“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” Colossians 3:23-24
Sometimes in our Christian walk we find ourselves separating our lives into different spheres. In one realm we have the sacred. We have our church time, our Bible study time, our prayer time, our set apart times for evangelical events or ministry. Then, in another realm, we have our secular engagements. This would be our jobs, our eating, our exercise, our hobbies, our menial tasks that we indulge in because they give us enjoyment or they are just a necessary part of life. Yet, I would like to propose to you today, there are no separate spheres in our life. There is only one mode that we operate in as blood bought sons and daughters of Christ and that we should always, in all things and in all ways, glorify God in EVERYTHING that we do. So if this is indeed true and we have this calling on our lives to interweave our worship of God in the grand tasks and the seemingly pointless, how do we accomplish this? How do we glorify God better with our jobs or hobbies or, as my main point in this series has been, our health? My goal today is to help you better understand these questions and develop a robust biblical framework to practically living out the Glorification of God in all aspects of your life.
I hope by this point in the series you have begun to see your body and your responsibility to steward your health through eating and exercise as an important aspect of your life. It is important for two major reasons: 1) God gave us our bodies to glorify Him and 2) God gave us the responsibility to steward our health for our good. But, what does this look like in the real world? As I’ve mentioned or alluded to in previous articles, it all starts with our attitudes and motivations. In the book Respectable Sins by our recently departed brother, Jerry Bridges, he talks about the many underlying sins in our life that we don’t realize or take much notice of. As he sets off to help us better diagnose these sins, Bridges lays the initial foundation with, as he sees it, the most insidious and neglected sin of all: Ungodliness. Bridges defines ungodliness as “living one’s everyday life with little or no thought of God, or of God’s will, or of God’s glory, or of one’s dependence on God.” 1 His premise is that we are called to live godly lives at ALL times in our lives and in everything that we do and that when we fail to do this we are committing the sin of ungodliness. In James 4: 13-15 it says:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
The point James is making, and how this fits into the sin of ungodliness, is not that the people James is referring to made plans or set up a business but that they did it without recognize both the means and purpose of their efforts was from God and to glorify Him. The positive imperative for this principle is that through work or eating or moving or serving or whatever it is we have to do or choose to do, we are striving to serve our Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength because He is worthy and has given us the capacity to do so.
Once we have our foundation set and our motivations aligned, we can now transition to the preparation, planning and execution phase for our goals. When it comes to our health, here are some practical ideas to help you on your way:
Step 1: Pray
Although we know what we SHOULD do, the reality of the situation is that our brains are sin corrupted and need DAILY realignment. As Romans 12:1-2 says
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
God knows what you and your body needs. He designed them. He is the ultimate mechanic. So the first part is praying that your desires, ambition, motivations and plans are in line with His. This practice is a weekly, daily and hourly pursuit as you are preparing for you weekly schedule or as you are faced with the temptation to skip your workout or indulge in foods you know you shouldn’t be eating. Paul is Philippians 4:4-7 writes
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Step 2: Know your temptation
We all know where are weaknesses lie. Whether it is laziness or being distracted or being disorganized or having a weakness around certain foods. The strategy here is two-fold: 1) Pray that God reveals your weaknesses (and the possible sins under-girding them) and go through the process of repenting and confessing them while memorizing scripture to combat them and grow in sanctification through them. 2) Build bulwarks against these temptations. If you are lazy, think of strategies to get you motivated or get you out of bed. Enlist the help of your spouse or friend. If you are tempted by certain foods at events, eat before you go or bring a healthier alternative. The point here is to be real with yourself and have an honest evaluation of the things that typically derail your efforts the glorify God.
Step 3: Plan, prepare, execute
- Set goals (short and long term). This can be as simple as trying to lose 1 pound per week for a total of 3 months or trying to increase your time exercising by 5 minutes per week.
- Make your goals realistic, measurable and attainable. A lot of individuals will have a huge amount of motivation at the beginning of the year yet are crushed by unreasonable expectations they have unnecessarily saddled themselves with. The goal is life long change so try and put the focus on things you know you can achieve. Finding ways to chart your progress to show that you are making real, meaningful change is also helpful.
- Put it on paper and create a framework to stop you from derailing. Something significant happens when ideas become legitimate by being written down on paper. Develop some sort of log or journal to track progress and plan for the future.
- Make slow changes. Don’t go scorched earth. Gradual change is meaningful change. Good habits are developed over time and through consistency. You are more like to stay consistent by making those changes over an extended period of time.
- Update constantly. If you are new to exercising or changing your diet you will see that you respond better to some things over others. Reevaluate and update your goals and plans on a regular basis to ensure you are optimizing your progress.
- Keep coming back to your motivations. Mortifying the flesh is hard. Likewise, combatting our negative desires while trying to build positive habits will be challenging. Keep reviewing the “why” you are doing this.
- Do it with a friend or loved one. External motivators can be a huge help. Not only can they keep you accountable but it will also help build relationships by going through the adventure together.
Step 4: Keep reminding yourself how you are utilizing your activities to glorify God:
The opposite of the sin of ungodliness would be living godly. 2 Peter 1:5-8 states:
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As you are built up in the virtue of engaging in godliness in all aspects of your life, your capacity to show brotherly affection and love grows. Consider how through exercise or eating properly you have unique opportunities to serve Christ and evangelize. For instance:
- James White utilizes his exercise as a time to listen to Christian books or prepare for debates.
- Witnessing during these activities. You aren’t an exerciser that happens to be a Christian, you are a Christian that happens to be exercising.
- Forming bonds with specific “tribes” that you normally wouldn’t have access to. Dr White forms bonds with other cyclists. Moms can form bonds with other exercising moms. As the activity you choose to be apart of becomes part of your identity, the Lord will open up doors for you to evangelize.
I pray that you are now starting to develop a perspective of glorifying God with you health that will not only help re-evaluate things in your life but will motivate you to pursue godliness and utilize all the opportunities the Lord has given you to serve Him and your neighbor with brotherly affection and love.
- Jerry Bridges. Respectable Sins. (NavPress. 2007) pg 54 ↩