Five frequently overlooked facets of physical health

I know this is an understatement, but maintaining a healthy body isn't a very easy task for most of us. When we were children, our parents governed our habits and diets, and most likely made us engage in regular physical activity. Our metabolisms operated well. We felt like we could eat whatever we wanted without gaining weight, and generally speaking, we probably look back at pictures from that time and think we looked pretty good.

Then, sometime in our 20's, we gradually began to realize that the old rules we used to follow stopped applying to us. We couldn't eat whatever we wanted without consequence. The natural flow of our daily life didn't include as much exercise and activity. And if your pattern was anything like mine, you spent that decade growing horizontally. Complicating matters even more, your responsibilities increased, your stress levels ballooned, and you probably started medicating that stress with ice cream, Doritos, French fries, or something similar.

I'm convinced that anyone beyond the age of 25 that looks and feels healthy isn't looking and feeling that way by accident. They are making intentional decisions that contribute to their physical health on a daily basis. For those who follow Christ, there's also a correlation between our physical health and our spiritual health.

I hope you're interested in making investments in your physical health. I hope you can see the value of doing so. If so, I'd like to take the next few moments to point out five frequently overlooked facets of physical health that are stressed in Scripture.

I. A healthy body is used to give God glory

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
— 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, ESV

I'm one of those people who finds it mentally relaxing to have something physical to work on. One of my favorite things to work on is my home. From time-to-time, I'll take on a project around the house that improves the function or the appearance of the house. I enjoy doing that because that's the space the Lord allows my family to live in. I pay for the house and the repairs, but practically speaking, the house doesn't only belong to me. There are six of us who call that building home. We inhabit that space.

Multiple times in Scripture, the Lord uses building analogies to describe His family, the church. Scripture teaches us that the moment we came to faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit took up residence within us, and 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us that we are now "a temple of the Holy Spirit." That's how our bodies are described in this passage because He dwells within us.

When we moved to the area we now live in, I was shocked at how expensive it was to buy property. But because we felt called by God to live here, we paid the price. The Lord knows what it's like to pay a steep price for a residence as well. Before the Holy Spirit came to dwell within us, our lives and our bodies were purchased with the shed blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We were bought at the most expensive price, and as this Scripture teaches, we are not our own. We belong to God. Therefore, He calls us to glorify Him with our bodies.

To glorify the Lord means we are to honor and praise Him. Our chief purpose, in fact, is to give Him glory. Is the way we treat our physical body - what we put in it, what we do to it, and how we choose to use it, honoring to the Lord? Is the Holy Spirit pleased with how we treat His dwelling?

II. A healthy body demonstrates self-control

“But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
— 1 Corinthians 9:27, ESV

The church in the city of Corinth that Paul initially directed these comments toward, lived in a culture that had some similarities to ours. It was a decadent culture with a low standard of morality. It was a culture that was known for being sexually licentious. Truthfully, when I observe our present-day culture, it seems to me that we're now at the point where the primary god we're worshipping is the god of our own sexual appetites. Examples of sexual self-control seem sadly infrequent, and certainly aren't culturally celebrated.

But one of the most clear pieces of evidence of the Holy Spirit's presence in the lives of believers is their demonstration of Spirit-empowered self-control. The Holy Spirit clearly taught Paul to value that, and as we can see from the fruit of Paul's ministry, his life was used to great effect. As Paul was speaking to the Corinthians, he made a point to emphasize discipline and self-control as marks of a mature Christian.

Is self-control something that's observable in our lives?

III. A healthy body doesn't gratify sinful desires

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
— Galatians 5:16-17, ESV

Recently, I was reading through some posts I made online ten years ago. One of the posts happened to be about a walk I was taking with my daughter. She was nine-years-old at the time, but for some reason, we both remember that walk clearly. I remember her telling me all sorts of things about what interested her at the time. It was a special moment, and I enjoyed reminiscing about it.

The Bible often refers to our relationship with the Lord as a "walk", and in these verses, Paul encourages us to "walk by the Spirit." What do you suppose he meant by that? The practice of walking by the Spirit conveys the idea of moving in the direction He empowers you to move. So if we're walking by the Spirit, we're living the new life we've been given through faith in Christ, divinely empowered by the Holy Spirit to go in the direction the Lord is calling us to go.

And if that's the kind of walk we're taking, our minds aren't going to be consumed with worldly and sinful desires. Our minds will be focused on God's will because we're busy walking with Him instead of running away from Him.

Throughout the course of our lives, we're going to be tempted by many sinful desires, but we don't need to give in to them. Our old nature will look at the things of this world and find them appealing, but the new nature we've been given through Jesus understands that the desires of our heart will only find true satisfaction through Him. The false promises of this world, and the smörgåsbord of temptations it casts before us, won't fill us. They'll only leave us feeling empty and used.

IV. A healthy body practices modesty

“likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,”
— 1 Timothy 2:9, ESV

I don't know what kind of conversations other families are having in their homes, but I can tell you about one of the conversations we regularly have in our home. It's a conversation about modesty. I don't think there's any ambiguity about our thoughts on the matter at this point.

If we as Christians are going to come to a point of having a healthy understanding of how the Lord wants us to use our bodies, the subject of modesty needs to be part of the conversation. Social media isn't going to teach our children modesty. The entertainment industry and the fashion industry aren't going to model it. And sadly, many Christians who have influence over others don't seem to place a high value on biblical modesty either.

Modesty can be a tricky thing to talk about because, to some degree, there's a subjective capacity to how it applies to our adornment. We all probably hold to different shades of opinions on the subject, but if we're truly walking in the Spirit, I believe He will lead us where we need to go on this issue.

There are a few helpful questions we can ask as we wrestle with this concept.

  1. Am I truly content with who I am in Christ?

  2. Do I dress in a way that draws unhealthy attention because deep down, I'm insecure and only feel good about myself when I have the approval of others?

  3. Am I trying to impress others with my opulence and expense?

  4. Would it trouble my conscience to know I contributed in a negative way to a brother or sister in Christ's struggle with lust or temptation?

V. A healthy body can see beyond the day of its death

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
— Matthew 10:28, ESV

Do you ever torture your mind by posing all kinds of "what if" questions to yourself? Quite often, many of those "what if questions" have to do with injury or death. The reality is that our bodies in their current state experience death and decay. We don't like that thought, and frankly, even mentioning the subject of death is enough to spark fear in the hearts of many.

During the course of His earthly ministry, Jesus taught His followers about all kinds of subjects, including the inevitability of physical death. But in the midst of discussing it, He also encouraged those who knew Him and walked with Him not to live in fear of death because He has so much more in store for us, including a resurrected body that won't be subject to death.

Jesus taught us not to fear death and not to fear those who can kill the body, because while they can inflict physical harm, they cannot kill the soul. If we're going to have fear, it should be the kind of healthy fear that teaches us to revere God the Father who has the ultimate authority over what happens to both the body and the soul.

Christ showed us in His teaching, in His resurrection, and in His assurances about our future with Him, that a healthy body can see beyond the day of its death. Christ could see beyond death because He defeated it. Paul saw beyond death. Peter saw beyond death. John saw beyond death, and we can too.

I'm often encouraged by reading the historical accounts of devoted Christians who lived in centuries before our own. During the 1400's John Hus was a man who joyfully taught the Scriptures and devoted himself to helping others understand who Jesus is and why we all need Him. Even though Hus's teaching was correct, he lived in a biblically illiterate era that was dominated by leaders who idolized their power, traditions, and superstitions over the clear teaching of God's word.

In 1414, Hus was called before the Council of Constance to defend his beliefs. He was convicted of heresy and sentenced to be burnt at the stake unless he recanted.

But Hus stood firm. On the day of his martyrdom he said: “God is my witness that the evidence against me is false. In the truth of the gospel I have written, taught, and preached, today I will gladly die.” As the crackling flames consumed him, he joyfully sang a hymn.

As he refused a final plea to renounce his faith, Hus’s last words were, “What I taught with my lips, I seal with my blood.”
— Today in the Word, November, 1996, p. 9

Physical health can include things like diet and exercise, but as we see from the counsel of God's word, there are important connections we need to be making to our body and spirit. Through Christ, we have been empowered to walk with God and give Him glory. We do so in life and in death. There is no greater aim in the physical realm than to use our bodies to glorify the One who gave us life to begin with.

© John Stange, 2019