So many times in church we talk about spiritual health, emotional well-being, or financial stewardship. But the Christian doctrines of creation, incarnation and resurrection teach us that God also cares about our bodies and our physical health. God loves all of you - not just your spirit, but also your flesh!
God created the body and the spirit, and even though sin has polluted both, God will redeem both the body and the spirit. As Christians our hope for the future is not an ethereal, esoteric, disembodied existence in the clouds - but the New Heavens and the New Earth.
Because we believe in the goodness of creation it turns Christians into fighting people when it comes to matter. When we see people who are hungry, sick or naked we know it’s God’s will - it’s God’s kingdom program - to see all of that healed! God’s program is to get rid of sickness, disease, poverty and hunger and we are called to do what we can to be part of that program now.
“For Christianity is a fighting religion. It thinks God made the world-that space and time, heat and cold, and all the colours and tastes, and all the animals and vegetables, are things that God made as a man makes up a story. But it also thinks that a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.” - CS Lewis
But as we are caring for others bodies, we need to also care for our own. In fact, failing to care for ourselves is one of the first signs of loss of hope, and loss of recognition of God’s goodness in the world.
For the first time in history, as many people are suffering from the result of too much food as malnutrition. While millions of people suffer from not having enough to eat, millions are struggling with the effects of being overweight. Seven in ten Americans are overweight. Diabetes, heart disease, and other “lifestyle-based diseases” now kill more people than infectious diseases worldwide. We rarely rest as God commands us to, we eat meals in moving vehicles, we sit when we should walk, we stay up when we should sleep, we punish our bodies with too much food or not enough, and we fill our bodies up with our stress and our anxiety, until our bodies cannot bear it any longer.
We are followers of the Word Made Flesh - yet we often neglect our own flesh - or treat our bodies with shame or scorn.
There is no magic pill, no quick fix, no instant formula,and no shortcut that will make you healthy overnight. You must make wise choices every day. Unfortunately many diets and fitness plans use guilt and shame as a motivation - but that never works in the long run. Others become false-gods - convincing us that when we have the perfect body we will find ultimate joy and fulfillment. But God uses love as the motivation. The key is to begin by embracing God’s love for you - your soul, your spirit, and your body. Learn to love who God made you to be.
- Embrace God’s love for you - spirit, soul, and body.
Paul says, “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians13:7 NLT ). It is love — not fear, not guilt, and not peer pressure — that causes us to keep going when we feel like giving up.
- Dedicate your body to God
The Bible also tells us that lasting change begins with committing your body to God. Romans 12:1 – 2 says, “ . . . give your bodies to God. . . .Let them be a living and holy sacrifice — the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”
Notice the strong mind-body connection in this verse. Two thousand years after this verse was written, we now know that not only do our minds affect our bodies, but also our bodies affect our minds. What you do with your body sets the tone for everything else. Physical health influences your mental health, your spiritual health, your emotional health, your relational health, and even your financial health.
Think about it, how many times have you read a book, heard a message, or attended an event that motivated you to make some change, but then you didn’t have the physical energy to do it? Instead, you laid down on your couch and watched TV.
A major motivation to become physically healthy is to have the energy and alertness you need to make other changes in your life. Maybe you are frustrated by your lack of energy to pray? To serve? To study? To be with community? You know you need these things in your life in order to be spiritually healthy but you just don’t have the energy to do them. Maybe in order to work on your spiritual health you need to start with your physical health. Since you can’t do anything without a body!
- Get involved in a small group
We were designed for community and built for relationships. Therefore the deepest changes in your life will only happen as you open up to a few trusted friends who will support you and check up on you. You don’t need a legalistic schoolmaster, but you do need some friends who will meet with you regularly as a small group to give you the support and encouragement you will need.
- Create healthy habits.
A habit can not be eradicated, it must be replaced. So unless you deliberately fight a habit by creating new routines the pattern will unfold automatically.
Replace donuts with fresh fruit and make exercise a part of your daily routine. Make whole foods instead of processed foods a regular part of your diet. Live a more active lifestyle. Get more sleep. Cut down on your stress. It’s not rocket science. It’s just good, common sense. But it requires intentionality. It is your habits, the little choices you make either consciously or subconsciously every day, that determine the outcome of your life.
Historically, when Christians sought to order the events of ordinary life around growing in Christlikeness, they would develop what is called a “rule of life.” Various monastic orders each had a rule. This was not simply a set of laws. The Latin word for rule is regula— that is, something done regularly. A rule involves a rhythm for living in which we can grow more intimately connected to God.
Everyone wants to be healthy, but very few people actually choose to be healthy. It takes more than desire or a dream and you don’t get there by accident. It’s intentional. It’s a lifetime of choices. And as you make more and more healthy choices, you will begin to change.
Fortunately, God offers you his power to make healthy choices. Paul says, “for God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Phil 2v13). God has a part and you have a part in your physical health and your spiritual maturity. You do what you can do, and God does what only he can do.
O Holy God, in the incarnation of your Son our Lord you made our flesh the instrument of your self-revelation: Give us a proper respect and reverence for our mortal bodies, keeping them clean and fair, whole and sound; that, glorifying you in them, we may confidently await our being clothed upon with spiritual bodies, when that which is mortal is transformed by life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
- The Book of Occasional Services, 2nd Edition.