The Winning Edges Devotional Series on Amazon.com is a product of how I have been blessed by daily time in God's Word in the light of the gospel for over 30 years. Each month has a theme of its own, and the goal is to have every month covered in 2019. I hope each reader is encouraged in the journey!
Here is an excerpt from the new book that will be out in Mid-February: The Temple in Disrepair
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.  For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,  who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:17-21 ESV)
The believer’s physical life is greatly impacted by his INNER life.
How do you see yourself?
One area that I have battled my entire adult life is over eating. In fact, I exercise at an above normal rate and would be considered generally ‘fit’. I am on no medication and feel ‘good’ most of the time.
But I also know I can easily let myself go and I can quickly put on massive weight. And though I am more successful now than in my past, I still feel like it is an area I need to improve upon.
The most crucial of all the factors in my struggle is that winning in weight control begins on the INSIDE. I have to admit there are some idolatry issues in this. Food can be a powerful idol, it combines with a longing for comfort and desire to be filled. My quest for taste and fullness, pleasure and excess, with no regard for my body as a temple is a huge deal here.
I have always laughed at how football and eating go together-
when we win- I eat and celebrate
when we lose- I eat and commiserate
And now you know why I tend to gain about 10 lbs every football season.
In fact, I would gain 10 and lose 5 each year…so after 10 years of coaching, it was no surprise to find myself needing to lose 50 lbs!
And these idols are so deeply seated in my heart that I am still very much in danger to be lured and trapped yet again.
I remember the horror of reading the above verse ( Philippians 3:18,19) and knowing that was describing me. I don’t want to be ruled by my appetites…I want to be ruled by Christ!
The beauty of the gospel was that over time, I was able to say – “Lord, this is me. My only hope is You. I trust in Your death to cover me and the truth of the gospel message to set me free.”
And yet this was a 25 year seemingly unanswered prayer- but I keept praying again and again. The big things- the important things- take decades in God’s timing. “we await a Savior” –You must search Him out and wait and wait and wait- and be willing to be content that His delivery comes at a much different timetable than we can see. But He is faithful.
There are psychological tricks here as well. One is ‘Human Apperception‘.
In psychology, apperception is “the process by which new experience is assimilated to and transformed by the residuum of past experience of an individual to form a new whole.” In short, it is to perceive new experience in relation to past experience.
A rich child and a poor child walking together come across the same ten-dollar bill on the sidewalk. The rich child says it is not very much money and the poor child says it is a lot of money. The difference lies in how they apperceive the same event – the lens of past experience through which they see and value (or devalue) the money. —Christopher Ott (quoted in wiki)
They way this impacts me is the man in the mirror. If I gain 5 or 10 lbs and look at myself, I feel disgust or anger or shame or hurt. Then if I lose 5 lbs and see myself in the mirror, I feel such victory. The view is always an extreme; and both are a warped stretch of the reality.
Photographs disturb me more than the mirror. Someone will show me a picture of me and I feel so bad about how heavy I look. A year or so later, I feel the same pain at a new photo and look at last year’s and wonder why I couldn’t at least look like last year.
This was a vicious cycle for a number of years:
The amazing difference was in ’10 year’ pictures. I would look at an old picture (that I previously thought was disgusting) and long for being that way again.
All of this though, was a sinful human heart being swayed by my sinful and tainted senses. For example: if my wife told I looked good, my image was accepted for a short time and I was OK. If she told me I had gained weight, it pushed me into that dark hole.
It is important to remind ourselves that we are not regarded by others in these extremes. I rarely notice the weight change on others and in the long run, I don’t care. If you are reading this right now, don’t feel bad about how you look. You are you– people know you as you are- and though we think that appearance is something that indicates acceptance or rejection, it is never as important as we think. A warm smile and bright eyes and a loving spirit shows through way more than what your body shape is. Stop beating yourself up.
Without sounding ‘hokey’- I also sensed that the enemy used quiet heart whispers to further push the pain. There is a demonic part to the inner voices that say, “You’ll never defeat this” or “You’re just a pig” or “How can you say you glorify God when your temple is a wreck”. Those thoughts were darker and deeper that just my heart.
How that works, I just don’t know. I don’t think it is Satan himself, but the dark forces of evil tend to do these types of whisper campaigns to torture believers.
About 15 years ago, I began to become more aware of these battles and began to confront them. As I began to feel some small victories and growing in confidence, the battle pressed harder. I had some vicious attacks come through false accusations, misunderstandings, gossip, and deadly rumors.
But God kept picking me up and I began to fight consistently and well. Not in words so much as in deep prayer and positive attitudes. When the battle was really raging I would get up each morning and say: “No matter what the devil or world throws my way today- I will rejoice- I am a son of the King of the universe- Jesus Christ my Lord loved me- He died for me- I am a blessed man- I am overflowing with joy, hope, and love.”
I also would begin to pray for people who were being used in attacks toward me. I wasn’t growing bitter toward them. The largest victory came when I felt mercy towards those who misunderstood or disliked me instead of frustration or anger. I felt true love for them. I prayed for their health, I spoke well of them to others, I looked to serve them, and when they wounded me, I copied my Lord’s prayer “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”.
Now please, I did not do this perfectly… I got angry, at times, in the fight, I slipped at times, I accepted that I sometimes deserved the attacks…. But the Holy Spirit deserves ALL THE CREDIT! And I slowly grew better in this fight.
I wrote some blog postings during March of 2010 (jayopsis.com). It captures a lot of what I learned in a compressed three year concentrated and intense spiritual battle. I encourage you to spend some time in these if you have experienced some of these same feelings of shame and disappointment in yourself. Remember that you will suffer tribulation in this world and learn how to keep your joy in spite of circumstances.
Isn’t this just some kind of ‘philosophy stuff’…. ‘meaningless psychobabble’? It could be…but I lived it… and when I began to be healed on the inside, it began to show on the outside. When I learned to forgive, and love, and pray for people opposed to me by way of the Spirit… I saw results!
But I have to reiterate all of this. Do you see the long build up? Do you see the deep-seated roots of this problem? Do you understand it is not just physical? It is not so simple to say: ‘Oh well just stop eating and exercise’– and it is offensive when a thin person asks if you want to lose weight and you say, ‘yes’ and then they say, “Push that fat rear away from the table.”
I am old enough now to understand slowing metabolism, insulin resistance, and genetic pre-disposition. But this is no excuse to not fight. God can be glorified as I accept who I am and keep fighting to get better. It is not about ‘appearance’- it is a willingness to accept the mission of Christ. An example of this is in Colossians 1:
 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,  if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope
from the hope of the gospel that you heard,
Also- without the life changing, Holy Spirit given, gospel message- what hope do we have?
Jesus loves me whether I am fat or thin. His death covers all of my failings and sin. Can you embrace that? It is hard… so many people say “I just can’t accept that- it seems too easy” but my friend I am crying to you again-
YOU CANNOT EARN GOD’S FAVOR. YOU CANNOT BE GOOD OR DISCIPLINED. YOU CANNOT DO GOOD WORKS AND GO TO HEAVEN.
It is a sheer gift- we call it grace.
This is a beginning for any issue that keeps holding us back. My desire is for all of us to fall on our knees and cry out to the God of mercy and say to Him: LORD- I give this to You! You are God! You are in control. Take this… take me.. I cannot do any good. If you marked my sin or counted it against me- I am in trouble- But YOU LOVE ME- your death proves it- your resurrection validates Your sacrifice.
My only hope is Christ. In Christ alone- I have FAITH in HIM- I trust HIM- I don’t even understand how it all works- but I lay everything I have- my life- my eternity- my affections on Him.
And when it is all through- at the end of the day- what I just did is by HIM TOO! What a God! What a Savior! How can I not proclaim this to the world!
What a message!
Finally- the fruit of victory always comes at the exact right time. It is God’s timing. He prepares us for it. Even after years of failure… if you just keep after it… the breakthrough victory will be even sweeter. Never give up!
This is an old saying that I always use:
“It matters not if you try and fail and try and fail again.
What matter is if you try and fail….
and fail to try again.”
So, I will list it out like this- How do you change from the inside- out?
Here is what happened to me…..
STEP 1- SPIRITUAL GROWTH.. I began to apply the Word more, pray more, and fight
STEP 2- RELEASING FEAR AND PAIN FROM DAILY LIFE. The realization of this was when in 2009 we finished 3-7 in football. I can’t remember a time that this had ever happened to me. Every coach in America fears these types of years.
But, it was a blessing to understand that I’M OK- I DID NOT DIE! Instead of running to food and poor self-esteem I actually found a huge desire to get better.
I stood in front of the new group of seniors in Jan of 2010 and said “Watch me- you are going to see me change- I am going to work and compete- follow my lead” and I began to take it day by day- but I was determined to be the hardest working person on our campus- and I went after it mentally, physically, and spiritually. It felt good to fight!
Every day as I ran, all I did was to pray for those seniors… I wanted them to have a great year and I wanted to lead everyone I could by my example. I had a huge set-back that year in December when I was let go as the head football coach…but I kept going!
It fueled me to run a marathon. When tough things happen it is natural to run to addictions as comfort…but we should be seeking what the Lord wants and be willing to trust Him to break the cycle.
STEP 3- CELEBRATING SMALL VICTORIES– I did not gain weight during the 2009 season- which was significant. It did not dawn on me until after my meeting with the rising seniors. Don’t ever discount small victories in areas which you are battling.
STEP 4- FACING THE REALITY OF POOR HEALTH – When my weight got out of control from 2004-2008, I knew my blood pressure was growing and my wife kept up her concern- this was a silent killer- and what would my family do? I have to keep trying to fight the good fight here for the sake of my family.
STEP 5- GETTING INTO THE ROUTINE– In 2009, I had a good exercise routine going- I was finally healthy enough to run without pain and smart enough to know how to pace myself and cross train. (Take days off, do elliptical training, swim, ride a bike on sunny days).
I was also smart to not start a diet in January. I decided to let my body get in shape for a month. I needed to fuel my workouts. The plan was to get an initial weight in February and begin to slowly change eating habits. I started with breakfast every morning, a lot of water, and eating 5 or 6 small meals a day. I did this February and March and I lost about 10 lbs.
An April ‘Miracle’ – I have documented previously what happened in April of 2009 (I lost 60 lbs from April to August that year) but I have still struggled up and down since then. But every April since then has been an invitation to ‘do it again’– and that is my hope again even this year!
As we take a day-by-day journey…. let’s always pray that real change happens from the inside-out.
When we repair on the inside… it helps us repair on the outside.
When we feel better physically, we have more energy to devote to God’s mission.
And we discover that God’s power is a power of endurance……..