More and more, I have noticed the Lord focusing me in on the mission: to make disciples. I want to spend my time getting to know Him better and sharing Him with others. I want to learn about Him and teach others what I learn. I want to live out my faith in a life of love and grace. But there are so many distractions. So many things to focus on. All I have to do is look at my IPhone when I wake up and I have notifications in 6 different apps. What does the Bible say about this? Hebrews 12:1-2 says:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
When it says to lay things aside, it is not only speaking of sin. It says “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin” (emphasis mine). This implies the casting away of anything that distracts you from the Kingdom work; sinful or not.
I once knew a guy who stopped going to the gym because he felt like he was wasting precious time by working out. If abstaining from the gym is something that he felt that he should do, then by all means it was good for him to do it (Romans 14:23). I totally understand the desire to devote your time to the Lord and the mission. But my personal opinion is that working out can be incredibly beneficial for a follower of Christ. Below are a few reasons why in list format (because I love lists and assume all people do as well):
- You can redeem the time. What I mean by this is that you can use your workout time (whether it’s lifting weights, running, etc…) for all sorts of things. The massive selection of apps available to us now makes it possible for us to listen to our daily Bible readings, audiobooks, podcasts, and music while we go about our day. Workouts are a perfect time to do this. This depends on what you are doing of course. (I’m sure it’d be hard to focus on Ezekiel while shadow-boxing).
- It gives you common ground with countless people. If you are into fitness at all, you know that pretty much everyone on the fitness world LOVES to talk about it. You can use it to connect with people in almost any place you may be.
- It relieves stress and makes you feel, act and sleep better. Do I really need to say more here? Just Google this and read the research.
- It teaches valuable lessons and boosts confidence and determination. I can honestly say that working out makes me a more productive person. Not only does it jump start my productivity when I work out, but it has gone a long way toward teaching me the value of hard work and patience. It is a great feeling to add weight to the bar, but sometimes it takes weeks for me to do so. There is a reason that athletic illustrations are common in sermons and are even used in Scripture.
- God’s Spirit resides in the body of the believer (1 Corinthians 6:19). If we still worshipped God in an elaborate building today, we wouldn’t let the building become filthy or rust and decay. We would take care of it and make sure that it was pristine. There would be a consistent schedule in order to maintain it. Why should we treat His current residence of choice any differently?
- We are called to set an example. Just the same as with anything else in life, we should set an example to others. Whether we like it or not, our appearances affect what others think of us. If we don’t take care of ourselves physically, then when we meet people we already feel like we have something to be ashamed of or to explain. I am not saying that you have to look like the People’s Champ in order to have an impact for Jesus. I just mean that people notice even more about us when we claim Christ, and we must do all that we can to show that we take God’s Word seriously.
- It has value in real life. If you’re in shape, you are capable of so many more things. There are not many activities you need to exclude yourself from, and you can be the one people call when they need help moving (get a truck for bonus points).
I hope that this makes some case for the role of physical fitness in the life of the follower of Jesus. I would even say that we have responsibility to work toward this. Please let me know what your think!