“Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” ( 1 CORINTHIANS 9:24-27)
The Bible does not state anywhere anything like “Thou shalt exercise or run daily, taking time off on the Sabbath to rejuvenate.” Yet, what I do know is that God designed our bodies to be physically active, which is why He gave us such a complex human body system that is capable of extraordinary things – a system that only God could create.
Through science and medicine we try to understand, but still it is such a mystery how the twelve major systems of our body work in harmony. He designed our skeletal and muscular systems, which consists of 206 bones with 230 moveable joints and some 700 named muscles in our body, not to be sedentary, but to be active. We’ve learned through medicine that the best way to maintain our bodies, God’s body, is through exercise and rest.
We know that exercise, along with eating healthy, is critical to helping us decrease our risks of cardiovascular disease (hypertension, stroke, and heart disease), reducing the risk of some forms of cancer, improving our mood, preserving our cognitive function, helping us sleep better, controlling our weight, and overall, increasing our energy level (as our fitness level increases). Research confirms that regular exercise prolongs life and diminishes the burden of disability and disease, as we grow older.
So why is this need not clearly highlighted in the Bible? Why are we not more clearly enjoined to be active physically? Or are we?
God gave us a body capable of many physical things. But let’s not forget the mental aspects of our body too. Like our physiological needs, we must feed our spiritual requirements as well. We need also to renew our minds. Paul also tells us: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 ESV). Being active spiritually is equally crucial. This is one of the many reasons I teamed with Bruce Matson to help promote health, fitness and Christianity. Starting this New Year, we will begin a walking and running training program that you can follow at home to help make you more active and fit. Along with this program we hope to offer some food for thought in your own spiritual journey.
There are many things clearly stated in the Bible but other things are not as clear. We will see that the Bible provides great lessons and encouragement in both our physical and spiritual journeys.
In the scripture above, Paul is actually emphasizing the spiritual journey – our challenge to know and become more like Christ – by using the more easily grasped illustration of our physical challenges, but also that we do so with purpose and direction (“I do not run aimlessly”) and that the matter of training is of great significance (“I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing”)
So let’s finish up the celebrations of the season over the next few days, and then return next week, prepared to be active physically and spiritually for a fantastic 2014 and beyond.
See you on the roads soon.