Exercise and the Christian Worldview
I recently took a job at a local gym as a personal trainer. There were a few reasons why I pursued this job during this season of life. 1. Exercise has been a life-long passion of mine, so why not work doing something I love. 2. As a church planter, coming into an area as an outsider, I needed to be around people, and what better way than as a trainer. 3. My family needs to eat; so a little extra income a month is beyond helpful for us.
As a trainer in the middle of suburban Indiana, the majority of my clients come to me with the sole desire to improve appearance and/or health. While I admire these goals of being healthier and more fit – it got me thinking – how should Christians view exercise in a way that glorifies God and advances His gospel?
As I began to think about exercise from a biblical worldview, my mind wandered to 1 Timothy 4:8 where Paul is writing to Timothy and the church of Ephesus. Paul says, “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also the life to come.” The point of this verse is that our physical training should pale in comparison to our training for godliness. In fact, our pursuit of godliness should take priority over every facet of our lives. This does not mean that exercise should be non-existent in our day-to-day routine, yet at the same time, we must guard against the idolatry of exercise, self-image, and health/wellness. There is a healthy balance that Christians must find.
Here are four reasons why I believe Christians should exercise and how exercise should be viewed in a way that glorifies God and advances His gospel. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a few thoughts:
1. Because we are created in God’s image.
In Genesis 1 we see the story of God creating the universe. At the climax of His Creation, God makes man and woman “in His image, after His own likeness.” It is this truth that sets us apart from the rest of creation. At Restoration Church, we have been saying that mankind has intrinsic value because we are made in God’s image. We have intellect and emotion and the ability to reason. Because of this we should love God with all of our being (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). In addition to that, we should also be good stewards of our whole being: heart (emotions), soul (spirit), mind (intelligence), and strength (body, energy, and ability). When it comes to stewarding our strength, taking care of our bodies is so much more than exercise. It involves adequate rest, proper nutrition and hydration, avoiding harmful substances, etc.
2. Because our families and loved ones deserve it.
One reason why I exercise is because as a husband and a father, I want to be healthy and alive for my family. Not only does exercising on a regular basis lower an individual’s chance of early death, but it also lowers the possibility of heart attack and stroke by as much as 20 percent. (For a more exhaustive list on the benefits of regular exercise, check out http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/health/index.html). Many Christians are in two camps when it comes to exercise: the “I am allergic to sweat/I just don’t have time; therefore, I don’t exercise” camp, and the “I live to exercise and that is when I am the happiest” camp. For those who never exercise: your family and loved ones deserve a healthier you. So repent of your laziness and start exercising. For those who are addicted to exercise: your family and loved ones deserve more of your time and affection. Repent of your idolatry and know your value and joy is found in Jesus, not in exercise.
3. For the sake of the gospel.
As followers of Christ, our goal is to make disciples of all nations. We should be striving for Revelation 7:9-10 to come to fruition. In that verse, John says, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hand, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” It is towards this end that we must be fervently praying, strategizing, and participating. If we are serious about making disciples of all nations and seeing Revelation 7:9 take place, we must exert ourselves mentally, spiritually, and physically. Countless studies have been conducted on the relationship between regular physical exercise and an individual’s energy levels. In many studies, more than 90 percent of sedentary people who began exercising saw substantial increases in their energy levels throughout the day. The first result most of my clients see (before weight loss, muscle gain, muscle tone, etc.) is an increase in their energy throughout the day. In fact, one guy told me last week that he sleeps better at night and does not need his mid-afternoon nap anymore!
As Christians, we have been called to participate in God’s grand scheme of restoration. Be prepared, spiritually as well as physically. So, exercise for the sake of the gospel.
4. Exercise is fun.
Now before you write me off, let me say that not all types of exercising are fun for everyone. I personally do not see the fun in going outside and running for 20 plus miles, but for some people – that is what they have come to love. While some enjoy going to a gym and lifting weights, others are intimated by it. There are just as many different types of exercise as there are people. This could be running, walking, biking, hiking, gardening, taking a Pilates class, lifting weights – the list goes on and on. Find what you enjoy and stick with it!
Written By: Landon Anderson