It never fails: The new year brings with it a rush of enthusiastic gym members set on changing their habits, losing weight and taking care of their bodies. Health and fitness are a huge part of today’s culture, with thousands of coaches, dietitians and nutritionists pitching their products and plans to anyone who will listen.
You might think that health and faith are two separate entities, but they aren’t. Physical health and fitness is integrally connected to our walk with God. For the Christian, a healthy body is an outward testament of an inner transformation. We take care of our bodies because within them is housed the very Spirit of God!
If you need further motivation to stick to your goals this year, here are four ways that pursuing good health glorifies God.
1. A healthy lifestyle makes us recognize our dependency on God.
I recently read an article by John Piper on the necessity of sleep. As he put it, “Sleep is a parable that God is God and we are mere men.” Our bodies have limitations. We need food, rest and a specific balance of nutrition to maintain our energy throughout the day. When we think we can do without the things God designed our bodies to require, we’re basically saying that we know better than God!
When I wrote an article about how to cultivate healthy sleep habits, this became a central piece to the discussion. Weight loss, balanced hormones and effective workouts all begin by getting enough sleep—but our culture celebrates a lack of it. A truly healthy lifestyle requires saying “no” to some things in order to say “yes” to others, and in that difficulty we discover that God is indeed God, and we are better off following His design.
2. Health and fitness better equip us to do what He calls us to do.
Good health isn’t about achieving a certain kind of body. If that’s our goal, we’ll spend our entire lives feeling like we’re never enough. Health has less to do with outward appearance and more to do with aligning our bodies to God’s initial design. This means balancing our hormones (which affect weight gain/loss, skin condition, period cramps and much more), drinking enough water, exercising and eating nutritious foods.
Like with Daniel in the Bible, a healthy lifestyle gives us the energy to do difficult tasks. If you tend to feel lethargic a lot, drag your feet to complete your assignments or can’t get motivated to serve your community and church, think about your health habits. Are you living in a way that energizes your life to serve God and others?
3. Good health requires self-control, which is a product of walking with God.
Health and fitness aren’t easy. If they were, we wouldn’t struggle to make changes! Good health requires self control: saying no to processed, high-sugar foods; saying yes to more water and nutritious dishes; saying no to sitting on the couch all Saturday; saying yes to going for a run. Whenever we say no to something, we say yes to something else. It takes self-control to say yes to the good things.
We like to think that our feelings dictate our actions, but that doesn’t have to be true. We CAN say no to our impulses. This kind of self-control is an excellent habit to cultivate, because you’ll need it in every area of life. Fortunately for us, self-control is a fruit of the Spirit! That means that as you walk in God’s Spirit—quieting your heart to hear His voice, seeking Him in His Word, cultivating a strong prayer life—self-control becomes part of who you are.
4. We can tell people that our energy, motivation and health are rooted in God’s design.
The world of health is largely secular. Much of it centers on being impressively fit, strong and outwardly “confident”—a confidence completely based on physical accomplishment alone. But that’s not real confidence, because it can pass away. True confidence is internal, based on an identity rooted in something and someone outside this world. That kind of confidence can’t be taken away.
So when your fitness and health are based on who God is and what He’s done for you, you can use them as a witness! Since many people respect good health, it’s a great way to open doors to that conversation and how Christ in you changes your life—from the inside out.