PUBLISHER’S NOTE: For 2010 we’ve added a new form of content to Faith & Fitness Magazine. For years we have been committed to delivering solid fitness research, information and ideas. We’ll continue to bring you professionals who offer a wide array of fitness knowledge. But in addition to this “teach it” approach we want to increase your ability to grow spiritually with an expanded “preach it” format. We’re asking authors to challenge and inspire. This is gym equipment to build spiritual muscle.
FIT TO BE BRIDE
I was speaking at a church a few months ago because the pastor did not feel qualified to speak on gluttony in his Seven Deadly Sins series. Good for him for admitting it would have been a bit disingenuous to stand before the folks and talk of something of which he had just indulged backstage when the most humongous plate of donuts and bear claws were passed his way.
It was a unique experience in a unique place. Everyone on staff signs a pledge to not drink, but they are allowed to be gluttonous. Everyone signs a pledge to only have sex with the person to whom they are married, but they are allowed to lead and serve huffing and puffing up and down stairs or taking the elevator to avoid the humiliation of their unfit body. As I said, it was an interesting experience but nothing much has changed as a result of my message. I was just trying to let them know what God does and does not care about. Maybe you will respond in some way more positive than they did. Maybe you will lead your church to be the biggest loser church in the world. If so, I would love to hear about it.
FIT TEMPLE OR FRAT HOUSE?
Since our bodies are, as the Bible says, the Temples of the Holy Spirit we need to treat them with respect and make them worthy of the most profound inhabitant. There are, however, many temples that need to be downsized. Others need a total remodel or makeover. And rather than eat and exercise like they own a temple, many Christians are so off track that their temple looks more like a fraternity house.
SELF-CONTROLLED OR CONTROLLED SELF?
We either have it or we don’t. The Bible says to say “No” to worldly passions and have self-control. When we have it we can be devoted to God rather than sloth and a life of ease. OK, so you may insist that you haven’t made food or slothfulness your God. Fine, but the growing waistline of many is evidence that God isn’t God either. What we have made into a God is our comfort. We have to have it and we sacrifice our lives to get it in some form or another. We give God our attention in church; a nod when we pray and then we become controlled by everything but God.
THE CHURCH OF THE PRESENT DAY SODOMIANS (sounds a little more civil)
Anyone who thinks this fitness “thing” (as the unfit often call it) does not matter to God should feel quite fortunate to have not lived in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah. When we think of what went on back then we usually think of… well…you know. But the account in the Bible points out that it goes way beyond…well…you know (or if you don’t let me come out with it: promiscuity, lewdness, prostitution and all kinds of moral corruption). “Sodom’s sins were pride, laziness and gluttony. So they sat around being arrogant while they ate. More than enough was never enough and that hits a bit close to home, or better stated, close to your “Temple”, house of the Holy Spirit. So if we find ourselves moving our chew muscles most, we might want to find a different church other than The Church of the Present Day Sodomians where “The Gluttonettes” perform everyday accompanied by “Lazy Pride.”
It happens. Sometimes we don’t tell the truth. Not that we set out to do it, but we are just unaware of the truth. A lot of preachers and teachers do that downloading someone else’s sermon notes, not preparing properly and then rattling off a common untruth.
When it comes to fitness I think the big Pinocchio Precept that is often taught is that it doesn’t really matter what you look like on the outside.
The point of that statement is well intentioned but it is just not true. How you look can be a stumbling block for someone else. How you look matters to your kids, your boss, your spouse and yes, your friends. And it matters to God. The Bible lays it out clearly: “Do not let any part of your body become a tool of wickedness, to be used for sinning. Instead, give yourselves completely to God since you have been given new life. And use your whole body as a tool to do what is right for the glory of God.”
If you are so large that you are defined by your weight even before someone meets you, then your body is being used as a tool of wickedness. It is repulsive and offensive to others and to God. People are wondering just how much food you could send to Haiti if you ate like a normal person.
What you look like matters. That does not mean you have to be beautiful or symmetrical or have all your parts. It means that God wants you to take what you have and do the best you can with it.
Recently a pastor and I were traveling out of Washington D.C. when we had to brace for an unplanned landing due to one engine failing. At the point where he was supposed to lean forward and put his head down, he was only able to make a slight leaning-forward gesture – he couldn’t go any further due to his size. The next time you see him on television, (he is one of the biggest, literally) think about him not being able to protect himself on that plane. Let that image be the motivation for you to make a change and lead others to change.
THE “ALL I HAVE TO DO IS…” MANTRA OF THE UNWILLING
Whenever I hear someone say those six words, I don’t really care what follows. Because it is just one of many lies with which this person is betraying their body. When it comes to fitness there is no “all I have to do is…” reality. If you want to be fit and change the way you live you will have to change a lot of things and the first will be your attitude about your own problem.
One of my favorite Bible passages reads, “They offer superficial treatments for my people’s mortal wounds…”. When Ken Taylor penned the Living Bible Paraphrase he put it this way, “You can’t heal a wound by saying it is not there.” I really like that better. Whatever translation you read, it presents a concept of band-aids placed on deep wounds that need much more. Our unfit churches need much more. Just eating a salad at lunch and not eating after 7:00 pm are commendable first steps, but alone they aren’t going to cut it. Nor is parking in the farthest space from the front door or always taking the stairs a total fitness solution. Those are nice things but you’ll need to engage something deeper. What is needed is a transformation.
When I was growing up I was taught the Bible verse, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”. Some people thought that meant thinking more positively. Others thought it meant scripture memorization. In either case they thought transformation meant changing what you think about. But two seminaries and 25 years of ministry later I realize that changing what we think about is a superficial treatment for a deep problem.
We need to change HOW we think to experience transformation. Such as: change isn’t change unless it lasts a lifetime; desire and willingness are worthless without doing something to change; waiting for God to do what God is waiting for you to do produces nothing; short term fixes are not fixes at all; our children are watching us and what we do matters a lot; God’s love is not the same as God’s approval; God requires stewardship of everything, especially the body that sustains the life God has given us.
BAD NEWS CONCLUSION
Most everyone has been taught that nothing can be accomplished without pain and hard work. Yet we watch people win the lottery and watch them find instant fame in an unreality television show. We discover they spend a lot of time doing things other than painful work. Though we long for our own instant success, fame and glory we all have a challenge from God that is painful and requires work.
The challenge is this: “Since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude...” I think many people want to be armed with an attitude like Jesus. In fact it almost sounds like the attitude will arm us and help us succeed in all ways to maintain our standard of living and comfortable lifestyle. It is easy to want that attitude.
But the rest of the challenge tells us the real reason for the attitude and the result of putting it into action: “When your body experiences suffering you are done with sin. The suffering shows that you have stopped sinning.” The willingness to suffer pain indicates we are finished with sin. The pain itself is a sign of the weaning from your sinful habits. No matter how you look at it, pain is in the formula.
The “bad news” is that God wants us to do whatever painful thing we need to do, whatever suffering we need to go through to stop what has come to control us; something that is sinful. That change is something everyone can and should do. For those who truly pursue to be followers of Christ it is something they must do. It is painful to say no to decadent foods and yes to daily exercise. It is painful to stop anything that has brought us comfort in exchange for something that in the long run will bring fulfillment, peace and hope.
My desire for you is that you make the bad news the good news. The good news is that if we can give up our stubborn resistance, arrogant attitudes of entitlement and become willing to experience pain, then we can experience a transformed mind, body and spirit. As we change, others will no doubt see how painful it is. Yet that will not discourage them. It will motivate them to follow in making their own painful changes. That is good news. That is hopeful truth.
is the host of the number one Christian counseling broadcast, New Life Live, syndicated around the country and heard all over the world. Steve is also the founder of New Life Ministries
offering counseling and treatment across America. He is also the creator of the Women of Faith conferences attended by over 4,000,000 people. Steve is a best selling author of books such as Every Man’s Battle, Toxic Faith and his latest, Regret Free Living. With over 7,000,000 books in print he has been writing about God’s transformational truth since 1984. Steve has degrees from Baylor University and the University of North Texas as well as two honorary doctorate degrees. Steve resides with his family in Fishers, Indiana.