Why is it so much harder to talk about our physical health than it is our spiritual or emotional health? Perhaps it is because our motives are not always clear. Do we take care of our bodies in order to look better, feel better, or to better honor God? Are these motives mutually exclusive?
There are many motivations for taking care of our temples, but here I will highlight my top three.
My love for Jesus
Full surrender includes loving God with our physical strength as well as our hearts, souls, and minds.
Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)
Our living sacrifice is not to be confused with Jesus’ bodily sacrifice for our salvation. Daily physical discipline is for our sanctification not our salvation.
Laying our bodies on the altar means that we are surrendering ourselves completely, and in some measure literally, to the Lord. Surrendering is a daily act which involves our whole self, which includes our bodies.
Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
My love for Janet
Marriage is another motivator for me to stay physically healthy. When I said “I do” to Janet over three decades ago, was I giving her my heart, my soul, my mind, or my body? Yes! I surrendered the exclusive rights of my body to both Jesus and Janet.
On our wedding day, I publicly vowed to Janet that I would love her to my dying breath. I realize that I won’t be as physically healthy at the end of our marriage as when I originally spoke them, which is ok, because our temples were designed to be temporary.
Although I made no guarantees to her regarding my expiration date, it was assumed that I would not short-change her or our kids by accelerating my exit with poor health decisions. If I do grow ill and dependent on Janet in my later years, I am confident that she will love me in sickness and in health, but I have no intention of neglecting my body now so that she or our children have to pay the bill later.
My love for pastors
I serve pastors across North America at conferences, events and churches, so I meet a lot of them every year. Whenever a pastor walks into a room or onto a stage, his appearance makes a statement. The painful truth is that we have less credibility talking about discipline if we are not practicing it.
Chuck Norris jokes are funny because of the reputation he gained as a tough actor and stuntman, along with his legitimate martial arts credentials. Although he is 25 years older than me, and three inches shorter, I have no aspirations of taking him on. In his book, Against All Odds, Norris writes, “People often ask me, ‘How do you stay in such great shape?’ Truth is I must work at it, just like anyone else. I get up each morning and work out physically; Gena and I take time each day to read the Bible, pray, and exercise.”
Two disturbing trends that pastors need to avoid are obesity and obsession. Obesity is an epidemic in America and pastors need to lead by our example.
The other extreme is obsessing over our bodies. Pastors obsess by dropping fitness illustrations in their sermons, or wearing shirts that are too small.
I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified … Run in such a way to win the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:24,27)
Two disturbing trends that pastors need to avoid are obesity and obsession. Obesity is an epidemic in America and pastors need to lead by our example. 41% percent of United Methodist pastors are obese, says Proeschold-Bell, compared to 29% of all Americans. And it’s not just Methodist pastors who are overweight.
Late in his life John wrote his third epistle to his beloved friend Gaius which said, “I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” (3 John 1:2 ESV)
John equated good health not with the state of just Gaias’s body but with the state of his whole life/soul. Both testaments teach a comprehensive, holistic approach to a believer’s health: “heart, soul, mind, strength.”
The beginning of a new year is an excellent opportunity to take responsibility for your personal health and resiliency. 59% of pastors are concerned about their personal consistency in exercising. (Lifeway Research ’22)
When we wear out our bodies, we don’t get another one. Are you preparing now to finish strong later? Ask God to show you how you can love him with all of your strength, then make whatever changes are necessary to get and stay healthy this year.