Let’s talk about a touchy issue on which people demonstrate dramatic excesses from polar opposite perspectives. On one hand, some obsess and fixate on this topic. On the other hand, others ignore and reject it entirely.
The topic? Health and fitness.
We have used the word 'flourish' to communicate that we want you to “thrive” spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Yet, in reality, we have written startlingly few pieces on health and fitness. And to be honest, that has been an unwise oversight.
Flourishing physically means we would be fit for all the right reasons.
Americans today are grossly unhealthy in record numbers. Despite having tons of resources and education, the facts are not changing. Quite the opposite is true: The evidence is mounting that American’s Are More Obese then ever and exercise isn’t helping.
“Sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the study found that Americans are now eating an estimated 2,535 calories a day — up from an average of 2,075 in 1970. Worse, the majority of those additional calories, according to the researchers, come from flour, cheese, and fat.”
The language of a recent Reebok video caught my eye and reminded me of Scripture: “Honor the body you’ve been given.” It chastened me a bit, because the language and their call to “honor” your body is one we as believers should be pursuing.
We have MORE reason to honor our bodies than anyone — and yet we aren’t. When we "honor our bodies,"we honor God.
"Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body." (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
Unfortunately those of us who live and work in the world of vocational ministry have a bad track record when it comes to our health. In our tribe (Southern Baptists) we know this: Statistics from Guidestone (the SBC entity that offers insurance and retirement for church workers) indicate that approximately half of insurance claims are for largely preventable diseases: hypertension, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease. These problems are caused by excess weight, poor diet, and high stress.
What does it mean to be “fit”? It is not single-digit jean sizes. It is not about extremist tactics prior to some big event. It is not trendy eating fads. It is not body shaming anyone. It is about an ongoing, comprehensive approach to nutritious eating, combined with consistent physical activity that is maintainable for each unique individual that viably improves health.
Whatever strategy you attempt, it must be ongoing, consistent, and maintainable for you, which, by the way, eliminates most “30 day …” anythings.
What are the right reasons to be fit?
The No. 1 reason is clearly a spiritual one: God has commanded us: “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31) It is unavoidable because the language, “eat or drink,” is clear. Long before Fit Bits, BMI, and carb counters, the implications of food and drink on our bodies was clear.
We have far better motives than vanity. We understand that even what we eat and drink glorifies God. Think about that: We reflect his glory by how we handle our appetites.
Spiritual maturity requires that we have control of our fleshly desires and resist being controlled by temptations. While we might be strident on this teaching when it comes to sexuality, our emotions, character, morality, this also includes the desire to overeat and the propensity to be sedentary. To neglect this is sin.
Our flesh ought not to control us. We see that clearly with sexual appetites. But without discipline, moderation, and self-control, we discover how easy it is for our appetite for food to overtake us and for intentions of a healthier life to fall by the wayside. Not only do we have health ramifications if we don't, our health "speaks" to a watching world when our bodies undeniably testify to that our physical appetites are out of control.
We cannot isolate the fact our health and fitness affects others. Our choices, behaviors, and mindset say something.
- It speaks to our family. Our health choices deeply impact our children. Most likely you control the food choices in your home, so you can directly shape their understanding and choices about food and even exercise and activity. Children may develop lifetime eating and exercising habits under our influence. No, it’s not automatic that they emulate our behaviors, but’s it’s fairly likely. Mothers and dads, what we do on this issue matters.
- It speaks to the world around me. The culture around us has increasingly become more health conscious. Yes, it might be to an extreme, yet they embrace knowledge and practice of healthy lifestyles. The science and mountains of evidence have changed many behaviors. Do we look uninformed, undisciplined, and unintelligent when our bodies, behaviors, and mindset scream denial about this issue? When we move in a Christian culture that speaks of controlling the flesh in other areas — yet are glaringly inconsistent in the physical realm —frankly we lose credibility. And we should not live in denial about that.
As spiritual leaders, we understand God has given us resources He intends for us to steward, like our time, talent, and money. The Bible is clear that we will be accountable for what we have done with those resources. This includes how we manage, maintain, and value our bodies.
Yes, we have been given one body to inhabit, and we are responsible to maintain it and use it fully. Ignoring its needs and ignoring its maintenance means we are not stewarding the body God gave us. So, if we are loading up on obscene amounts of sugar or fat that creates hypertension, diabetes, or heart disease, we are not taking care of the temple of God and, in fact, we may be destroying it prematurely.
If we want to get the most out of our bodies, we must steward them attentively and intentionally. At 61, I fully appreciate the aging process. Stamina, energy, strength, and vitality become more critically important to me every day. Physical movement and what I eat add tremendous value to my daily life. My energy level and stamina definitively increase. Weightlifting keeps my bones stronger. While I am running or cycling, I seem to find mental space for creativity. It certainly buoys my emotions. And typically this discipline breeds more discipline in other areas.
These are the right reasons; swimsuit season is not!
I ask this question of you as a friend...a friend who deeply cares. Where do you need to start to develop an ongoing, comprehensive approach to nutritious eating, combined with consistent physical activity, that is maintainable for you?
Considering taking the next step you need to take to be fit, for all the right reasons.