Health for the body and soul

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.
3 John 1:2

While the rest of the world seems to have gone crazy about healthy living and longevity, the church seems to have been absent entirely from this movement. The Hindus boast Yoga, the Buddhist boast Shaolin Kungfu, the Taoists boast Taichi and Qigong, Christians have taken the stand that spiritual health is more important than physical health (1 Timothy 4:8). I’m not saying that we are inferior or that we need to learn from them, but I do feel like something is missing somewhere.

I do know that there are books such as “What would Jesus eat?” or “The Bible Diet” but I have never heard any preacher stand on the pulpit and say that God wants us to eat right, exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Perhaps we feel that it would condemn those in the congregation who are more horizontally gifted, or that the congregation will see it as vanity and glorifying the carnal/flesh, or trying to obtain our own version of eternal life – longevity. Afterall, it is no secret that living healthy does extend your life. God is not shy in saying that longevity is much desired and considered a blessing (Exodus 23:25-26; Deuteronomy 5:33; Psalm 91:6; Proverbs 3:1-2).

So what is the problem here? The problem is that our spiritual health is not opposed to our physical health. In fact, the more healthy we get spiritually, the more healthy we desire to get physically and the more we desire longevity. Our spiritual health is complementary to our physical health and in more ways than one. 

1. Our spiritual health is linked to our physical health supernaturally

Do not be wise in your own eyes; 
fear the LORD and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body 
and nourishment to your bones.
Proverbs 3:7-8

He gives strength to the weary 
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary, 
they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:29-31

Blessed is the one whom God corrects; 
so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty…
You will come to the grave in full vigor,
like sheaves gathered in season.
Job 5:17, 26

By God’s grand design, good health is a supernatural blessing from God. He is the provider of physical health, not just healing, but health and strength. The Old Testament talks about how fearing the Lord and following His commands will reap the benefit of good health (perhaps because some of the Law deals with hygiene). How that works exactly, I don’t know. But the bible says it does – its supernatural. In the New Testament, a Christian knows that Christ has fufilled the Law on our behalf and thus we expect to reap the benefit of health. It is simply a supernatural effect of accepting Christ.

Note: This doesn’t necessarily mean that you will never get sick, fall ill or die, I said we expect. Meaning, while our attitude is that we expect good health, we do not deceive ourselves; we also understand that our flesh is constantly dying.

2. Our spiritual health is linked to our physical health naturally

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 (See also Psalm 24:1)

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
1 Corinthians 4:2

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
Galatians 6:7

Lets face it, our bodies are not our own. God has full ownership over our bodies by means of creation and redemption. He even owns the copyright, what we see in the mirror is the image of His body. The more we grow in spiritual health, the more we understand that we are to be good stewards of all that we have, that includes our physical body. We are all familiar with the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). We are also familiar with the Parable of the Shrewed Manager (Luke 16:1-9) – who used what he had now to prepare for what is to come. Should we not take care of His image as best we can?

Consider the importance of our life (and it’s longevity), it is the first gift to each individual even before he or she is capable of understanding the gift of eternal life in Christ. The living has hope (Ecclesiastes 9:4-6) and has the ability to save souls (Luke 16:19-31), the dead on the other hand has neither. God places a very high premium on human life, there is no equal to human life (Leviticus 24:17). Now if life is so important to God and we want to serve Him effectively for all of our days on earth, why are we trying (consciously or unconsciously) to shorten our life with our lifestyle?

The writing is on the wall, if we sow an unhealthy lifestyle, we reap a short life. It is a natural consequence. If we constantly eat foods that are bad for us and refuse to take care of our bodies with exercise and rest, we reap illnesses that will hinder our effectiveness in ministry.

I preach to myself when I say these things because I am as guilty as anyone else for not taking proper care of this great gift from God. Now, I must prove myself faithful to this health and life I have been given.

The hardest question I suppose is what we intend to do about it. Here are 3 things that we can do right now:

  1. Eat right (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  2. Exercise moderately (Proverbs 31:17; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
  3. Rest well (Exodus 20:8-11; Mark 6:32; John 4:5-6)
  4. Do it all with someone else (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

If it is difficult to get started, get someone to go along with you. If you have difficulty getting someone started, ask them to go along with you. My father is a very wise man, when he wants my mum to get some exercise, he doesn’t scream at her to go walking, he says, “I’m going for a stroll, come with me please?” and he makes it an enjoyable experience by holding her hand, walking around nice places, sometimes even buying a little snack that they can eat when they’ve finished their stroll. Works everytime.

Read also:

To live

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
Philippians 1:18-26 (NIV)

“Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” – What a view of life and death! There is so much to grasp from Paul’s words. In a short passage, he models a view of life and death that offers life even in death.

Paul could afford to rejoice because he was entirely confident of his deliverance. This is because Christ was the source and reason for his deliverance. He would be delivered with “prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (v19, See also: 2 Corinthians 5:5) so that “Christ will be exalted in his body” (v20). Although he didn’t mention what deliverance means we know that he was not deluded in reality; Paul understood that the prospect of death was just as real as the chance of his release. Even in the face of this harsh reality, he stood with “confident hope” that he would have “complete boldness” (v20) for Christ to be exalted. That was how he has always lived and that is what he desires even in the face of death. He wasn’t fussed that he had to give up this mortal body. Paul’s view of his body (and perhaps time on earth) was that it was just a tool for exalting Christ. In the use and disposal of this body, what is most important is that Christ is exalted. (See also 2 Corinthians 4, “treasure in jars of clay”)

Paul then exposes something of himself, he says “I don’t know which I prefer: I feel torn between the two.” (v22-23) Not suprising, his personal choice would have been to be with Christ, “which is better by far”. He is so confident of being with Christ and the joy that will bring (See also, 2 Corinthians 5:1-3,8) that he yearns for it. He has no fear of death like most do, instead he looks forward to that day of deliverance. But his priority  and agenda was not himself, but “for the sake of” (v23,25) the church. Being sure that there is still “productive work” (v22) waiting for him, he is certain that release is coming his way. His release did not just mean life for himself, but faith and confidence for the church. Paul’s living and walking testimony of life builds such faith, joy and confidence in Christ!

Paul sums up his life well, “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain” (v21). Christ was so all encompassing in his life that living IS Christ. Christ isn’t just the reason, Christ defined his entire life for as long as he was to stay alive. To him, Jesus was the source, the sustenance, the agenda, the goal all the way to the end of life. Paul lived the reality of Jesus as his way, truth and life (John 14:6). So much so that being in prison and facing death didn’t phase him much at all!

What a view of life and surety of life after death! What an ability to lay aside his mortal body and personal agenda for Christ our Lord! And all that in such dire circumstance!

This passage wasn’t just about sharing his view and life. It was about modelling it for the Philippians. They were facing persecuting as well (v30) and Paul was revealing his secret to facing persecution and opposition with a smile. What an example for all of us to follow!