In 1982, an Austrian toothpaste salesman on a marketing junket in Southeast Asia was suffering from jet lag in Thailand. There, he discovered that a drink called Krating (“bull”) Daeng (“red”) gave him a fresh shot of energy. He was so impressed with the drink’s effects that, in 1984, he formed a partnership with the drink’s Thai founder to “Westernize” the product in terms of taste preferences. Thus was born Red Bull Energy Drink—the first product in what has become a huge new category. Red Bull was introduced in Austria in 1987, other international markets in 1992, the United States (California) in 1997, and the Middle East in 2000.
The rest, as they say, is marketing history. Red Bull is not only the originator of the worldwide energy drink category, it is still the leader. In 2016 alone, more than 6 billion cans were sold worldwide. If those numbers appear huge, consider that Red Bull is just one product in a category containing more than 50 brands of energy drinks including 5-Hour Energy, AMP Energy, Full Throttle, Hype Energy, Monster, and others.
Two of the ingredients in a can of Red Bull quickly reveal its purpose: caffeine (about the same amount as a cup of coffee) and sucrose and glucose (sugars for energy). Caffeine, sucrose, and glucose hit the body with an instant energy boost. And who needs all this energy? Red Bull’s marketing was initially directed at extreme sport athletes, but today people from all walks of life are daily downing Red Bull and 50 other energy drinks—in the morning to get going, in mid-afternoon to keep going, and late at night to go some more. The dining room, boardroom, locker room, classroom—energy drinks are showing up everywhere.
There are arguments for and against energy drinks in terms of health and suitability for consumers—moderate consumption of these drinks is certainly recommended. But let’s face it—energy drinks are just the latest, albeit perhaps most potent, form of “energy drinks.” Beverages like coffee and tea have been consumed for centuries.
Tired and Wired
It’s true—the energy demands of our lives seem off the chart at times. We have never lived in a more all-consuming time in human history. It takes all we can do physically, emotionally, and spiritually to keep body, soul, and spirit together and moving in the right direction. Sometimes we feel like the proverbial chip of wood floating in the middle of the ocean at the mercy of the wind and the waves. We get tired when we need to be wired—and so we reach for things that will help.
I want to issue a warning and a solution to implement in your life. The warning is this: The busy pace of our lives carries with it the danger of spiritual energy depletion. Just as we get tired physically and stop exercising and eating right, so we get tired spiritually. When that happens, we stop doing the “exercises” that keep us strong spiritually.
But I’m not just going to exhort you to “do more”—to read your Bible more, pray more, worship more, and give more. Instead, I want you to step back from the trees and think about the whole forest: What kind of overall vision for your spiritual life do you have? Is your life in Christ just a checklist of daily disciplines without a sense of purpose that motivates you to grow in Him year after year? We live most of our life by to-do lists—is that how we’re to live the Christian life?
I believe physical and spiritual exhaustion comes when our vision of the spiritual life becomes compromised and diluted. We lose sight of the big picture. Our daily spiritual disciplines become burdensome obligations instead of transforming privileges that continually open new vistas of spiritual reality.
What are athletes looking for when they chug an energy drink? Stamina, strength, energy, speed, endurance, and a fresh start. You and I need the same things in the spiritual realm. We won’t get them from caffeine and sugar, but we will get them through refocusing on a biblical vision for the life to which we have been called by God.
Are you setting some goals for getting in shape physically? Good for you! I hope you hit and exceed every target. But let’s not forget our spiritual strength as well. Take the necessary steps to boost your prospects for an ever-stronger faith.
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