Series: Christ In ...
Christ In Health
August 11, 2019 | Randy Smith
Christ In Health
1 Timothy 4:7–8
Sunday, August 11, 2019
Pastor Randy Smith
The unknown author once said, “Too many people confine their exercise to jumping to conclusions, running up bills, stretching the truth, bending over backward, lying down on the job and side stepping responsibility”
Based on that statement and the sermon title, I believe it’s fairly clear where we are going with today’s message in our summer series entitled, “Christ In.” I have never preached on this before and I can almost guarantee this subject will never come up again. So if the Lord has me preach a couple thousand sermons to you over the course of three decades, I think it is a worthy investment to take one Sunday to preach, “Christ in Health.” This morning I would like to investigate what the Bible has to say about properly caring for our bodies.
For the most part, we as Americans have used all the excuses. I have no time. It is too boring. I don’t see the need. I don't know what to do. I am already healthy. Exercise makes me feel worse. Physical fitness is vanity. We already have an appointed day to die. The Bible does not teach, “Health, wealth and prosperity.” God does not care about physical health. They even have a verse – “For man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).
But let’s face it; many of us have sedentary lives. We drive everywhere, take elevators, spend much time sitting in front of a television or computer screen and will circle the whole parking lot 3 times until the front spot opens up – and that’s when we’re going to the gym! The American Medical Association has stated this year that our nation’s obesity rate is approaching 40% after holding around 34% between 2005 and 2012. Most Americans are overweight, lacking sleep, heavily stressed and consuming food less healthy than what they feed their pet dog. In 1 Corinthians 9:27 the Apostle Paul said we should “buffeting our bodies, rather we are “buffeting” our bodies with appetite and ease. Notice how I chose to preach this sermon after our successful Soccer Clinic and not on an Ice Cream Fellowship Sunday!
Well, what can we glean from the Bible on this issue? And this sermon is not about judging our neighbor. This, as always, is about personal examination and I’m sure all of us can improve somewhat in the health category.
Let’s start with the fact that physical fitness has value.
1 Timothy 4:7b-8, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
Clearly the Bible is placing the predominate value on inner godliness and while inner godliness is “profitable for all things,” the verse does still affirm that “bodily discipline” has some “profit.” Yes, there is a call for priorities and balance between the body and the soul. But the Bible does not demand that we ignore the body altogether, actually, quite the contrary.
Studies have proven that physical fitness is profitable to an overall healthy wellbeing. Let me now prove to you using Scripture how it is profitable in the spiritual domain as well. We have 9 points this morning. All of them are in your sermon outline.
Good health will enhance your ability to serve others.
When you take care of your body you will feel better emotionally. One doctor said, “People don’t realize how bad they feel. They get used to feeling bad. Then when they start exercising they feel so much better.” It is not only about living longer with a quantity of years, but enjoying a quality life more with the years we have left.
Our body’s health directly affects our disposition. You know how you feel when you are sick – more irritable, less social, more self-focused. Adversely, when you can get your body into its optimal performance, it stands to reason that it will positively affect your countenance, attitude and disposition. I am not giving an excuse to act in the flesh (when you don’t feel well) nor am I implying that true fruit is not of the Holy Spirit, but the loving attitude toward others that our Lord desires flows much easier when we are not laboring to get through life. We can easier get our minds off ourselves and on to the needs of others as Philippians 2:3-4 teaches.
Isaiah 35:3 says, “Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble.” Wouldn’t you rather be on the encouraging and strengthening side than the exhausted and feeble side? Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Or as the Reformer, Martin Luther put it hundreds of years ago, “It is the part of a Christian to take care of his own body for the very purpose that by its soundness and well-being he may be enabled to labor for the aid of those who are in want, and thus the stronger member may serve the weaker member.”
Good health boosts energy levels, endurance and productivity.
Proverbs 6 contrasts the ant and the sluggard. On the one hand, God condemns laziness, idle living (Pr. 10:26; 15:19; 19:15). In Matthew 25:26 Jesus condemns the lazy servant, the sluggard. On the other hand, the Bible commends hard work, diligence and faithfulness. Have you ever watched an ant? Romans 12:11, “Not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” Three times in Acts 20 Paul preached about “working hard” (Ac. 20:20, 27, 35). To live as a productive citizen of God’s Kingdom we are called to be workers imitating our working God as He continually works His will.
God wants us industrious with all the responsibilities He has placed before us. To work a fulltime job or be a stay-at-home-mom takes incredible work. To be a good spouse and raise children takes incredible work. To serve faithfully in the church takes incredible work. We can keep going. Life requires work.
Paul, in comparing himself to the other Apostles said, “I labored even more than all of them” (1 Cor. 15:10). It’s been said, “The world runs on the backs of tired people.” Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” Yet for the couch potato, “As the door turns on its hinges, so does the sluggard on his bed. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is weary of bringing it to his mouth again. (Pr. 26:14-15).
Being physically fit provides for us greater energy and strength and motivation to successfully meet the demands of life God has placed before us.
Good health gives us greater focus and concentration.
Studies show a direct correlation between exercise and healthy brain activity. If we are to love God with “all our minds,” engage in wise thinking, be able to stay attentive in church and prayer, be disciplined in the ordering our lives, mentally solve problems and be “alert” (as we are commanded in Scripture) throughout the day, there is no doubt we need focus and concentration. Sedentary lifestyles hinder this. Active lifestyles enhance this.
Jonathan Edwards was one of the greatest theologians. It is also said he had one of the sharpest minds America ever produced. He was dedicated to being the best he could be for God (hence his “Resolutions”) and even back in the mid 1700’s he exercised primarily for the purpose to stay mentally sharp.
“He typically spent up to 13 hours a day in his study but always punctuated his labor with some sort of recreation, usually walking or riding or, if the snow was too deep, chopping wood for half an hour or so. In the warmer seasons he commonly rode two or three miles “to some lonely grove,” where he would dismount and walk for a while sometimes jotting his thoughts on small pieces of paper that he would pin to his clothes for the ride home” (America’s Evangelical by Philip Gura).
Good health improves sleep and eating habits.
Sleep – I always wonder why God created us to be unconscious for a third of our lives. But for whatever reason, our body requires rest to operate properly. Yet you see the medicinal commercials on television. Most adults can’t fall asleep; get a decent night of sleep and wake-up feeling refreshed. To some degree, exercising can definitely help that.
Likewise, we know the cravings for unhealthy foods. However, after exercising not only do we have a greater mental urge to choose a healthy meal (because we do not want to undo what we just worked hard to accomplish), but we will also have a greater physical urge for healthy foods.
Simply put, exercise will improve our sleeping and eating habits. Improvements there will pay great dividends toward serving God as we serve others to our best potential.
Good health eliminates presumptuous prayer.
David prayed in Pslam 19, “Keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I will be blameless” (Ps. 19:13).
What’s a presumptuous sin? It’s the attitude that sinning is fine because I know God will forgive me. There is so much in the book of Deuteronomy why God condemns an attitude of presuming upon Him. So what then is presumptuous prayer? It is praying to God without taking any actions on my part toward the prayer. So what does that have to do with good health?
How can we ask God, “Do not take me away in the midst of my days,” while we eat three Whoppers for dinner each meal, smoke two packs of cigarettes each day and lay on the couch watching hours of television each night? If we are not pursuing a healthy lifestyle, we really can’t in good conscience pray for a healthy life. We must always seize the means to cultivate the blessing for which we desire in prayer.
Good health shows love for spouse and children.
While the spiritual heart is most important, most relationships start off based on physical attractiveness (see Song of Solomon). Therefore, I submit to you that we demonstrate love toward our spouse by reasonably maintaining our attractiveness. After all, according to Scripture our bodies belong not to ourselves, but to each other (1 Cor. 7:4). What we are seeing to avoid is the popular mentality that says, “Get the ring and let my attractiveness do its thing.”
Moreover, if the relationships are working correctly, our death is the most painful thing our spouses and children will ever encounter. I’ve done my share of funerals. I’ve seen this up close and personal. So how can we say we love them by willfully speeding up the process toward a premature death simply due to physical neglect? Is it a loving act if our grandchildren live the majority of their lives without us because we chose an unhealthy lifestyle?
Along these lines, think about this. Are we a source of our child’s glory (Pr. 17:6b)? What do we communicate to our children through our posture, frame, vigor, stamina and strength? Are we a role model for them? Are we a source of admiration for them?
Good health improves out testimony.
Your external appearance has value. Yes, you heard me correctly. Poor health can damage our testimony to the world? I am not implying that physique is always controllable nor am I saying we need to be Mr. Olympia or an air-brushed swimsuit model for the cover of Sports Illustrated. But with that said, does our body convey an appearance that we are moderate, self-controlled and disciplined? I am not equating good physical appearance with a godly heart; I am equating good physical appearance with what the Bible calls “blamelessness” and “being above reproach.”
You say, isn’t this vanity? Haven’t you read Proverbs 31:30? “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised” I agree that God is primarily concerned with the heart. I agree that an unhealthy perspective with our physical appearance could be motivated by impure motives, self-worship and idolatry.
Listen to 1 Peter 3:3-4, “[Ladies,] Your adornment must not be merely external – braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”
The heart is what ultimately matters to God, but Peter is not discounting external “adornment.” He’s just saying our beauty should not “merely” be that. 2 Corinthians 4:6, “Though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” Yes, God is working on our hearts. Yes, the outer man is decaying with time. Yes, body idolatry and vanity is a concern. Yet this does not mean we should let our physical appearance be completely ignored.
Good health helps to mortify sin.
What I mean by that is this. We are commanded in the Bible to repent. Repentance at its core level means to change our mind (“metanoia”). Repentance is changing our attitude toward a particular biblical sin and having the discipline not only to hate that sin, but have the ability to no longer participate in it. Of course this is all God’s grace, but with God’s grace genuine repentance needs tremendous personal discipline to be successful.
Listen to 1 Peter 4:1-2, “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.”
What is this verse saying? That the strength, fortitude, power, discipline necessary to overcome sin is enhanced from the trials we experience. Discipline is gained through not quitting, overcoming and rising above the rigors of life .
Why do soldiers first experience boot camp? Because they need to be taught how to push their body, overcome the desire to quit and grow beyond the pain. The mind way too often gives in before the body gives out. Likewise, why did the Apostle Paul say, “I discipline my body and make it my slave” (1 Cor. 9:27). The Christian life is not about listening to our bodies and giving into its desires (gluttony, drunkenness, slothfulness, sexual immorality), but rather mastering our bodies and making the body a slave to a biblically controlled mind. This is the difference between being controlled by the flesh or being led by the Spirit (Gal. 5).
Exercise, in order to be effective, pushes the body beyond its comfort zone. Diets push the body beyond its comfort zone. These make the body your slave and no longer your master. These produce discipline. And coming full circle, discipline is essential for us to mortify sin.
Or if you want it in its simplest terms, men you will never master the powerful desire for lust if you can’t put down the bag of Doritos.
Good health is a good steward of God’s resources.
God gives us amazing gifts. Talents, money, possessions, children, time, etc. These gifts are basically His and are on loan to us for a particular time. All the blessings we have are His, which makes us stewards of His resources. And as we know from the “Parable of the Talents” in Matthew 25, God takes very serious how we care for what belongs to Him.
So how does the body fit into this? Perhaps more than anything, your body is very special to God. As a matter of fact, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”
The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, the dwelling place of Christ. The body ultimately belongs to Him. Are we being a good steward if we suffer from heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol level, and osteoporosis because you chose to abuse or neglect your bodies? How will we give account on the Day of Judgment for this resource? Bodily discipline glorifies the Lord.
3 John 1:2, “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.”
Good health is a thing to be desired. Again, prosperity of the soul is preeminent in this verse, but good health is also commendable.
Much of life is beyond our control, sometimes even in the physical realm. But are we responsibly and specifically implementing physical fitness, diet and rest? I will allow you to investigate the methods on your own and under the supervision of your doctor. However, simple and productive steps in these domains is an understanding I trust we all possess – go for walks, eat healthy, consume junk food moderately and get your rest. If you are not doing anything, start small and procrastinate no longer. May we be faithful. May we be treasure the soul, but not ignore the body. May we care for the body as worship of Jesus Christ and not the worship of ourselves. And may it be said of us as it was the greatest saints in the Bible”
“Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people” (Gen. 25:8).
“And Job died, an old man and full of days” (Job 42:17).
“Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated” (Dt. 34:7).
May your soul prosper and also your health as well!