by Katie Brazelton, Ph.D. and Ellie Jurado-Nieves, Esq.
How much attention should we pay to our bodies? Where does eating right and exercising fit into our spiritual lives? When it comes to health, Americans are extreme. On one hand, physical fitness is all the rage. On the other hand, a growing number of children face increasing health problems because of obesity. It seems that we either want to drop pounds and flatten our bellies with easy fat-burning secrets that will help us firm up fast, or we’re standing in line at the nearest burger joint waiting to be “super-sized.”
Physical fitness and spiritual fitness are intended by God to complement one another. We know that regular exercise and a balanced diet are important to good health, improved energy, and mental sharpness that all help us serve the Lord more honorably. But how should we approach healthy living?
Where does eating right and exercising fit into our spiritual lives? Here are four principles:
1. Exercise Your Integrity
When it comes to fitness, we often compare ourselves to the supermodels that grace the covers of popular magazines, but the Bible should be our standard. Fitness should not be a selfish, ego-driven endeavor. Rather, we should approach health and wellness with godly motives. Why do our motives matter? Does it really matter whether we work out for egocentric reasons? Isn’t a healthy body the ultimate goal? Yes and no! God wants more than a healthy body. He wants a spiritually healthy heart.
God examines every heart and he sees through every motive (1 Chronicles 28:9). He hates it when we have selfish motives such as the desire to brag, show off our bodies, compete with others, or seek compliments. These kinds of motives set us up to lose more than just a few extra pounds. They set us up to lose our solid footing on God’s narrow road that leads to life (Mathew 7:17).
Check your motives. Be willing to examine your heart. Ask yourself: Why am I exercising? If you have impure motives, offer them to God in confession.
2. Pray Healthy Prayers
One of the most common mistakes that we make as Christians is not praying enough. We often save our prayers for the big-ticket items (i.e., discovering our life purpose or finding the right mate!), but God wants us to pray on all occasions with all kinds of requests (Ephesians 4:16). That includes praying for our physical fitness. Pray to God about your fitness goals, your food choices, your work-out, and even about those extra pounds you’re trying to lose. Pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Your prayers will move God’s heart and invite him to unleash his power in your life.
3. Develop an Appetite for God
Where does God fit into your meal selection? Is God’s best choice even on the menu? Seek to honor God with what you eat and drink (1 Corinthians 10:31). “Our bodies and natural appetites were created by God and are not sinful in themselves,” but we need to work at controlling our desire for food. Otherwise, our desire for food will control us.
Have you gained a few extra pounds because you couldn’t resist that ice cream in the freezer? Or are you one of those people who can eat whatever he/she wants without gaining a pound? In either case, poor eating habits can lead to health-related problems, like high cholesterol. The Bible is clear: Everything may be permissible, but not everything is beneficial (1 Corinthians 6:12). You don’t have to buy fitness magazines to learn how to control your appetite. Just open the Bible. It will tell you how God wants you to move toward your diet. Here are a few Scriptures to get you started:
- Ecclesiastes 10:17: Eat your meals at proper times.
- Proverbs 23:2: Don’t eat too much.
- Proverbs 25:16: Eat just enough.
- Ecclesiastes 3:13: Enjoy your meals.
4. Be Fit for All Seasons
Healthy living requires diligence, and diligence takes work. “It takes action. It takes staying with something until it is finished. And it takes diligence, work, action, and staying with something for millions of minutes, thousands of hours, hundreds of days, scores of weeks, months … .” You get the idea. Health and wellness are lifestyles. They are not seasonal fads. Laziness often gets in the way of diligence. But the Bible says in Proverbs 14:23 that hard work brings rewards. Set yourself up to win. Talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise and diet program. Start a program that fits who you are. Is walking more your style? Exercise videos? Joining a gym? Getting a personal trainer? Once you start a program, stick to it. Consistency is more important than intensity. Exercising for 15 minutes a day on a regular basis will produce better results than hit and miss one-hour workouts.
A Body Fit for God
Glorify God with your healthy lifestyle. After all, workouts in the gym are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever (1 Timothy 4:8 MSG). When you seek to glorify God with a healthy lifestyle, you will develop into an even more authentic Christian, and your faith in Christ will be apparent in all areas of your life.
This article was originally published at Purposedrivenlife.com.
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