By Rick Mautz

The other day, I was listening to a Rich Roll podcast with guest speaker Michael Greger, M.D., of Dr. Greger was discussing his new book How to Survive a Pandemic when the topic of fasting came up.

Greger said his research showed that timing is everything: eating a good breakfast and lunch then skipping supper has a huge effect on your overall health. Then he got really excited as he said, “And I believe that’s why Adventists in Loma Linda, California, are the number one longest living population in the world, because many of them just eat two meals a day, eating breakfast and Lunch and skipping supper … Okinawans used to be #1 longest living population but now they have KFC.”

“Unlike the decline of the health of the Okinawans,” he continued, “an amazing thing is happing among most of the 22 million Seventh-day Adventists. Now it is not just a small group in Loma Linda California, but now many Adventists are following the health principles that many of us lifestyle physicians have been teaching for a long time. They also experience weight loss, reversal of many of their chronic diseases, … reduced cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. And I have to say that they are the nicest people to work with as well. What is going on with these Adventists?”

I started recalling the other Lifestyle experts that I had listened to recently. They all were pointing to these Adventists that were “showing the way.” They refer to the followers to this group of 22 million that are an example of what can happen when you follow a wholistic, balanced lifestyle.

“But even better yet,” I heard Greger continue, “If you want to make some of these same lifestyle changes and enjoy the results yourself, you will get all the help you need by going to one of their health centers. Each of their churches has them, and they will be more than happy to help you experience the change yourself, and they never turn anyone away. And for some reason they are getting even better results than we are, what some may say are miraculous changes.”

I began to think of the transition that I was seeing among these lifestyle teachers like Dr. Greger. In the past, they would talk about how we have evolved over millions of years, but now they are beginning to talk about “intelligent design” and even mention a “designer.” Is it possible that it has something to do with the positive attitude and helpful support that they see in my church as we, Seventh-day Adventists, not only follow the plan of this designer but are helping others achieve a healthier and happier life as well?

I am proud to be a part of a group of people who not only talk about this compassionate designer but who know that His instructions are for our best and who rely on His strength to follow them.

It wasn’t always this way. We, as a church, have gone through many ups and downs regarding how we related to His instructions on how to live. When the church was first organized, we had a pretty clear picture of Gods health instructions. It actually saved our church. Many of the young leaders were sickly and dying as they followed the poor health habits of the time. But when the church began to follow these timely health instructions given by God through Ellen G. White, the church grew and became a leader in health and healing in the world.

Well, the enemy, the devil, was not going to sit still for that, so he began pushing people into legalism. We would hear some of his whisperings like, “meat eaters won’t go to heaven.” There arose in the church what could be called “cheese Nazis” and “potluck police.” Well, something had to change. This wasn’t right and it wasn’t Christ-like.

When the devil noticed that we were rejecting this critical, legalistic attitude to health, he pushed us to the other extreme. I was hearing people say, “health is not a salvation issue,” “you won’t be saved by veganism.” This got rid of the legalism, but it was like “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” People were promised freedom from these legalistic demands, but what they got was just a “bad deal” along with “freedom to do as you please.” They got even more bondage. The bondage of disease and addictions. This continued for a long time.

We, Adventists, never really threw out the health message completely. We continued to use it, kind of, as an evangelistic tool. But, for the most part, we didn’t follow it ourselves anymore. It just didn’t seem right that we were trashing the temple of the Creator and asking for His blessings and healing. It was embarrassing to belong to a church that was known for its health principles, but we were living the same way as the rest of the world and experiencing the same diseases.

The last and most resent phase began several years ago when somehow, we woke up to the inconsistencies in our practice of these health principles. We began to see what God could do with and for us when we trusted all his instructions. Not in a legalistic way, but with gratitude and trust that He had our best interest in mind and that we could impact the world when we would just trust and obey Him. It was almost like Jesus was here again, teaching and healing. And it was just what the world was looking for.

We had just gone through a pandemic, and the whole world was at a loss as to how to protect themselves. At this time, people began to see a group of people that through simple lifestyle practices that anyone could follow, were able to fight this virus and any other disease that came along. And they were helping others to get the same amazing results.

That was my church that was making a real difference. The world started paying attention to this small group of Sabbath keepers, with something that the world needed. Our leaders began to present this new picture of what it looked like to follow Him in all things. Our members were amazed at how fast our pastors started getting stronger, slimmer, and with more energy. The congregations decided they wanted that for themselves as well.

Unlike the legalistic approach of the past, this time everyone, wherever they were on their health journey, was supported and encouraged. It wasn’t a vegetarian verses meat eaters battle. There was respect for each other with a desire that we all experience health without pressure, while still respecting the science and all the God given instructions. Somehow, this time, people began to see it as a tremendous blessing that God was giving us.

Whatever the reason for the change, I am seeing God’s hand in this. Not only because we are stronger, healthier, and happier, but because of the effect we are having on the world. We have their attention in a way greater than ever before. We are reflecting Christ as we reach out to support others who are trying to gain health for themselves. We are not afraid to talk about the source of this information or the awesome Creator God we serve.

It is amazing how hungry people are for the peace that comes from trusting Him. How the health that comes in response seems to them as a sign that He can also change not only our health but also our heart. Now I know what John was talking about in Revelation when he talked about the glory of the Lord filling the whole earth. We are living his Revelation now, and it is so exciting.

As I woke up, I was a little confused. Was it a dream or was it just something I had been thinking about and doing with my church and community for a year or more? Was it a dream? Was it my dream, or was it a vision of His plan for His church?

In Acts 2:17, Luke quotes from the book of Joel which says, In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people; your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.

If the story you just heard could be true, would you want it to be?

What if? What if this could be our story … It is not too late. We can start today to experience all that God has instore for us. We can experience the explosion of the world knowing who we are and knowing who God really is as we reflect Him completely in all we do.

Let’s not let our appetites and fear of change prevent us from being all that He wants us to be. He is here to give us the help we need. Let’s not let the first temptation in the garden be our downfall as well. Jesus overcame that temptation in the desert to give us hope and courage that He will be there to give us victory over apatite and all other battles we face, and to share it with the world. It is not an issue of works but of faith and trust in Him as the author of health.

Maybe we need to expect the unexpected. What Jesus did when He was here was extreme. And the last work of giving the Gospel will be extreme as well. It is time to do it and not just say “What if.”

For more encouragement on how you can be a part of this exciting ministry, contact Rick Mautz at Rocky Mountain Health Ministry Department by calling (303) 909-8274 or emailing [email protected]

—Rick Mautz, PT MS, is RMC director of the Rocky Mountain Lifestyle Center. Photo by Unsplash.