It was about a year ago when I sat in a doctor’s office for an annual physical and heard the words, “A man your age…”
Wait… what? A man my age? What’s that supposed to mean?
After my initial offense, I started listening to what she was actually saying, and I guess she’s right. We’re all on a ticking clock. And my doctor’s point was that exercise would become more, not less, important as I continue to grow older. According to her, if I eat exactly the same and exercise exactly the same amount year after year, I will gain an average of 2 pounds per year just due to aging. So that’s a fun thought. If I wanted to combat that natural weight gain, then I would have to amp up my exercise regimen or tone down my eating regimen. Or both. Which would mean a change in lifestyle for me; I’d have to buy some proper exercise clothes, probably a pair of mens oversized tracksuits for a comfier option! And I would have to sign up for some sort of exercise class to get me out there. As long as the end result is positive, I suppose it will be worth it.
And as I’ve thought about that fact more and more, I’ve come to think that exercise is not only good for the body; for the Christian, it’s also good for the soul. And here are 3 reasons why:
1. It broadens our view of stewardship.
Most of think of stewardship almost exclusively in terms of money. But stewardship, while it certainly includes money, is a holistic term. It’s about all of life, because all of life is a resource. So the money, the talents, the intellect, the creativity, and even the bodies we have are entrusted to us by the Lord to take care of for the sake of His kingdom. When we regularly exercise, we aren’t just taking care of one of these resources, we are training ourselves to think of our whole selves as God’s.
2. It leads to discipline in other areas of life.
I might be alone in this, but I’ve increasingly found that discipline begets discipline. That is to say, when I’m watching my diet and exercising frequently, I often find that my propensity to study, read, and memorize Scripture is also bolstered. I’m more alert, more ready for the day, and even not quite as tired at night. I find that through the discipline of exercise I am encouraged to continue that discipline into other areas of life. Conversely, when I’m lazy in body, I also find that I’m lazy in mind and spirit.
3. It teaches us to tell ourselves who’s boss.
We lie to ourselves all the time. Our feelings, emotions, thoughts, desires – these cannot be trusted. We must train ourselves to listen to the voice of God rather than the voice inside our own heads because, left to ourselves, we will always succumb to the feeling of the moment. Exercise is one the ways we actively do this kind of training.
For me at least, it’s rarely fun to begin to exercise. I’d rather sleep. I’d rather watch TV. I’d rather to almost anything else. But when we choose to do it anyway, we are training ourselves to look past the temporal desire to something that will benefit us greater in the long run. And that kind of training extends into other areas of life as well. Exercise is but one of the means we do this, but eventually we can move to the point where more and more we live by faith and not by sight; we trust in God’s truth rather than our temporal desires for gluttony, laziness, gratification, or whatever else might be tempting us.
Don’t misunderstand – exercise is not a cure all. Neither is it inherently spiritual in and of itself. And yet there’s something there – something that can be another tool in our arsenal to fight against our fleshly desires and move us into a greater and more willing submission to the authority of the Lord Jesus over all things, including our bodies.