Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Value of Exercising the Spirit and the Body

For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.  –I Timothy 4:8 (KJV)

Throughout most of my adult life I have done at least some form of exercise.  In my 20’s ad 30’s I was a runner and stayed very active.  However, in my 40’s the task of raising children and pursuing ministry became so time consuming that I began neglecting my physical health.  I paid a terrible price for this.  I put on weight, became discouraged, and ended up suffering six long years of clinical depression.  Several years ago the Lord pulled me out of this depressed condition in a wonderful way and I then began developing strategies for being more positive and healthy.  The strategies I have learned and practice involve daily prayer and meditation on the Scriptures, a strict regimen of diet and exercise, and a conscious decision to be a more upbeat and positive person. 

In addition, around four years ago I began working out for 30-45 minutes at a time about five times a week.  This has been a rediscovering of the benefits of regular exercise.  As I approach the age of 52 I am enjoying the best health of my life.  These days I am spreading the word among my fellow pastors and anyone else who will listen to get back into prayer, the Word, and a healthy lifestyle.  At first this will seem like climbing Mount Everest, but if I can do it, so can you.  The benefits of spiritual discipline and physical exercise are well worth the effort.

As I read Paul’s words in I Timothy 4: 8 I have to reconcile what appears to be an attempt to dissuade believers from pursuing exercise.  I do not believe the Bible is telling us here not to exercise.  Instead, I believe this is a caution about pursing physical health over spirituality.  If we do as Jesus said and seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33), then we are empowered to get other aspects of life in their proper place.  For me, seeking a healthy diet and a regular exercise routine is an outgrowth of keeping my life right with God.  Here is how this works; the more time we spend in prayer and in God’s Word the more we are empowered to seek healthy habits.  The result is increased energy and focus for ministry and sharing Christ with others. 

Consider also the positive benefits of personal growth.  All around us are people who are discouraged, depressed, and living in spiritual defeat.  As we grow in the knowledge and grace of our Lord (II Peter 3:18) we are strengthened to keep moving forward in those times when we feel like giving up.  God is faithful and will give us the power we need to keep serving Him and walking in spiritual victory.  Do not lie down in defeat; rise up in the power of Christ and walk forward in vibrant and confident faith.  The result will be a more positive, healthy, happy, joyful, and relaxed person. 

Christ is calling us to the abundant life (John 10:10), not survival.  Why not begin today?

God bless you.