Faith-Infused Health and Fitness
Every industry I’ve worked in, whether it was merchandise, restaurants, fitness, or construction, my customers and clients were incessantly on the lookout for discounts and free stuff. They were all inherently attracted to the promise of more for less. When I worked as a personal trainer, gym members would constantly ask if we were running any specials on training sessions. As a bar manager for some years, the busiest times in our establishment were during happy hour when the prices of alcohol and appetizers were cut in half. Even in fast food, working drive-through and front counter, we’d have cars wrapped around the building and lines of hungry people out the door on “Free Breakfast Day.”
For decades, mailboxes have gotten stuffed with more and more coupons—buy one, get one free and zero percent interest on credit cards. Nowadays, most grocery stores have some type of rewards program, and retail stores give bonus points for future purchases. There is a competitive war going on, a fight to secure sales and revenue today, tomorrow, and for the future. Businesses seem to be forced to broadcast savings galore if they hope to survive.
Our Idea of Rewards Is Distorted
The world wasn’t always like this. There was a time when everything in it was free. No one had to barter or beg, and there was no negotiating or haggling. There was no such thing as financial pressure, anxiety over costs and expenses, or stress over profits and losses. In the beginning, God freely gave everything by filling the earth for us with food, water, and shelter. All that He asked was for us to give back to Him in the form of obedience, to reflect His glory, and to be united with Him in purpose by growing together and giving each other knowledge, instruction, love, support, and nourishment.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female…And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish…over every living thing…and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” —Gen. 1:27–29
In the beginning, there was no need for rewards. To be created by God, to be given life, and to be in relationship with Him was its own reward. He was our equity, our profit, our treasure, and our good deposit. He alone was our reward, and that is still true today. But the difference now is this tension that exists as we find it easier to live for other things such as possessions and money. For some of us, the struggle continues deeper into various forms of vanity, self-worship, and the idolization of a wealthy lifestyle.
My heart used to pull for the flesh in the tug of war with the spirit over what I truly valued. Life had become a game, and the clock was ticking, so I played hard and played to win. During the week, I’d hustle to survive, banging away toward that promotion, anxious to move up in the world. On the weekends, I’d reward myself. My focus shifted to simple pleasures, pampering and leisure, loafing and lounging. I’d post pictures on social media, broadcasting how great my achievements were because I worked so hard. I’d tweet highly energized quotes that defined my earned success. I wanted everyone to know what a great time I was having, that my days and nights were thrilling with endless entertainment.
Before I was a Christian, I had adopted a common misbelief called karma. It’s a belief that if we do good deeds, only good things will happen to us in return, and we’ll do well and live happy lives. Karma is most often accepted by people who fear doing bad things for the simple reason that they don’t want anything bad to happen to them. I mistakenly believed that what goes around comes around and never wanted to be associated with suffering, loss, or rejection. I thought getting rejected was a sign of weakness and that suffering meant I clearly messed up or did something wrong.
We Need a Redefinition of Rewards
Our idea of how rewards work and how they’re attained is defined for the most part by our culture. If we were to drive through rich neighborhoods filled with country club golf courses, big mansions, nice cars in the driveways, and pools in the backyards, we’d think the residents there had it all figured out. Without even meeting them, we’d probably conclude they deserved to get to where they are. But if we were to take a stroll into the ghetto where there’s homeless people begging for change, we’d think they must have screwed up royally for being so poor.
I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t want to be poor. I hate being broke. I hate not knowing where my next meal is going to come from, and I loathe the thought of getting kicked out of my home with my family on the streets. I know what it’s like to have zero dollars in my checking account and zero funds in savings. In the past, I’d work 50+ hours every week just to watch my paycheck go bye-bye to bills past due. I’ve been down before, and it’s depressing. I’ve taken money from my own kids’ piggy banks to buy groceries. I hated that that’s what it came to.
So what did I do after that embarrassing experience? I did everything in my power to keep it from happening again. If that meant I was working on Sunday when church was going on, so be it. If it meant I couldn’t make time for diet and exercise, I didn’t care. I took control of the situation the best way I knew how, through dogged persistence and self-determination.
Constantly, my focus was on working long shifts, putting in the hours, saving, and cutting back, which meant no more donations and no more giving to the church. But the problem with the ideology of safeguarding my own future was that it took the place of my theology, which led me to deny Jesus as lord over my financial peace and security. And because I could no longer participate in anything spiritually good or physically beneficial, my mind, soul, and body paid the price.
Only God Provides Ultimate Health and Fitness
For the longest time, I lived with this notion that I was entitled to rewards, so I became a go-getter in that sense. I thought God wasn’t able to get me a big enough house or a nice enough car and that He was too limited to provide any kind of financial security for me. And because of the amount of suffering that can be associated with poverty, I developed the attitude that if I didn’t take care of myself, no one would.
So my body got stuck in the middle as God sought to draw me near to Him, but my mouth only hungered and thirsted for relaxation and riches. My eyes wandered toward fantasies and success. That was part of my problem. I was very fixated on everything I could physically see. I assumed that because I couldn’t see God, He was incapable of being part of my physical solutions.
When an attack on our bodies or our health comes along, it seems like the first thing we want to do is blame God. Or perhaps if we’ve become unhappy with how we look and dissatisfied with how we were created, we almost immediately turn our backs on our creator. Lanky legs, chubby cheeks, small arms, and tiny chests can make us think God gave us the short end of the stick. That’s why when it comes to physical fitness, so many of us place our faith and hope in tangible maneuvers to shed fat, build muscle, and get in shape. We tell ourselves we don’t need God, so we turn to science and nature, biochemistry and physiology, forgetting that God is the one who rewarded us with that knowledge and information.
We seem to be far more interested in listening to a famous doctor boycott carbs and fats or a celebrity bodybuilder praising egg whites and lean beef. We’re so much more drawn to the hype of it all that we just drink whatever supplement is most popular and take whatever pills are trending. The reason is that what we see all around us are weight loss products, advertisements for cutting-edge diet plans, and exercise machines that say they can guarantee us results. Automatically, we’re drawn to those things. We feed off the expert nutrition tips and secret formulas, simply due to the power of marketing and hard-sell persuasion.
But when considering physical wellness products, it’s important to know which companies are out to scam us and which ones are actually legit. Whichever ones you purchase, make sure to do extensive research on them prior to making a commitment. And remember to pray about it. Seek God in it, as He is the provider of ultimate health & fitness.
Before I decided to use AdvoCare products to help me train, I was happy to find that their number-one guiding principle for success is to honor God. Organizations like that have their products tested for purity. They commit to responsible nutrition and want all consumers to make informed decisions about what they put into their bodies. AdvoCare understands that the purpose of health and fitness is bigger than themselves, so they give back through their foundation and share a great testimony with the rest of God’s world.
Rewards Aren’t Meant to be Self-Serving
There is a deeper meaning to nutrition and supplements that I didn’t always get. I would mindlessly buy pills and powders to get results. A lot of us purchase plans, programs, videos, and equipment to produce the “new you.” But somewhere between 65 percent and 80 percent of people who lose weight gain it all back and then some. Eight out of 10 people end up worse than when they started.
Truth be told, there are some fast, effective weight loss products out there. I have personally improved my body through online products, diets, and popular workout routines. But regardless of what I tried or what I put myself through physically, I never found a way to avoid or prevent relapse—because what I needed and what I wanted were two very different things.
What I wanted was to look better naked. The promise of my rewards was centered on being more physically attractive to enhance my pursuit of acceptance and affirmation. What I desired was for everyone to want to take a picture with me, like a celebrity, making memories with my hot, handsome self. What I wanted was to always be the center of attention and be the most important person everywhere I went. Alongside me was my hot, female bride. We’d be each other’s trophies to ensure we both prospered and achieved all we wanted. That was the fairy tale I believed in while pumping iron and doing cardio every single day for years.
What I needed was to remember that my body is not my own. I was focused on working hard toward a life that would produce happiness, with me as the center and God as a mere spotter, only calling for His help when the weightiness of life got too heavy. I had forgotten that my body belongs to Him.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. —Gal. 2:20
What I needed was to remember that my “new you” is already in Christ and that fighting for good health & fitness is a work of faith, not a work of self-confidence. His promise of rewards is far more than I could ever attain on my own.
“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” —John 6:27–29
What I needed was to remember that His rewards are full-bodied and plentiful, overflowing in this life and the next.
Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant. —Isa. 55:1–3
The Promise of Rewards
God promises that when we align our physical appetites with our spiritual appetites and submit them both to Him, we set ourselves up even more to receive God’s earthly rewards, as well as His eternal rewards. When we allow Him to speak to us on physical matters, our good health produces a personally refined clarity to gain wisdom on how we must feed our souls and how we must feed our bodies, which are His temple. When our bodies serve as physical evidence that our minds are focused on the promise of heavenly rewards, it reveals that we are in the fight, battling against sinful cravings and taking up our cross to follow Him.
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. —Phil. 3:14
You see, our fitness goals should be in response to the upward call. Goals, no matter how personal, should never be centered on what our hearts and bodies naturally desire. This was very difficult for me to do, even as a believer. I never once prayed or asked God what plans He had for my body. I seldom sought His counsel for moderation in what I ate or drank. This is a mistake that is easy for all believers to make. When we don’t protect our bodies from falling short in that area, it quickly becomes obvious to those around us. We must educate each other and keep each other accountable.
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body. —Phil. 3:17–21
In the same way we protect our minds from spiritual and moral downfall, we must be careful and live healthily to shield our bodies from physical downfall. Our bodies are a dwelling place for God’s spirit. This should be important to us. We should want to hear from God on physical matters, not just the spiritual. We must make Jesus lord over our spiritual pursuits and our physical ones. This is what the Bible encourages us to do: unite all areas of our life under Him.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. —Col. 3:17
Love you guys,