My husband and I are a bit over half way through a 100 day no-added-sugar challenge.
In response to hearing that we are doing this - usually after we've just refused a piece of cake or dessert and explained why - people's reactions are mixed, but often fall on the side of "glad it's you and not me. That sounds too hard."
People seem to worry for us that we are missing out on something, that it sounds too difficult, "this doesn't have much sugar, does it?" And they ask us "Don't you have less energy?"
But I've actually found the opposite is true. I have more energy because my body is not burdened with dealing with processed sugar. When I removed refined foods and replaced them with more healthful ones, I found the benefits have meant I don't feel like I'm 'missing out'. And you realise all the places sugar is hiding. Sometimes the cakes and chocolates might look tempting, but when I consider how much better I feel without them, it's much easier to say no and feel genuinely happy about it.
I'm not saying any food is evil, but I do think we've been lulled into believing some of the things we eat aren't really that bad, even when they are devastating our health.
But my point in this is not actually focused on our physical health. There's definitely a spiritual analogy in this.
When we make changes in our lives, when we let the Holy Spirit lead, our lives might look a bit radical, a bit different to others. We might give up things or let go of things that others look on and don't understand.
Isn't that too difficult?
Don't you feel like you're missing out?
Surely you don't need to be extreme about it?
But when you experience the real benefits and real power of the Holy Spirit, nothing else compares anymore. Giving up your old nature, your old values, you old way of thinking seems trifling in comparison.
And it's even better than just giving up some unhealthy food and feeling more energetic, because it is a supernatural energy. It is all down to the Holy Spirit, not your own strength, drive or will power.
Sometimes you might feel tempted. Sometimes your old self beckons like a sugar laden bowl of lollies. "But I'll taste so good. Just have a little bit..."
But the closer you are with the Spirit, and the longer you stay this way, the easier it is to recognise the temptation and realise it doesn't have the power over you it once did.
Though you can choose to turn away if you decide to.
We had chocolate and soft drink when it was my husbands birthday. It wasn't that we gave in on the spur of the moment because the temptation was too great. A bit like Eve, I decided I was going to eat sugar that day and make the most of it, and I think my husband went along with me. Then we both got sick and felt horrible for the next week. We'd cleaned out our systems and they now recognised this stuff as foreign and utterly useless to our bodies.
It is the same when you are in tune with the things of God.
The things of the world are seen as the pale imitations they really are. The things that we once thought weren't that bad, that we only did it sometimes, that it was just a white lie, that its not really hurting anyone... they stand out in stark relief and we see that our lives were being whittled down and the lines blurred so we lived in complacency, apathy and impotency.
Don't be afraid of what others will think. Don't be afraid that you'll be missing out on the 'cake' of life if you give everything over to God.
Have faith that the God who created you knows the things that will really satisfy - not momentarily and fleetingly, leaving you empty and guilty - but a lasting purpose, vitality and satisfaction that can only come from being fully committed to the relationship with God for which you were made.
Brothers and sisters, in light of all I have shared with you aboutGod’s mercies, I urge you to offer your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God, a sacred offering that brings Him pleasure; this is your reasonable, essential worship. Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.