According to the CDC, just over 70% of American adults are considered overweight or obese. So if you struggle with overeating and under-exercising, in the words of Paul, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.” Inherent to this struggle with the scale is the motivation to pursue and keep with new rhythms of diet and exercise.
There are all sorts of reasons that our pursuits don’t pan out. But maybe the biggest obstacle to real change is that we’ve not taken the stewardship of our health as seriously as we ought. I hadn’t. A year ago I was 60 pounds heavier, on cholesterol medication I was told I’d probably need the rest of my life, and nursing a lower back injury that kept me from playing with my kids without pain. Though it has only been about 12 months since I started my journey toward health and fitness, some days I have a hard time remembering who that guy was. God has truly done a transforming work in my life and body. But it had to begin with a change of mind.
I’d love to offer three exhortations for why I began and why I believe every believer should begin to think about health and fitness differently
As Christians, we claim that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus changes everything. We believe the grace of God transforms us to live new, Holy Spirit empowered lives. We carry a message that says the Gospel changes everything! Strong’s Concordance defines grace as “the divine influence on the heart and its reflection in the life.” Yet when it comes to health and fitness, our lives look no different than the rest of the world. In fact, in some ways our poor lifestyle choices have brought a reproach on the name of Christ as the running commentary about Christians is that we call out and condemn certain sins (e.g. sexual sin and abortion) while totally ignoring that which is most prevalent in the church (i.e. gluttony). Church, for integrity’s sake, we must embrace the grace we preach. We need to ask God to cause His gospel to transform all of us, including our diet and exercise.
Did you know that the majority leading causes of death in the US are caused by poor lifestyle choices? Hundreds of thousands of people die every year from heart disease and diabetes and the greatest prevention against developing either is a healthy lifestyle of diet and exercise. Now let’s be clear. I’m in no way saying that we can “out-health” the sovereignty of God. But I know this: if I’m going to live until I’m 77 years old, I’d love to be able to serve the Lord with passion, energy, and all my limbs until he takes me. Not only does health and fitness bring numerous benefits here and now, but it helps us to live a full life for longer. If the chief end of man is to glorify God, shouldn’t we want to glorify Him as long as possible with as much energy as possible?
In Romans 12, the Apostle Paul commands us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. In 1 Corinthians 6, he tells us that we were bought with a price, and to, therefore, glorify God with our bodies. God made our bodies to function beautifully and wonderfully. He meant them to say something about who He is. He tied our bodies to our souls and in very real ways, how our bodies feel and function affects how we feel and function spiritually. So, in the poor stewardship of our bodies, we are saying something about our view of God. Every decision we make to eat better, move more, and build a healthy lifestyle can be an act of worship. The Lord deserves every one of them.
Friends, the Father loves you. He accepts you not because of your performance, but because of Christ’s. His grace has been poured out upon us. And he wants to use us to share His love and shine His glory to the ends of the earth. What if your health is getting in the way of walking in the fullness of what God has for you? I’m convinced mine was. I’m thankful for the truth of Titus 2:11-12, that the grace of God appeared, bringing salvation, training me to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live a self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. First He changed my mind. Then He changed my lifestyle.
Noah Oldham serves as the Lead Pastor at August Gate Church in St. Louis, MO and also serves as the Send City Missionary in St. Louis with NAMB (North American Mission Board). You can follow him on twitter here.