How the Physical Illumines the Spiritual

Growth in the physical and spiritual realms.

U. D. Register, Ph.D.,  is professor of nutrition at Loma Linda School of Health

SCIENTISTS  in  general,  and  bio chemists  in  particular,  are  learning much about growth and life in the physical  realm,  but in  2  Peter  3:18 we learn of  another important aspect of  growth: "Grow  in  grace,  and  in the  knowledge of  our  Lord  and Saviour, Jesus Christ."

Growth  implies life.  There is  no  real life  without  Christ.  Genetically we  are born  with  errors  of  spiritual  metabolism.  As  an  infant  who  lacks  essential genes  will  stop  growing  mentally  and physically (such as those having phenyl-ketonuria, a disease  caused by a lack of genes  to  make  an  enzyme  to  oxidize phenylalanine),  so  any  of  our  own  at tempts  to  develop  spiritual  perfection result in failure.

Jeremiah  17:9  tells  us,  "The  heart is deceitful  above  all  things,  and  desperately wicked:  who can know it?" We are born  without  such  spiritual  genes  as unselfishness,  patience,  honesty,  love, meekness,  peace,  faith,  joy,  goodness, and temperance. But we are born with a desire or at least a need, for God. By par taking of  Christ we  are  re-created with all  the  genes essential  for  full spiritual growth. There is  no parallel in physical growth  to  this  miracle  of  rebirth.  One born with  a  lack  of  a  certain gene can not have it applied.

The  essential  requirements  for growth  include  sunshine,  food,  air  or oxygen,  and exercise.

Sunshine—The  sun  is  the  ultimate source  of  energy  upon  which  all  plants and  animals  are  dependent  for  life. Plants  take  energy  from  the  sun,  convert water to hydrogen and oxygen, and store  energy  as  food.  We  reverse  these processes  by  eating the  food,  removing the hydrogen, giving the hydrogen back to  the  oxygen to  form water,  and using the energy for growth and activity. So it is  in  spiritual  matters.  By  turning  to the  Sun  of  Righteousness  we  receive power  for spiritual growth. 

Food—Food is stored power, but to be effective  it must  be  eaten.  In Jeremiah 15:16  we  read,  "Thy words  were  found, and  I  did  eat them." We must eat food, whether  physical  or  spiritual,  to  receive  power.

All  essential  nutrients must be  present  for  healthy  growth.  One  essential lacking in a  diet makes all others ineffective.

Air or  Oxygen—We  may  eat  all the essential  food  nutrients for growth, but if there is no oxygen available, little effective  energy  is  produced  and  death soon  follows.  We  obtain  twenty  times more  energy from carbohydrates if oxygen  is  present,  and  no  energy  from  fat if oxygen is not present.

Prayer  is  beautifully  represented  as the  breath  of  the  soul.  Spiritual power for  growth  from  God's  Word  requires prayer. It is the life of the soul. We must pray  always  if we  would have power to grow  in  faith  and  experience,  even  as we  can live only a few minutes without oxygen.

Exercise—It's  even  possible  that we may  overeat  of  the  nutrients  of  the Word.  If we  do  not exercise and use the power  available,  excess  growth  results that  is  not  genuine.  Spiritual  fat  re places  muscles.  This  can lead to  spiritual  atherosclerosis.  Where  active labor for others is lacking, love and faith grow dim.  If  we  retain  all  available  energy for  selfish  purposes,  the  result  will  be spiritual  obesity.  Balanced  growth  can only  result  when  we  combine  spiritual diet with spiritual exercise.

Dynamics of Growth—The body is in a  dynamic  state.  There  is  constant  degeneration  or  dying  of  tissue  and  the replacing of it with new tissue. At birth the  Christian  acquires  the  wasting process of sin. He is no sooner born than he begins to die.  At the time of the new birth, however, he acquires the capacity for  spiritual  growth.  This  necessitates continual  feeding  on  the Word  if  he  is to  maintain  spiritual  life  and  develop Christian character.

We may have plenty of  good food and oxygen,  but  unless  there  is  hormonal control  of  body  metabolism,  the  whole energy-producing system goes awry, and we  shall  not be  able to  utilize the  food and  effectively  tap  its  energy  when needed. So it is the controlling power of the  Holy  Spirit in  our lives that makes the  power  in  the  Word  available  for healthy  spiritual  growth,  by  storing its energy in a  useful  form that can be  effectively released when needed.

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U. D. Register, Ph.D.,  is professor of nutrition at Loma Linda School of Health

March 1976

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