Currently I’m reading the Daniel Plan by Rick Warren. It actually wasn’t on my to-read this month list, but since I’m STILL on the waiting list for another health and fitness book, and this book seems to also be taking the market by storm, I thought I’d give it a try while researching exercise in the Bible.
While I would say many of the health suggestions therein could probably be found elsewhere on the market, I have appreciated Warren’s inclusion of faith in the health equation. I don’t know about you but for me getting and staying healthy is a constant challenge. It’s probably one of the goals I find the hardest to stick with and that’s because I usually leave it to my own will-power to accomplish and not God’s. What does God have to do with it? Well has Rick Warren so gently reminded me–a lot.
Exercise from God’s Perspective
First Corinthians 6:19-20 says,
“Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
Our bodies are not our own. They are God’s. On occasion I’ve had the opportunity to drive my parent’s nice shiny silver sports car around town. During the time I had the vehicle I made sure I took great care of it, placing our old truck in the driveway and putting their car in the garage, making sure the gas was topped off when I was finished using it, and being careful to drive it safely. I knew the car was not mine, and therefore I took special care so that I could return it in as good a condition as it was when it was loaned to me. The same goes with our bodies. They have been loaned to us. They are not ours to do with what we will. Our bodies, when we gave our lives to Christ, became God’s.
Examples of Exercise in the Bible
So what does it mean to take precious care of God’s body that He has given us? While there are no biblical references to using an elliptical in the Bible, there ARE several references regarding fitness. For instance, Ishmael was an archer (Genesis 21:20), some soldiers were viewed as weight lifters (Deuteronomy 3:18, 1 Samuel 14:52; 1 Chronicles 12:1-2), some were swimmers (Isaiah 25:11), others oarsmen (Ezekiel 27:26), and there are several references to running whether to deliver news or for the training of physical athletes (2 Samuel 18:24-33). In Jeremiah 12:5, the Lord even uses a local foot race as a metaphor to compare the difficulties and challenges of Judah and Babylon.
“If you have run with footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses?”
Probably one of the most famous verses on running is 1 Corinthians 9:24-26,
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
Of course this reference is using physical fitness as a metaphor for one’s spiritual life, but many people were quite fit during Jesus’ time just because they tended to walk everywhere (John 7:1). Our challenge today is that we have cars, motorcycles, moving sidewalks, and escalators. We think walking from the store to our car is a workout while in Biblical times walking from Bethlehem to Jerusalem was a normal routine of life. Yes, they definitely got their “30 minutes a day” in without even trying.
Examples of Fit Individuals in the Bible
So what should the new healthy look like? Check out some of these healthy non-Hollywood examples for starters: Joseph (Genesis 39:6-7), David (1 Samuel 16:12), Daniel (Daniel 1:15) Sarah (Genesis 12:11), Rebekah (Genesis 24:16), and Rachel (Genesis 29:17). They were good looking, healthy eaters and fit for battle. For the average person (like me) it almost sounds depressing, doesn’t it? But don’t get discouraged just yet. After all, exercise isn’t everything.
Exercise Isn’t Everything
David was “good looking” and Joseph “handsome in form” but these were merely short physical descriptions as opposed to the many verses devoted to telling about their characters and godly attributes which is way more important to God. Yes, God wants you to be healthy and to honor Him with your body. And, He has provided you with the resources to get fit. However never forget what is MOST important. Do you remember what God said to Samuel when preparing to anoint David king?
“Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature…for the Lord does not see as man sees; man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Or what Paul said to Timothy:
“Bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for ALL things” (1 Timothy 4:8).
Physical appearance ISN’T everything. Physical fitness requires balance. Yes, being physically active is good for you. Yes, physical fitness is one way you can show God you are taking care of the body that He’s given you. But exercising or dieting to the extreme so that you can obtain the label of “hot model” or “ab ripping hotty” is not what it means to accomplish a healthy lifestyle. So keep your health goals realistic and soon God will be glorified with your body.
Look, I am going to bring healing and health to it, and I will heal them, and I will reveal to them abundance of peace and reliability. (Jeremiah 33:6)