Have you ever thought about physical health as a spiritual discipline?
It’s so easy to separate the two things. “My whole life is dedicated to God, but my body belongs to me.” I used to think like this. Maybe not in those exact words. But in my mind spiritual discipline, Christian maturity, and Christ-likeness had nothing to do with eating ice cream or relaxing on the couch instead of getting in a workout.
I deserve to relax.
I deserve a treat.
I deserve to enjoy myself.
Have you ever thought these things? I know you have. We all have. Except maybe Mother Teresa. But if you take a step back and look at these statements, do they really sound very Christ-like? I mean, can you imagine Jesus saying these things?
All of these statements are “I” focused. But the example Jesus gave us is a life of service and of sacrifice. How mature can I really be as a Christian if I am holding on to things that I know are harmful to the body God gave me?
It’s time to let go of the “I deserve” mentality, and learn to focus on honoring God with our bodies. Pastor Rick Warren points out that if we ever saw someone vandalizing a church or place of worship, we would want to stop them immediately. But we trash our bodies, the temples of the Holy Spirit every day. It’s a sobering thought, isn’t it?
So what can we do?
We need to begin by looking into the Word of God. What does the Bible say about our bodies? About sloth and gluttony? About what we eat and drink?
Think about this. In Sacred Pathways, Gary Thomas says, “By the time I die, I want my actions, my thoughts, and my beliefs to all conform to the image of Christ. This won’t happen by accident. Fortunately, we have a great teacher, the Holy Spirit, and a reliable and authoritative group of teachings, the Bible, to help us accomplish that aim.” (pg. 252)
So I ask myself three questions:
- Does the way I treat my body conform to the image of Christ? (Would Jesus treat his own body this way?)
- Is the Holy Spirit in me currently leading me in the way I treat my body, or is my flesh calling all the shots?
- Does my view of my body come from the Word of God, or from the world?
Gary Thomas also reminds us that “knowing what is right is not a substitute for doing what is right.” (pg. 254) What can you do today to start taking better care of your body?
As you ponder that question, take some time to memorize this scripture, and think about how it applies to physical health as a spiritual discipline.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
“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.”
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