Responding to God's Love: Body, Mind, and Soul
By Kim Pieper
A.C.E. Certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, LifePower Yoga and Pilates Certified
It’s a touchy subject, isn’t it? Having spent nearly 20 years in the fitness industry coaching, teaching, and writing, I’ve discovered that people either want to talk my ear off about exercise and healthy living or they want to avoid it with the proverbial 10-foot pole. It’s very personal. But your body matters to God. Genesis tells us that God fashioned man out of the dust of the ground and declared it to be “good” – in fact, better than everything else he made—so our bodies can’t be inconsequential.
Yet we all come to the topic of our bodies from different places, with different experiences and different standards for what is best. In addition, many Christians toggle back and forth between the culture’s emphasis on thin, beautiful, and youthful versus the knowledge that God is not concerned with how we look, but rather with what we do to love and serve others. And let me assure you that the second of those is most certainly true. The size of your waistline, the condition of your body, or the things you put in your mouth have no bearing on your standing before God. Christ, God-man, has accomplished all things necessary for our full identity, security, and meaning in this life and the next.
Still, while our physical health plays no part in God’s love for us, God IS CONCERNED with the way you treat your body and how you take care of it. And why shouldn’t He be? He made you! Eyes, ears, kidneys, lungs, hands, feet, blood vessels, heart—He placed each part in you to work in perfect harmony with one another in order to glorify Him. You are a miracle. David was so overwhelmed by this miracle that He sang about it:
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” --Psalm 139:13-14a (ESV)
God created you. He re-created you in Christ. He cares for you. Now He wants you to care for yourself so that you are free to serve others. What a beautiful way to thank and praise Him for this marvelous gift. So perhaps outside the realm of health or fitness or living longer or vanity there is a time and place to look at caring for our bodies with healthy eating and regular exercise for a new reason: simply because it honors God.
“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; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” --1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)
This verse from 1 Corinthians is rich with that understanding. Let’s break down some of what it says.
TEMPLES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
If you came to church next Sunday and found trash strewn throughout the parking lot, muddy footprints in the Commons, leftover coffee cups in the pews, and garbage all over the floor, my guess is you’d be taken aback. Though it may be just a building, we treat the place we worship…the place we baptize… and the place Christ meets us weekly in bread and wine, with respect. In that same way, you should look at your body. Your body should be cared for and respected because it is a place where the Holy Spirit resides.
BOUGHT WITH A PRICE
It was quite a price that Jesus paid for you. What that should tell you is that no matter what you’ve been told by our culture—by advertisements, magazine covers, or even words from others—Jesus has made you valuable. He loves you beyond comprehension. In response to that great love, we diligently care for that which He saved. Yes, your mind and your soul through daily reading of His Word and regular worship. But also your body, created in His image. By healthy living we show our gratitude to God for what He has given us and bought back by the body and blood of Jesus.
HONOR GOD WITH YOUR BODY
What does it mean to honor God with your body? First keep in mind your body is not meant for self-gratification. It is for God’s glorification. That mindset alone will help direct the choices you make when it comes to your health. Our culture encourages you to say, “It’s my body and I can do what I want with it.” But our culture isn’t Christ-centered, so let’s be clear: No, it’s not yours. It’s God’s. You are the caretaker. So whether it comes to eating or exercising or sleeping, reflect Philippians 1:20 and “let Christ be magnified in your body.” Make choices that nurture and care for your body, not those that will damage and destroy.
Second, strive for progress, not perfection. Jesus said, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” --Matt. 26:41b (NIV) We are often black and white in our attempts to eat right and exercise. It’s either 100% on, or forget about it completely. This is not an all-or-nothing situation. Due to our human condition, it can’t be. Rather, much like we must daily die to sin and rise to Christ, we must daily re-commit to caring for ourselves no matter what happened yesterday. Don’t be a slave to perfection. Perhaps a good place to start is in prayer. Take the challenge to the One Who created you and ask for strength to help you honor Him with your actions. Remember, without “Our Father, Who art in heaven,” there is nothing else.
Third, let’s remember that caring for your body is important, but it’s not a guarantee. Illness often comes through no fault of the person it strikes. We also acknowledge that our bodies will not last; sickness and disease are inevitable for many, if not most, and that our ultimate goal is eternal life in heaven where we will be made whole again. Still, we have been placed here on earth for a short time because God has a purpose for us to fulfill.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” --Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)
There it is! Your purpose! To respond to His love for you by living fully to serve others. You see, to me, healthy eating and consistent exercise are not vehicles to smaller jeans or smaller numbers on a scale or even for adding another five years to life. A healthy lifestyle means living each day to the full, responding to God’s love by fully engaging your body, mind, and soul in service to others, and, in turn, to Him. With God’s help, taking care of your body allows more time and energy to live out everything God has prepared for you to do in your day-to-day life. It is another way to glorify God and worship Him. We will all die. The question is, how will you live?
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
--Romans 12:1 (ESV)
Tips for Exercising:
The most effective form of exercise is the one you enjoy. Choose something you like, so you’ll actually do it.
Find a workout partner. It’s always more motivating and keeps you accountable.
Don’t neglect strength training, especially as you age. It boosts your metabolism and increases bone density.
Fit in short five-minute bursts of movement all day long. Stand up from your desk and walk to the farthest bathroom. Park far away. Take the stairs, including extra flights in your house. THINK: five minutes of activity, six times throughout the day = 30 minutes!
Swap screen time for movement. T.V. and social media are killing us. Literally.
Tips for Eating:
Eat more vegetables.
Drink more water all day.
Before you eat, drink a glass of water. We often confuse thirst with hunger.
Shop the outside edge of the grocery store. This is where you find the things you really need: fruits, vegetables, and meats.
Minimize eating things that come in packages, boxes, or bags. The way God made it is good enough.
If you must choose a food in a package, make sure it has five ingredients or fewer. (And only those you can pronounce.)