Mike Graham is a husband and dad of two kids. He has a successful personal training business and is a lay elder at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky.
Let’s be honest, in 50 years most of those reading this blog will be dead. Our bodies will age, deteriorate and eventually fail. The fittest on earth will share the same fate as the alcoholic, drug addict or couch potato. Our bodies continually remind us that this life is temporary and each of us, as well as all of creation, are moving towards a final destination.
Therefore, does it make sense to take care of our bodies? What benefit can there be in spending the money, time and energy to make healthy choices to only add several grains of sand to our hourglass?
The typical Christian response is to remind us that our body is a gift, it houses the Holy Spirit, and one day this temporal body will be made imperishable (1 Cor 6:19; 15:42). So out of respect (or guilt) we are encouraged to take care of this gift. And I agree! But often, these truths do not stop me from eating a second donut or motivate me to run that extra mile. So what does?
Dying and Living Unto Christ
Paul, while imprisoned, concludes, “to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). All of life is leading to our entrance into eternity; an everlasting life lived with brothers and sisters in the presence of God. The reality of heaven should overwhelm us with excitement and joy for it is “very much better” (Phil 1:23). Therefore, the deterioration and death of my body is actually a blessing for it ushers us into God’s very presence.
But, Paul also teaches us, “to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21). Our lives are to be lived with Christ and for Christ. In this life, we have the opportunity to enjoy fruitful labor; to see people come to know Christ, to grow in Christ and then to share Christ with others. Paul experiences and receives joy in his earthly relationships even in the midst of suffering and imprisonment (Phil 2:17-18). John recognizes that our fellowship with God and one another here on earth gives him great joy (1 Jn 1:1-4). Our life here on earth can truly be full and meaningful, filled with joy and purpose.
Being Motivated By Joy
Each day we live in our bodies on this earth gives us the opportunity to be soaked full of joy. Life in Christ includes suffering, struggle and dark moments, but it also provides daily opportunities to breathe in God’s gracious gifts of ministry, relationships and deep connection with Him.
Our bodies, though temporary and deteriorating, are the vessels we have been given to use in our pursuit of Christ and joy. When we do not take care of our bodies we quickly limit the quality and quantity of our days.
God has created a cause and effect world. We reap and we sow. There are benefits and consequences to how we treat our bodies. Of course, the fittest person alive can still be hit with a bus or be diagnosed with cancer – there are many things out of our control. But there are many choices that we have every day that influence the quality and quantity of our days – increasing or decreasing our chances to suffer from diabetes, obesity, low energy, a decreased life expectancy, some cancers, mental deterioration and many other diseased states.
Good health gives us the best opportunity to minister daily without hindrance. Pursuing a healthy, strong and able body best prepares us to invest in our relationships and love others well through all the years we are given. Knowing my biblical role as a father and husband does little good if I have no energy left for my family after a hard day of work.
Physical Health Impacts Spiritual Health
As a pastor with a dietetics degree who has worked as a full-time personal trainer for 15 years, I have a uniquely informed perspective on the benefits and virtues of healthy choices. Often in our 20’s and 30’s we lack the foresight to understand how our choices and life habits will affect our later years. I have clients in their 50’s and 60’s that are full of energy, and others who are exhausted with little ability to physically meet the needs of others. Physical health does not trump spiritual maturity or relational depth, but it can certainly benefit both.
Taking care of our bodies can help us live for Christ in a way that will improve and enhance our ministries, relationships, and opportunities to meet the needs of others. If working out will prepare me to mow my neighbor’s lawn, then I will take my strength training seriously. If making a healthier food choice will help me live long enough to help disciple my grandchildren, then I am more motivated to not eat an entire sleeve of Oreo cookies. If cardiovascular training will give me more energy to read, meditate and worship the Lord then I will run that extra mile.
Our bodies and souls are interwoven in God’s desire and design. Stress and anxiety can lead to headaches, GI problems and several other physical manifestations. Physical pain and discomfort absolutely affect my mood. The state of my heart will often energize or exhaust my body. Taking care of my body is a way of taking care of my soul and often, the state of my body is an indicator of how my soul is doing. We worship, minister and relate to others with both our body and soul. Let us take care of our whole person so that we may glorify God and love others with energy, fervency and longevity.