Whether it’s a New Year’s resolution or an upcoming vacation, certain situations jump-start us to exercise.
From six-pack abs to a beautiful beach body, when staying in shape revolves around us instead of God’s glory, we miss the root reason.
“Fitness has always been an interest of mine, but there are certainly times when it feels as if the flesh, in the form of vanity or pride, rears its ugly head,” said Christi Arnette, fitness director at Southeast Christian Church’s Sports & Fitness Center. “I know that any form of exercise can be God-honoring, but it seems like there is a fine line between ‘my body is a temple’ and ‘my body is an idol.’”
John Perritt, a pastor at Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church in Ridgeland, Mississippi, writes, “God has called us to steward the body, but be careful stewardship doesn’t turn into worship.”
The core challenge is hitting the gym for the right reason because we know Scripture says we should take care of our bodies.
Paul says in 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.”
Paul places more weight on our spiritual health than our physical health, but he doesn’t neglect it.
First Timothy 4:8 says, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things.”
“The heart of the issue is, what is your motivation? Am I motivated to work out because I want to look good in the mirror or I want to lose weight and fit in skinny jeans?” Arnette said. “Sure, we all want to feel good about our appearance, but that should not be the driving factor. When I counsel people one-on-one, we talk about the ‘why’ behind starting a new training program. When you dig into their goals, you usually uncover some emotional baggage—maybe past hurt or shame for their health or weight.”
Arnette said healthy living lets us perform at peak energy levels so we can fulfill God’s calling.
“We need energy to do what God’s calling us to,” Arnette added. “When we neglect our physical bodies, we cannot be all we were created to be.”
If grace is our motivation, we will show our appreciation by being good stewards of our body.
Jonathan Parnell, lead pastor of Cities Church in Minneapolis, writes, “What if, in that moment of intense exertion, our motivation became the demonstration of God’s grace. We can’t lift that bar. We can’t breathe on our own. We didn’t create ourselves … and when we lift that bar … we are bearing witness to our person that God’s grace mobilizes us to do things.”
Dr. Caroline Leaf adds that most diets fail because we change the way we eat without changing the way we think.
This definitely applies to exercise.
“Exercise is not a punishment for what you ate,” Arnette said. “It’s a celebration of what your body can do. Exercise not only changes your body. It changes your mind, attitude and mood. Approach it with gratitude instead of guilt.”
God created us to be completely connected. Our physical health affects us spiritually and emotionally.
Erik Thoennes, a professor of theology at Biola University, writes, “We need to realize that there’s a holistic view Biblically of human beings as body and soul … and realize those two work together. That often the health of your body has an effect on your soul.”
Scripture also places implicit importance on staying in shape.
Adam was told to work from the get-go, Noah had to build a boat and Jesus walked 70 miles from Judea to Galilee in John 4.
The Old Testament is filled with examples of warriors who needed to be in shape, and Acts is all about moving the mission of God forward.
The focus of fitness should be a healthier lifestyle so you can fulfill Kingdom work. Exercise for the glory of God.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).