The Covid 19 virus has put a focus on physical health. As a pastor since 1983, I’ve noticed that a lot of pastors, church leaders, and members do not put much focus on personal health. We’re going to heaven, right. So why should we concern ourselves with physical health?
Many today shun tobacco and cigarettes, but people being obese and overweight have become excessive, causing a health crisis. Obesity especially cuts into longevity and can make it difficult to perform needed duties. Being healthy helps us to better perform our work, including ministry.
It’s true that food does not bring us closer to God, but there are some biblical principles that come into play.
First, moderation is a command of scripture. Philippians 4:4 says, “Let your moderation be known unto all men.” Now I realize that there can be health issues that affect weight, but in many cases we fail to use moderation. And as social creatures, we can be influenced by those around us: “Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat” (Proverbs 23:20). People who try to give up smoking have a harder time giving up the habit if they are around people who smoke. Likewise, if we hang with people who have poor dietary habits, we are more likely to eat unhealthful food.
Second, and it’s related to the first, is the principle of self control. The nine-fold fruit of the Spirit includes self control (Gal. 2:22-23). Believers in Jesus should not be controlled solely by appetite, but by the Holy Spirit. This doesn’t mean it’s easy. But it is doable, and with the power of the Holy Spirit and discipline it can be accomplished.
I have a slender build, but have wrestled with too much weight on my stomach. I’ve lost weight, but it has literally taken years, in many cases three steps forward and two steps back. I once weighed over 200 pounds, but today I weigh in at 175 on my six foot frame. It’s taken years.
What did I do? I used to love sweet ice tea or “sweat tea” as it is called in the south. But calorie intake goes up greatly when you drink your calories. With coffee, I used to use suger and cream, but I usually drink it straight black these days. I didn’t like it that way for a couple of weeks, but then I got used to having it that way.
Over time I changed my diet. I told my cardiologist that I’ve taught myself to like food I formerly didn’t care for. He told me there was scientific evidence to back this up. I didn’t really broccoli when I was young, but now it’s my favorite vegetable. Also, my mother used to cook vegetables until they were limp, and I like them crunchy, which is better for you anyway.
When I was young my preferred breakfast was bacon or sausage and eggs with toast and butter and jam. For the past several years my breakfast most mornings is old fashioned oats (oat meal). I admit to putting honey on it, but I also include blueberries and walnuts. It’s filling.
I’ve upped my fruit and vegetable intake, and a majority of my meals don’t include meat. This really dropped my blood pressure reading, which had been elevated. Also, dessert used to be a daily treat, now it’s occasional, like once a month.
I’ve always been into exercise. I enjoy walking on the trail and using an elliptical when I had a gym membership. If I can walk rather than drive, I do. Walking helps me to think.
This is what has worked for me. Follow a lifestyle that works for you. I prefer the term lifestyle to diet since people typically think of a diet as temporary. For the best health you need to adopt a lifestyle that works for you for life. I deviate occasionally, but I make it very occasional.
And remember 1 Timothy 4:8, “…physical exercise is of some value, but godliness has value for all things….” That’s not to put down physical exercise. But godliness is of the greatest value, and we should have our primary focus on growing in godliness.
Ashton C. Smith