Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for God's temple is sacred,
and you together are that temple. —1 Corinthians 3:16-17
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own. —1 Corinthians 6:19
I readily admit that it is hard to stay in shape. As I've aged and had more frequent illnesses, I find I have to plan, and work to maintain optimum weight, decent muscle mass, acceptable blood pressure and any cholesterol level deemed healthy by my primary care physician.
The majority of western society's health challenges are brought on by excess of too much food, too much drink and way too much of a sedentary lifestyle. These are the scourges of first world economies. We can not do anything because of health challenges that are beyond our control and should never feel guilty, or think we are cursed by God because of it (John 9:3). In fact all of the admonitions below are centered on health challenges we have some control over.
- We are created in God’s image. The first book of the Bible makes it clear—we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). That image was marred in the fall of Adam and Eve, but not destroyed. That truth alone should supply more than enough impetus to take care of ourselves. Our mortal bodies are given to us to reveal the life of Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:11).
- Physically—there is no do-over. This point might sound silly, but sometimes we live as if we have bodies to spare, or that we will be exempt from the ravages of nature. No matter how much medicine advances, when this body wears out, we don’t have a replacement until the day of resurrection (Hebrews 9:27).
- Poor discipline is a bad witness. It is hard to tell people to be disciplined in their Bible study, prayer life, giving, etc., when they can look at us and see we are undisciplined in exercise and nutrition. A lack of effort in one area of life is often indicative of problems in other areas. The scriptures call us to a life of self-control and discipline (Titus 1:8).
- Poor health is a big expense. Eventually, the costs of neglect of health add up. Medical bills pile up. Health, life and disability insurance costs increase. Moreover, bad health makes us less productive at work. Others are forced then to carry some of our load. We lose self-respect and esteem when we let ourselves go physically (Proverbs 15:32).
- Our families deserve better. Frankly, it’s unloving not to take care of ourselves (Ephesians 5:29). Our families worry about us when we struggle to climb steps, find clothes to fit, or tire-out from doing simple household chores. Our love for them ought to motivate us to stay as healthy as possible. If we work to not indulge the flesh, there will be more opportunities to serve our families and the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:13).
- Being out of shape might indicate idolatry. Those words might be difficult to hear, but they're necessary ones. If we cannot push away from food, or find time
to exercise in order to take care of our bodies, we must ask if something other than God has become our god (1 Timothy 4:8).
- Better health means more energy to do God's work. God's work is not easy. Those who strive to advance the cause of Christ know that the burdens are sometimes heavy. When you include the time for our regular occupations, family and household obligations, and the time to reach out to people with the good news—the hours are often long. Being out of shape makes the work only that much more difficult. The apostle John prayed for the disciples that he wrote too, that they would enjoy good health and their souls would prosper—in other words, good health gives us more opportunities to grow spiritually (3 John 2).
- Proper care requires rest—and it's godly to rest. Our creator expects us to take time off, focus on Him, and enjoy His blessings. One of the ten commandments was to take a whole day off (Sabbath—to rest body and mind (Exodus 20:9-11). In fact, not taking time to rest can be self-centered—that is, we think we must be doing everything, or it all depends on us (Psalms 127:2).
- We might be called to a mission field far from home. Many mission team leaders or organizations will not consider taking someone who is out of shape or in bad health. Mission work and serving in needy communities around the world is often hazardous, rigorous, and the stresses of cross-cultural living are only compounded by poor health and lack of discipline (Proverbs 5:23). Western culture, and comfort in general has made us soft. We forget most third-world countries do not have air condition, abundant food, clean water supplies, and top medical care. Thus, being fit, with robust health is a big help for those who want to serve in the poorest regions of the world.
- Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. This is a truth that is hard to fathom, but God really does live within us (1 Corinthians 6:19). The God who created us and indwells us expects us to be wise stewards of the body he gave us. God calls us to a high standard and obligation when it comes to taking care of our bodies and we will be held accountable for the way we managed our health.
In the book of 1 Samuel, the prophet Samuel is sent by God to anoint the next king of Israel. When David (who was out tending the sheep) is brought before Samuel, it says of David, "He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, 'Rise and anoint him; this is the one'" (1 Samuel 16:12). David would certainly need to be healthy as he spent the next several years running for his life from King Saul. Unlike David, we may not all be blessed with handsome features, but with discipline and self-control, we can all work to maintain as good as health as we can, to enable us to do the most good, for the most people, for as long as possible, to advance the cause of Christ in our generation.