A new year can often be an opportunity to start fresh and resolve to make some positive changes. Losing weight is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions in the United States, and the motivation behind that resolution is unique to each person. The goal might be better health, more energy to keep up with little ones, or perhaps a desire to fit back into those jeans that are collecting dust in the closet.
Our bodies are the physical layer that allow us to do the work we were created to do. We should nurture them and take care of them. Good physical health helps us through the everyday things like playing with our kids at the park, cleaning the house and doing laundry, or keeping up with responsibilities at work.
At home, in ministry, at work, with our families, and anywhere else we might find ourselves—there are advantages to being physically healthy.
When I was in healing season of my life, one in which my mentality was shifting from ‘striving to be skinny’ to ‘learning to live healthy’, this passage from the Bible resonated with me:
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 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT)
These verses challenge me and they also comfort me. I know the turmoil that ‘striving for skinny’ can bring. That’s a dark road in my past that I never desire to tread again. These words from Paul are a reminder to me that God values us so much that He allowed His One and only Son to die for our sins, and that our Creator desires us to be kind to these bodies He’s given us. He created us, and even though we are sinners covered in muck, when HE sees us—He sees us as His beautiful, marvelous creation that deserves to be treated with care.
Skinny wasn’t a word Jesus used, but healthy is a different thing. Each part of us is interconnected, and God desires for us to be whole and to be healthy mind, body, and soul. We should do our best to respect our bodies, while also remembering that these bodies we live and breathe in now are temporary.
Earlier this year as I was preparing to write on the topic of body image for this blog and for other writing avenues, I came to a passage in Scripture that I had read before. I read it with new eyes this time and it struck a chord deep within me.
1 Timothy 4:8 says,
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (NIV)
As I read that passage over and over again in different translations, I started to sob.
*For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (ESV)
*Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come. (NLT)
*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. (KJV)
*For bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (NASB)
*Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. (MSG)
Not a verse I expected to feel such emotion over, but it made me pause and think. I thought of all the years in the past where I obsessed over my weight. I thought about all the things I had once done in an effort to be skinny and wear a certain jean size. I thought about the season where I exercised sometimes three hours a day, ate very little, and shed pounds like crazy. The tears flowed for the years I spent striving to be thin for the wrong reasons—the years I was so focused on the physical, that I neglected my soul.
My tears flowed also because I was grateful for the love of Jesus. He didn’t condemn me, but pursued me passionately and waited patiently for me to choose Him.
Physical training and exercise can be wonderful things when done for the right reasons, but we need to pay attention to our spiritual health too. Over the years I’ve learned how to eat healthy and exercise to nourish my body, and I feel better when I make sensible choices. Yet, I know that I can have the most fit body, but without Jesus I’m nothing.
Sometimes our perspective blurs and our thoughts obsess over appearances. It’s no wonder when we live in a world that’s filled with diet potions, quick fixes, disturbing media images, and vanity gone crazy.
In a world that’s mixed up, how do we keep a healthy perspective and live with eternal eyes that have faith in the unseen and believe that we were designed for so much more than momentary satisfaction?
It’s not the popular thing to say, but there’s something I wish I would have known all those years ago—something I wish someone would have told me and maybe someone did, but the voices of this world were just too loud.
Our souls matter so much more than a number on a scale or a trim figure. Jesus died to save souls. He died to give us everlasting life. Having a relationship with Jesus is the very essence of what we were made for. Actively nurturing and growing our relationship with Jesus has value not just in the present moment, but eternally.
Just like it’s nourishing to our bodies to eat healthy food, it’s nourishing to our souls to partake of spiritual food—God’s Word. Just like it can be beneficial to hit the gym or lace up those running shoes, it’s beneficial to put into practice spiritual disciplines such as love, patience, and kindness.
Eventually our physical bodies will wear down and age, but we can become spiritually stronger with each year that passes. Our physical bodies don’t go with us when we die, but the time we invest in this life to loving God and loving others will matter in the life to come.
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you. Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings out the best in you, develops well-formed maturity in you. -Romans 12:1-2 (MSG)
As we dive into 2015 with goals of things we desire to accomplish, we have a choice to let Jesus in or to not. What would it look like to take off those worldly lens and start living with eternal eyes? Eternal eyes that pursue things that not only have value in this life, but also in the life to come. Eternal eyes that see the way Jesus sees. We may not always see the fruit of living a Godly life now, but through faith in Jesus we can believe that someday we will.