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How to reduce your heart attack risk by 86 percent

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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A doctor puts his hand over his chest during a House call rally against proposed healthcare reform legislation at the Capitol in Washington November 5, 2009 (Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

A new study has found the way to reduce your chances of having a heart attack by 86 percent.  It’s simple: exercise regularly, eat vegetables, don’t smoke, don’t drink much, and watch your waistline.  So why don’t more people do this?  Because things that are unhealthy in the long run feel good in the short run.  And things that are good for us in the long run can be unpleasant at the time.

Now consider this finding: only 42 percent of Americans think that the American Dream—if you work hard, you’ll get ahead—still holds true.  That’s down from 53 percent just two years ago.  When asked if our children’s lives will be better than ours, only 21 percent agreed, down from 30 percent in 2012.

What do these two stories have in common?  The fact that doing what’s right for the future is often hard in the present.  It’s easier to sleep in than to exercise.  It’s easier to stop working today for prosperity tomorrow.  In the financial world, investors don’t buy stocks unless they think their future benefit will exceed their present cost.  The same principle holds true for all of life.

Like me, you have a “next step” in your spiritual development.  God is calling you to a higher level of obedience, a greater level of submission, a more sacrificial commitment to his Kingdom.  If that next step were easy, you would have already taken it.  You will not take a risk to share your faith, or sacrifice time for prayer and Bible study, or give more than you can spare to gospel causes, unless you think the future benefit outweighs the present cost.  I’m the same way.

So here’s the good news: whatever God asks us to do is always best for us.  It is true that you cannot measure the eternal significance of present faithfulness.  But it is also true that present sacrifices for the Kingdom are best for us even when we make them.  There is joy waiting for us just on the other side of obedience.

The moment we step into the flooded Jordan river, God stops the flood (Joshua 3:15-17).  The moment we bring a paralytic to Jesus, he sees our faith and responds with grace (Matthew 9:1-8).  There is a deep-seated sense of satisfaction and tranquility in doing God’s will, even before we see the results of such service in others.  We “bless his name” when we “tell of his salvation from day to day” (Psalm 96:2).  And our Father sees and blesses our obedience with a joy that transcends its cost.

What is your next step with God today?