christian for years and I am a pastor. I often prayed for the self-control that is one of the fruits of the Spirit. I longed to help other people with their problems but in my heart I always wondered if they believed the things I said because it was obvious that I had this major failure in my own life. I often thought of Paul’s chilling words in I Corinthians 9:27; “…I keep under my body and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
I felt like my overweight was mocking my God like the Philistine giant mocked David’s God. Everywhere I went I was painfully conscious of the obvious evidence of my lack of self-control.
A year ago I was over one hundred pounds over my ideal weight. I tried so many things to lose weight and none of them worked. I tried different diets and diet supplements. I set goals, prayed, and even wrote up a plan with ten simple rules, like the Ten Commandments for reaching my ideal weight. Those rules were good and they would have worked, but I could not discipline myself to keep them. They added to my frustration and feelings of failure whenever I saw them.
Though they didn’t show it my family must have been frustrated with hearing me grieve over my weight problem and flounder for years without victory. Over and over again I would get up early in the morning and run or ride my bike but the exercise didn’t give me the self-control I needed.
I would often eat little or nothing until late in the day. Then I would stand by the refrigerator and quickly eat what amounted to a meal when I got home. Later I would eat a large supper and then in the evening eat the equivalent of another meal before I went to bed. Almost every day I ate so much that my heart would pound and I would feel uncomfortably full.
I read many books on nutrition, diet and exercise and I knew the kinds of foods and the amounts that I needed to eat, but I could not discipline myself to do what I knew was right. My wife would buy good whole grains, fruit, vegetables and meat low in fat, and I would let them spoil while I chose to eat high-fat foods instead. I loved to eat large amounts of high-fat beef and fried-chicken, pizza, cakes, pies, cookies, and chips. My habits were bad and I was in sinful bondage to them. I rarely allowed myself to carefully and honestly evaluate how much I really ate.
A few years ago I sensed the Lord directing me to go on a forty-day fast. I had only water and mints and ate no solid food. I wanted to walk with the Lord and have the power of God on my life. I wanted to have victory over my appetite. During the course of the fast I lost weight, but as soon as I went back to my old habits the weight quickly returned. During that time it became obvious to me that my gluttony was a form of idolatry. I was seeking delight and soul-satisfaction in food that only the Lord could give.
Last April (2000) I reached an all-time high. We purchased a bathroom scale for my mother-in-law as a birthday gift. At the party that night we all stood around and weighed ourselves and joked about our weight. When I weighed, the scale read “error.” After I tried a few more times it finally read 300 pounds! I laughed outwardly but inwardly I was defeated and discouraged.
Through the years I poured my heart out to the Lord and recorded my requests in my journals. I found this interesting prayer written in my journal on the 12th of April. “I need help to bring my eating habits under control. I weigh nearly 300 pounds and I need to lose one hundred pounds. Help me to discipline myself and gain victory in this area, Lord, so I will live long enough to train my children to walk with you.” On April 24, 2000 I wrote this prayer: “I need to train myself to eat smaller portions and include healthier foods. I don’t want to be glutton, I want to weigh what I should and look and feel trim and fit and I want to extend my life, Lord willing, because I have an important work to do here on earth, especially with the children.”
I visited my doctor who is a member of our church and serves on our Deaconate. He warned me that I had dangerously high cholesterol and high blood pressure. My overall cholesterol count on June 6, 2000 was 268. My LDL cholesterol was 170.8. He advised me to lose weight. I was humiliated and frustrated. I preached to this man of the power of God and could not demonstrate it in my own life.
I remembered hearing a seminary professor say that statistically speaking it is more common for a person to recover from deep moral confusion and habitual sexual sin than that an obese person will achieve and maintain their ideal weight. I feared that I would never have the self-control I longed for.
The Truth that Brought Freedom
Early one morning in June all these things came together in my mind. I experienced a deep sense of brokenness and humility. The Lord brought to my mind a teaching that Mr. Gothard had given at an All-Day Ministers Seminar a couple years ago. The teaching was that the Lord has given us impossible commands and that the Christian life is impossible. He taught that God designed it this way so we would rely on him. He went on to give the teaching of Scripture on crying out to God. I had the notes in my file but until that morning I had not cried out to God for help. When I thought on that it was as if the lights went on in my spirit. I realized how impossible my problem was and that if I was ever going to defeat this enemy of my soul that was mocking my God I would have to cry out to the Lord to do for me what I could not do for myself.
That morning I cried out to the Lord. I firmly believe I experienced what I like to call a “forward thrust” in personal sanctification that morning early in June as an answer to prayer. I have had this experience before in a couple other major areas of my life. After struggling for years and working to make progress and having limited success and frequent failure there came a time of profound forward progress that I could not take credit for myself. God granted a level of freedom I did not have before.
My grandfather was a smoker. At one point in his life he prayed and the Lord took the desire to smoke away altogether. He threw his cigarettes away and never picked them up again. He believed it was a miracle and an answer to prayer. There were other areas of Christian obedience where I’m sure my grandpa struggled until he died. But in an instant God gave him freedom from smoking.
I think that is what happened to me when I cried out to God early that morning in June. I had looked at myself in the mirror and I was so discouraged and defeated. I fervently cried out to God that he would give me discipline that I did not possess and a profound change came from that day. It has continued to this day.
In six months I lost over 100 pounds and by God’s grace I have maintained a new level of self-control for a year. The Lord allowed me this victory without buying anything or joining any program. He delivered me without any fad diets, gimmicks, drugs, herbs or shakes. I lost the weight without a weight loss group and without spending any money on books, tapes, videos or programs. Most of the time I was unable to exercise because of a knee injury. Even though exercise is important, I lost 100 pounds without significant exercise.
Today I am 6’3″ tall and weigh 195 pounds. I have lost over 100 pounds and I feel better than ever. I have lost fourteen inches in my waist. I have lost nine inches in my chest. I have lost over four inches in my neck! Yesterday my doctor dropped by the study with the report that my new cholesterol readings are in the optimal range. My overall number went from 268 to 163 and my LDL went from 170.8 to 81.6. By God’s grace I never had to take medication for it. I do not have high blood pressure. Now the Doctor regularly encourages his patients to read what the Lord did for me.
I love to sing and have much greater wind than I have had in years. I am able to run three or four minutes a mile faster than before without additional training just because of the loss of 100 pounds.
People are shocked who haven’t seen me for a few months. They say I look like a completely different person. It is a wonderful feeling to get up in the morning and look in the mirror without feeling discouragement and frustration. I praise Him every day for what He has done in my life.
After the Lord gave me the additional self-control I was able to form healthy eating habits. I began to eat fruit, raw vegetables and salad. I chose to eat only the things available to me that I knew did not have any significant amount of fat. I have eaten only the smallest portions of high-fat meat and even then I took precautions to eat as little of the fat as possible. I avoid fat as if it will kill me, because I believe it can.
The Lord gave me unusual self-control. I went from June to November without a single cookie or piece of pie or cake. I have not had a French fry in a year. I allowed myself certain “treats” as a way of rewarding myself for my personal discipline. I often enjoyed a single carefully measured portion of frozen yogurt, which is not particularly low calorie, but has little or no fat. Once I reached my ideal weight I have allowed myself a reasonable portion of dessert nearly every day.
Since early June last year I have not had a single episode of gluttony. Every meal I eat small, reasonable portions of food that I know to be good for me. If the family is eating a casserole, goulash or spaghetti, I allow myself to eat one cup of it with a salad, fruit, whole wheat bread, a vegetable and drink. I eat low-fat meats in small measured portions. I do not refill my plate.
While I was losing weight the family held me accountable for what I ate every day. At the evening meal I would tell them all that I ate through the day. My wife and children prayed for me. My wife and daughters planned meals that I could eat and helped make healthy foods, fruit and whole-wheat bread available for me. My daughters made good granola for my breakfast. Each member of the family helped me in their own way consistent with their spiritual gift.
Looking back it is clear to me that it was the power of the Holy Spirit that set me free and He used the truth to do it. John 8:32 promises; “and ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” I believe the truth set me free from bondage to gluttony. John 17:17 says; “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” I believe the truth has sanctified me in this area.
Reflecting on what the Lord has done in my life over the last year four areas of truth stand out to me. When the seeds of truth were planted in my spirit the fruit of holiness began to form in my life.
God Granted Me Deliverance from Gluttony:
1. When I realized that victory was humanly impossible. “without me ye can do nothing…” (John 15:5).
2. When I acknowledged that my gluttony was idolatry. I saw that I was trying to find soul satisfaction in food that only God can give. I began to acknowledge that my delight was in food rather in the One who gave me the food. I began to delight myself in the Lord. (Psalm 37:4)
3. When I began to “walk in the light.” In other words I was honest about my sin. Proverbs 28:13 says; “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” Walking in the light is being honest and confessing the hold food has on my soul. Walking in the light is being honest about how often and how much food I am eating. Walking in the light is submitting to open accountability to others for what I am eating every meal, every day.
4. When I cried out to God. Psalm 34 has become very precious to me in the last year. “I sought the Lord and he heard me and delivered me from all my fears. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and his ears are open to their cry. The righteous cry and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” (Psalm 34: 4,6, 15, 17-19) Though the other truths and factors were working in my heart and contributed to my deliverance from sin, the break-through did not come until I cried out desperately and fervently to God.
I’m so glad I finally cried out to the Lord. He is still working in me to give me the grace to walk in daily obedience to him. I could never do it without Him. My confidence and hope is not in me, but in the Lord Jesus who saved me and is delivering me from bondage to sin. I am claiming the sweet promise of Philippians 1:6; “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
All glory to the Lord Jesus for what He has done! When I called on the Lord in the day of trouble, He delivered me and I am giving Him glory. (Psalm 50:15) By his grace and help I want to seek Him with my whole heart so I will never wander from His commandments. (Psalm 119:10)