Energy Part 1 – The Body’s Energy

Scripture: 1st Kings 19:1-9

Title: Energy – Part 1

Structure:

  • Introduction
  • The body’s energy
  • Conclusion

Introduction:

Today we continue our series on well-being and care of the soul, using the acronym: HEALING.

–         Each letter represents a word which, when properly applied, is life giving to the human soul…

–         Hope Energy Appreciation Lament Inter-dependence Nurture & Giving

–         Last Sunday we heard about hope

–         Today our message focuses on energy

 

When we talk about energy, as it relates to people, we mean the strength, vitality or power required for activity.

–         Energy is one of the resources we need to function and get things done.

–         Depression is a state of very low energy or exhaustion.

To help us explore this subject of energy we are going to look at an episode in the life of Elijah – from 1st Kings, chapter 19

–         Elijah was one of the great prophets of Israel

–         He lived at a time in Israel’s history when it wasn’t easy to follow the Lord – in fact the queen (Jezebel) wanted Elijah dead

–         In 1st Kings 19 Elijah is on the run for his life after defeating the prophets of Baal. He is at a very low ebb – physically & emotionally exhausted

–         From verse 1 we read…

Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets [of Baal] with the sword.  So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I don’t do the same thing to you.”

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there,

But [Elijah] himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep.

Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again.

The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.

May the Spirit of Jesus illuminate God’s word for us

 

This morning I had planned to talk about two types of energy

–         Body energy and soul energy

–         But as I got into the preparation it became evident that I wasn’t going to be able to say everything I needed to in just one sermon

–         So, rather than having one really long message, I’ve decided to break it into two messages over two Sundays – focusing on the body’s energy today and looking at the soul’s energy next week

By ‘body energy’ I mean physical things like food & sleep

–         And by ‘soul energy’ I mean things that feed our mind, emotions & spirit

–         This is not to say that the body & soul are separate or unrelated

–         To the contrary there is a close relationship between our body & soul so that what happens to our soul can affect our body and vice versa

–         Nevertheless, the soul needs different things from the body – we cannot live by bread alone

–         But as I said before we’ll look at the soul’s energy next week – this morning is about the body’s energy

 

Body energy:

Since we are talking about the body, let’s have a little game of charades

–         I’ll mime something and you need to guess what it is I’m miming

o   Mime dancing a waltz

o   Mime riding a bike

o   Mime bowling a cricket ball

 

Now there are two skills each of these activities require – would anyone like to guess what they are?

–         (And if you need a clue the answer is on the back of the newsletter)

–         That’s right – rhythm and balance

 

Two things that help to support our energy levels are rhythm & balance

–         It’s like riding a bike – to keep the bike upright and moving forward you need to maintain the rhythm of your pedalling and your balance

–         If your rhythm is disturbed then it takes more energy to pedal – and if you go too fast or too slow you risk losing your balance and falling off

 

Just as rhythm & balance are essential when riding a bike or dancing, so too our body & soul are supported by rhythm & balance

–         To put it in more practical terms, if life gets out of balance – if we work too hard or don’t keep regular rhythms of eating & sleeping then our energy levels will be depleted

 

Elijah has been on a roller coaster – his lifestyle has lacked rhythm & balance

–         Consequently, in 1st Kings 19, we find Elijah at his lowest point

–         Jezebel wants him dead and he is running in fear for his life

–         Elijah feels isolated & alone – physically & emotionally exhausted

–         He has lost perspective – unable to see anything good in the future

–         He would rather be dead than carry on so he asks God to take his life

–         This is not suicide, at least not exactly, but it’s pretty close to it

–         Elijah is asking God to euthanize him

–         I don’t think Elijah actually wants to die – otherwise why would he be running away to save his life

–         But he does appear to be in a great deal of pain or distress and simply wants that distress to end

 

You’ve got to love the honesty of the Bible – they tell the story warts and all

–         This is shocking – how did Elijah get into such a despairing state?

–         In my mind Elijah is like the Yoda of Old Testament prophets – he’s like a Jedi master

–         On one occasion Elijah raised a widow’s son from the dead

–         Everything he predicts comes true and, less than 24 hours earlier, he won a massive victory over the priests of Baal

–         One would think that someone who was as strong in faith and as close to God as Elijah was would be immune from burn out & despair

 

Well, no. Being a servant of God does not give us immunity from despair

–         Following Jesus usually involves a dark night of the soul, at some stage

–         Yes, Jesus came to give us abundant life but the road to abundant life is sometimes marked by emptiness & pain

–         When we feel down we might think that God is not happy with us or that he is absent or that our faith is somehow faulty – but that’s not true

–         Jesus said,  “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”

–         Or as Eugene Peterson puts it, “You are blessed when you feel at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule”

–         You see, our feelings are not a reliable gauge of our faith – just as our energy levels are no indicator of the status of our relationship with God

 

In a strange way Elijah’s despair actually gives us hope

–         If we find ourselves stressed out, burned out, anxious and wishing our life was over, then we can read Elijah’s story and know that we are not alone

–         Not only that but we can know that God doesn’t give up on people – so there is a way through, healing is an option

–         People matter to God – we are not a disposable item to him

–         God refuses to euthanize Elijah – he doesn’t accept Elijah’s resignation

–         God would rather restore people and continue to use them in his service, despite our weakness and imperfection

–         God’s grace was sufficient for Elijah and it is sufficient for us

 

The Lord starts the restoration process by taking care of Elijah’s physical needs

–         He sends an angel who provides food and water for the exhausted prophet – Elijah is given time to eat and rest

–         It seems so obvious that it doesn’t need to be mentioned but food & sleep are essential to sustaining our body’s energy

 

We sang that song at the beginning of the service…

–         The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning

–         We can’t always recognise God’s mercies at the end of the day when we are tired, but after a good night’s sleep our perspective returns and we can see the good news again

 

One of the keys to good quality sleep is rhythm – going to bed and getting up at the same time every day

–         Now I know this isn’t always possible, especially when you are caring for children, but you do the best you can under the circumstances

–         And if you miss a bit of sleep you don’t worry – you know you will cope and you can catch up later

 

Another key to maintaining bodily energy and quality sleep is physical exercise

–         I remember working as a builder’s labourer during one summer holidays

–         Building means an early start and it’s physically demanding – shifting dirt, lifting wood, swinging a hammer and being on your feet all day

–         It’s also mentally demanding in that you have to think about the smartest way to get something done without causing problems for anyone else

–         Man was I tired in the evening – I slept soundly for 9 hours in a row every night – but I had the physical energy I needed during the day

 

If we sit around all day looking at a screen then we can’t expect to get to sleep easily or to stay asleep for long

–         Incidentally, on the subject of screen time, you will improve your chances of getting to sleep if you turn off your devices an hour or two before going to bed – give yourself some time to wind down at night

 

The food we eat and the time we eat also affects our sleep

–         Everyone’s metabolism is a little bit different so you’ve got to work out what the best routine is for you

–         But generally speaking we tend to function better if we have a bigger meal at breakfast or lunch and eat a bit less in the evening

–         With diet the key is balance – not overdoing (or underdoing) anything

–         Sugar and caffeine are stimulants so we don’t need too much of that stuff, especially just before bed

–         Alcohol is a depressant so if we are already feeling a bit down then having a wine or a beer or a whisky is only going to make it worse

–         Having said that, it’s okay to have the odd coffee, or chocolate bar or beer, so long as you don’t have a problem with those sort of things

–         It’s like the Proverb says: If you find honey eat as much as is good for you – too much will make you sick [1]

–         The Biblical principle is self-control – you be in charge of your appetite, not the other way round

 

Much of what I’m saying is common sense and you’ve probably heard it before but for some strange reason it still takes most of us quite a while to learn to take care of our body’s energy

 

Another thing that helps with sleep is social connection

–         A neuroscientist by the name of John Cacioppo teamed up with some anthropologists and did some research on loneliness

–         What they found is that people who are lonely tend to have poor quality sleep while people with a strong sense of social connection sleep better [2]

 

Now you might wonder, how do they know this?

–         Well, anywhere in the world where people describe being lonely, they will also experience more ‘micro-awakenings’ throughout their sleep.

–         A micro awakening is a small moment in which you rise a little from your slumber. You are not likely to remember it the next day

–         But if you’ve got one of those Apple watches it will probably tell you

–         You can get an app that monitors your sleep these days

–         Apparently if we feel isolated or alone our brain won’t let us go into full sleep mode, because sub-consciously we don’t feel safe – we think no one has got our back

 

There’s a religious community in the States called the Hutterites

–         They are sort of like the Amish – they live off the land and work and eat and worship together

–         I don’t know what their theology is like but apparently they are a really close knit community where everyone has got everybody else’s back

–         When John and his team wired up people in the Hutterite community, they found the Hutterites had barely any micro-awakenings – because they had good social connections & could relax into a deep sleep

 

This relationship between healthy social connections and good quality sleep is an example of the way our body & soul interact

 

When we look at 1st Kings 19 the text makes it clear that Elijah felt completely alone

–         Not only was he physically alone in the wilderness under a solitary broom tree – he also says to the Lord, later on in the chapter…

–         ‘…I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’

–         Elijah had good reason to feel anxious – in his isolation he believed no one had his back

 

Twice the angel touches Elijah to wake him up and prompt him to eat

–         It seems like a pretty ordinary detail but the angel wasn’t just feeding Elijah – the angel was also helping to calm Elijah

 

A couple of weeks ago a group of us from this church went to a seminar, led by Tricia Hendry, on how to support people who experience anxiety and it was really helpful

–         One of the practical things they taught us is how to help someone when they are extremely anxious and having a panic attack

 

The first thing is to stay calm yourself and the way to calm yourself, when you are holding anxious energy, is to breathe deeply and slowly

–         Not short shallow breaths from your chest but deep slow breaths from your stomach, like this [demonstrate breathing in & out]

–         Simply doing that will control your energy and the anxious person beside you will begin to catch your calmness

 

The other thing we can do to help people in an anxious state is get them to engage their senses

–         Using our senses grounds us – it brings us back to reality

 

So our bodies have five senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell

–         If someone is acutely anxious you can say to them something like, ‘Look at the bird in the tree over there.’

–         Then they stop thinking about what is making them anxious and they start thinking about the bird in the tree

–         Or, if you know them well enough, you could simply touch them on the arm like this or hold their hand

–         Physical touch can be quite powerful really – it says in a tangible way, you are not alone, I am here with you

–         The other thing you can do is sit them down and give them something to eat or drink

–         In the old days when someone was upset the remedy was to give them a cup of tea to calm them down

–         That’s practical wisdom – it actually works to do that because it engages the person’s senses of taste and smell

 

Getting back to Elijah – the prophet was afraid, for good reason, so the angel calms Elijah’s fears by engaging his senses

–         First he touches Elijah, to wake him up

–         Then he speaks to Elijah, ‘have something to eat & drink’ – that engages Elijah’s sense of hearing

–         Elijah looks at the food and water jar beside him – so he’s using his sight

–         The cake is cooking on a hot stone therefore Elijah can smell it

–         Finally he tastes it

–         Throughout this simple process Elijah is not thinking about Jezebel (who makes him feel unsafe) – he’s thinking about food which comforts him

–         Touch, hearing, sight, smell and taste – the angel calms Elijah by engaging all five senses

–         This grounds Elijah in the reality that he is alive and he’s actually okay

–         God is our creator – he made us, he knows how we function and how to make us calm

 

Conclusion:

Once the Lord has addressed Elijah’s physical needs the prophet is then able to deal with the issues in his soul which are emptying him of the energy of hope

–         The Salvation Army have a saying: ‘Soup, soap and salvation’

–         The idea is that when someone comes to them for help they first take care of the body, with a meal and a bath, then they take care of the soul, with a conversation about Jesus

–         So the application for us is that when we feel exhausted the first step is to recover our body’s energy, through food and rest – then we will have the strength to attend to the deeper needs of our soul

–         Or if we feel overly anxious the first step is to breathe deeply and engage our senses to become calm – then we are in a better position to attend to whatever is troubling our soul and causing us anxiety

 

So often our modern response is to treat the body and stop there

–         But the root of the problem isn’t normally found in the body, the root of the problem is usually found in the soul

–         The body simply bears the fruit of the problem

 

That’s enough for today though – we’ll talk about the soul’s energy next week

 

Questions for discussion or reflection:

1.)    What stands out for you in reading these Scriptures and/or in listening to the sermon?

2.)    What is energy?

3.)    What are some things we can do to support our body’s energy?

–         What is one thing in particular you need to do to care for your body?

–         (E.g. better sleep routines, change in diet, etc.)

4.)     How does God care for Elijah and restore his physical energy?

5.)    What are some practical things we can do to help calm someone who is experiencing acute anxiety or a panic attack?

6.)    Why did Elijah need to attend to the needs of his body before attending to the needs of his soul?

7.)    Take some time this week to sit still and breathe deeply from your stomach – say once or twice a day for 5 or 10 minutes (or as the opportunity allows)

[1] Proverbs 25:16

[2] Johann Hari, ‘Lost Connections’, page 78ff.

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