The Spirituality of Physical Health
It’s strange to me to realize that one of the most intensely spiritual times of my life was the eight months I was competing for the big prize on season three of NBC’s the Biggest Loser. Honestly, I went into the experience with no connection in my mind between the spiritual and the physical. I thought taking care of myself as a pastor meant regular time in the Word, quiet times, keeping my spiritual walk on track, but I came out of those months with an entirely different outlook.
It turned out I had an inner Gnostic hiding in my belief system. Not quite in the same way as those the Apostle Paul railed against, but still, there was a definite separation of the spiritual and physical in my mind. I put my priority on the soul, that eternal part of me, and ignored the value of the physical, temporal side of my being. But I think the truth is something far different; that God has designed us to be healthy spiritually AND physically, and we experience a fullness with Him when those two are in alignment that just doesn’t compare to anything else.
During my time competing on Biggest Loser, I was really starting to notice that God’s teaching style is different than mine; I want to learn things immediately. I’m frustrated if I can’t do something right after a few tries. God, on the other hand, has a much slower approach. He wanted us to appreciate our need for a Savior, so he had us live under the law for thousands of years. He wanted us to understand the significance of Christ sacrificing Himself for us, so we sacrificed animals for thousands of years. The ultimate purpose of marriage, revealed in scripture thousands of years after God instituted marriage, is so we can begin to fathom the relationship Christ has with the church. Over and over God has used teaching methods that are subtle. Rather than just tell us what to believe or understand, He creates an environment that so ingrains the teaching into our very culture that when He reveals the deeper truth behind it we instinctively understand the lesson.
What jumped out at me in all this was the overwhelming number of scriptures throughout the Old Testament speaking to the sacredness, holiness, importance and care of the temple. Those passages aren’t there as some sort of history lesson – they still apply today. In fact, I firmly believe that one of the primary purposes of the Old Testament temple was to prepare us for the incredible privilege and responsibility it is for our bodies to now serve as temples! 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT) reads, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”
As I lost the weight and pursued a healthier lifestyle, I got more and more excited about the idea of pursuing health to honor God with my body, not just to extend my life by a few years or win some prize on a reality TV show. What I discovered is that my faith and Christianity experienced a high that is hard to describe! God wants us to be physically healthy, He designed us to be, and part of caring for ourselves as shepherds and leaders is prioritizing the care of His temples, our bodies. Part of responsibility as leaders is to model that same care and value! Our bodies are the sacred, holy dwelling place of the Creator of the Universe – we are called to treat them that way!
So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NLT).
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