Almost everywhere we turn these days, we are bombarded with advertising about our health. Fitness centers offer us easy, 24 hour access, state-of-the-art exercise equipment, personal trainers, and the latest yoga-zumba-crossfit super workout routines. Or we can buy our own exercise machines for just a few unbelievably low monthly payments and workout in the privacy of our own homes. Elaborate infomercials feature perfectly fit, hard-bodied men and women who assure us we can look just like them if we follow their simple 20 minute per day formula.
The food Industry isn’t absent from this concern for our physical well-being, either. Advertisements for the latest diet plan, health food alternative, or miracle weight-loss supplements are constantly beaming into our living rooms. Spokesmen and women are kind enough to teach us about the healthier food choices; assuring us of longer, happier lives where we will simultaneously be more popular and content. With just the right fitness routine and diet plan we can be better parents, more productive workers, smarter and better citizens, and live longer lives. And social media provides the tools we need to share our progress with the world.
The fitness business in the United States is booming. According to IBISWorld, gyms and fitness centers alone take in about thirty billion dollars annually. When you add in the additional business of providing the proper gear, attire, equipment, food, supplements, media, and consulting, the revenue of the Fitness Industry as a whole is staggering. With so much money in play, it is no wonder there are so many options vying for our attention – all of them trying very hard to convince us our lives could be better and longer if we just spend our hard-earned money with them.
The fitness industry has become a benevolent monster; a seemingly unstoppable force for our own good. Concerned only with making us healthier, happier, and longer-lived; few seem to question the sincerity or integrity of the movement. And while exercise is not a bad thing in and of itself, today’s fitness industry has worked hard to create a sense of insecurity in the general public; in essence it thrives on our deepest fears by convincing us we are not good enough the way we are and we’re not going to live as long as we could. With so much money at stake, is it any wonder that the industry is working so hard to earn more of our cash?
Now I want to be clear that I do believe we should get our exercise. Donna and I try to get in a walk every evening, we hike when we can on weekends, and we try to be reasonably active working in the yard, gardening, and other similar activities around the house. It’s a given that a reasonable amount of physical activity does indeed do us some good. The Bible agrees on this point in 1 Timothy, we’ll get to that verse in a bit. But if we are standing in front of a mirror with our shirt off marveling at our own bodies while we lift weights, if we post endless pictures of ourselves on social media so everyone can see how toned our bodies are, if working out or running the next 5k has become the highest priority in our lives, it’s quite probable we’ve crossed into a form of idolatry.
I hate to bore you with math, but a little discussion of statistics is in order here, so please bear with me. As most of us know, statisticians can twist numbers to make them support whatever argument they wish to make. But there is one statistic that cannot be twisted, misrepresented, or argued. It is a statistical fact that ten out of every ten people will die. Perhaps we should pause just to let that reality sink in for a moment; every single one of us is dying. And no amount of exercise or careful dieting can change that fact.
Pondering this statistical truth isn’t something we should fear, rather, it is a sign of wisdom: Psalm 39:4-5 states: “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.” And in Psalm 90:12, we read: “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” So instead of buying into the constant fitness industry advertising onslaught trying to convince us how to live better and longer, we are wise to consider the finite length of our lives
But here is the good news, a truth that perhaps the fitness industry would rather ignore: death is not the end! And while the fitness industry would have us fear our physical mortality, Scripture tells us: “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” (Matthew 10:28-31)
I hope you are seeing these truths in those verses:
1) Your physical body and your soul are two things; one mortal and one immortal
2) The people or things that can kill our physical body cannot kill our soul
3) Sparrows are not as valuable as we are yet God knows the precise details of every sparrow that has ever lived
4) You are so valuable to God that He knows every detail of your life down to the number of hairs on your head (a detail that, in my case, is getting easier for God to remember with every passing day!)
Scripture has the best guidance for our fitness that we will ever receive, let’s call it the ultimate “cross training” advice: “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 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. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance.” (1Timothy 4:7-9) In other words, we should get some exercise, it is clearly beneficial for us in the here and now. But it should not be our primary concern or obsession, rather we should apply ourselves to rigorously working out spiritually.
And here’s how we can do that: first, read God’s Word daily and do what is says (i.e. James 1:22). Pray regularly and give thanks in all circumstances (i.e. 1Thessalonians 5:16-18). Love others (i.e. Romans 13:8). Attend church and have fellowship with other Christians. (i.e. Hebrews 10:24-25). Tell others the Good News about Jesus Christ (i.e. Matthew 28:19). Make these things your spiritual fitness routine and you will store up treasure for eternity. And remember – life is short but eternity is long.
To summarize, and I want to be perfectly clear, be active when you can, follow your doctor’s orders, and take care of yourself physically. But don’t make physical exercise your number one priority. Rather, recognize that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, you are beautiful just as you are, and God loves you dearly. Pour your heart, mind, and soul into your spiritual fitness and reap the benefits of a personal relationship with the God who cared enough to send His one and only Son so that you may have everlasting life. And feel free to post your spiritual progress on social media!
If you have questions about how to improve your spiritual fitness regimen, please write us at [email protected] We’d love to help and we won’t charge you a dime!
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