Fitness Begins with Theology
As a family man, I have known and interacted with several parents who have joyously brought babies into this world. During their expecting stages, they would purchase newborn clothes with phrases like “I Love My Daddy”and “Mommy’s Little Helper”on them. I wondered how they could know that these statements would be true of their kids. Perhaps it’s just common for moms and dads to hope so. Or maybe they planned to pour reciprocal love into their children and teach them the responsibility of lending a hand around the house.
Throughout the infant and toddler stages, these parents also dialogued about which family genes seemed to be more dominant and whose faces their children resembled most, making statements like “She has her father’s eyes but her mother’s nose.”No doubt, it isclearly evident that to conceive and give birth is to procreate in our image. And to raise a child, is to imprint on them our ideological standards for the purpose of passing on certain values. But where did that come from, and how did it start? Why do some believe it is necessary?
Where It All Began
Our makeup is the result of a unique and prolific design. Each of us is one of a kind in body and soul. So, if you don’t already, view yourself as exceptional. And collectively, we are the offspring of God our maker, traced all the way back to the first human beings that walked the earth, Adam and Eve. Every one of our family trees begins with this couple.
The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. —Gen. 3:20
We have all been created in the image of God. For those of us who are followers of Jesus, we represent the adopted sons and daughters of the extended family of faith. As God’s children, we are to love Him as father (creator) and produce life (results) for good. In essence, bear His family name by exemplifying Him in every way possible, physically and spiritually, bodily and mentally; that is the nature of our existence.
But some of us seldom think about it that way. When we look in the mirror, it’s hard to see past the resemblance of our fathers and mothers, our grandparents and great grandparents. It’s easy to be a chip off the old block or an apple that doesn’t fall far from the tree. Most of us are lovers of patterns and tend to safeguard our traditions, our routines, and our simplicity. We’re proud of the places we were born and raised, and we celebrate our nationalities and heritage frequently. Good times are a huge priority for us as our goal is the image of a “normal”life.
On the other hand, there are some of us who don’t like what we see. Some of us are unhappy with our family name and the bodies we have to live in. We wish we could change who we are or perhaps where we came from, feeling underprivileged in the midst of those who are well-off. We’re bitter at the fact that some guys inherit good genetics, dreamy eyes, and a perfect physique, while others get stuck with orangutan-type features. We get caught up in thinking how unfair it is that some girls are passed down a slender and balanced body, while others are bottom-heavy and stumpy.
As a Christian man, I definitely relate to all that. For the longest time I thought I wouldn’t amount to much because my ears were too big and my hair wasn’t cool enough. Pretty silly, huh? Those obstacles are an illusion and should have no bearing on our pursuit of happiness and well-being, which is directly connected to our health and fitness. At heart, I used to be a mile wide and an inch deep. I had never explored my reflection of the image of God or what it meant to live in light of His goodness. What I found is that living in harmony of His will and able-bodied for His glory is the first step in pursuing true health and ultimate transformation.
Fitness Begins with God
So if God is spirit, what does it mean to be physically created in His image? If He is invisible, why does the Bible ascribe Him somatic attributes such as His strong arm, mighty hand, and all-seeing eyes? The shadow of His wings, the speaking of His mouth, the hearing of His ears—are those just elaborate attempts at anthropomorphism? Or is there a higher purpose and deeper meaning to our anatomy? And if so, does it matter what we do with our physical bodies? Does it matter what we eat or drink? Is it all the same to be brutishly fit or hoggishly fat? Should we even care?
The image of God is such a thought-engendering reflection that once considered, we discover its definition extends far beyond what we see and therefore compels a reverent honor toward our master builder. If it is He who gave us a body and a brain, then we should exert ourselves to take care of it. If it is He who gave us our lungs, our heart, and our liver, then we should protect them from harm. If our bodies have, in fact, been architected, we ought to protect their structure with strong muscles, healthy bones, and unblocked pathways toward exuberance.
Our unseen attitudes matter just as much as our measurable body fat. Our beating hearts are as important as our intangible minds. Our muscles and our midsections are to be cared for in a sacred manner, as are our words and our deeds. God made us in His image so we could mirror His strength, His endurance, and His quality of life. And if we humans are capable of being nurturers, how much more can all-powerful God provide everything to cultivate our relationship with Him? If we who are parents possess the ability to love and instruct our kids, how much more capable is an everlasting father like God.
Fitness Begins with Trusting God
Too often I lived looking straight ahead, merely at the things around me and never bothering to look upward at the one watching over me. I continually struggled to find direction in life, sometimes lost without a cause avoiding the hard questions, and keeping myself distracted by comfort and entertainment. To preserve my sanity, I devoted myself to consumerism and capitalism by making as much money as I could to buy all the things I wanted. Me, myself, and I were united in our pursuit of self-gratification and fulfillment. I used to strive toward secularism and “peace,”taking the stance that God was irrelevant in determining how we live.
As Christians, we know that nothing could be further from the truth. God should always be at the center of our lives with Christ at the center of our hearts. But arguably so, it does seem that many people blame religion for the interruption of the world’s good times and consider it a damper on their good vibes. It does seem as if spiritual folks make things awkward with their hyperspirituality, abnormal clothes, vegetarian vows, picket signs, protests, and preachiness. Being governed by any religion is tough for a lot of people to accept.
Nonbelievers seem to feel like Christians are always judging them, and quite frankly, Christians haven’t done a very good job of convincing them of the way, the truth, and the life. Sometimes, people can be overwhelmed by all the chaos and confusion in this world, making it easy for them to avoid God altogether. I’ll be honest, I have fallen into a similar trap of doubt and unbelief. Mistrusting God, I developed my own principles and guidelines, set my own morals and values, and worked to get rich quick or die trying. I created bucket lists for myself, thinking life is lived between two hospitals—the one we’re born in and the one that has our deathbed.
In the meantime, I looked out for myself and did what worked for me. My days as a kid were spent mostly in public classrooms getting educated and prepared for the “real world.”I worked fast to find my identity and figure out what I wanted to do with this short life, making very little time for church because I’d much rather be watching football, making it a Sunday fun day. I was fascinated by discovery, but only in the natural sense, and I’d marvel at the inventions of people rather than the creations of God. Social media and entertainment were my preferred sources of enlightenment. I lived in a world where relativism rules, self-image is sovereign, and postmodern culture prevails.
Fitness Calls for Godliness
If we want to be truly fit, we have to be godly. When we dismiss God’s image and consign Him to oblivion, we become terribly unfamiliar with terms like holiness and remain estranged from godliness. We also soon forget that God is a king. His reign is over all, and as such, we must hold Him in the highest regard, treating Him as the highest being of most supreme royalty and authority. This idea resonates throughout all scripture.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lordin the splendor of holiness. —Ps. 29:2
God created us to always be under His care, to go to Him for everything we need. Spiritually and physically, God is our provider in all things.
May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lordbless his people with peace! —Ps. 29:11
God’s motive is intentional out of love for us. Because He knows what’s best for us, He offers no neutral stance to take, no independent party to join, and no overthrowing His government. God makes that very clear in His word.
Whoever is not with me is against me. —Matt. 12:30
In order to begin to understand this, we must learn to think outside human logic and attempt to view life from His divine perspective. Instead of defining everything, seen and unseen, solely in accordance with a creature’s perspective, we ought to analyze the mysteries that require biblical logic. For example, if God is our creator and father, then He is responsible for our lives. We are connected to Him in the same way that parents are connected to their children.
That connection consists of essentials, one of them being love. Like parents love and care for their children, so God desires to love and care for us. Like parents teach their children obedience and submission for their good, so God desires us to obey and healthily submit to Him for our good. Problems arise when we disobey, when we scorn, and when we go our own way.
When considering health & fitness, it’s worth looking deeply into the story of Adam and Eve found in Genesis 3 of the Bible. One major reason is because Adam and Eve were the only two people alive before health issues existed. No one except Adam and Eve got to experience perfect bliss in its purest sense. That perfection had the power to provide a world without pain and frailty.
Imagine being alive and well as a 500-year-old man or woman with strong bones, impeccable skin, and the heart of a lion. Imagine running across the country without your feet hurting or even suffering a single shin splint. Picture being able to walk up flights of stairs without losing your breath or running up and down the bleachers of a stadium without your legs aching—ever.
What if you were able to play catch with your kids and never have shoulder issues, or lift weights all day and never experience soreness or the fear of muscle pulls? There was once a time when we didn’t have to worry about bad knees, back problems, arthritis, or multiple sclerosis. The world God created was full of never-ending joy, free from debilitation and enfeeblement. Adam and Eve were entrusted to be good stewards of all creation with 100 percent godliness. Needless to say, they were unsuccessful.
Prior to Adam and Eve being led astray by Satan and physically defying God, there wasn’t even a hint of sickness on earth, no obesity, cancer, diabetes, or heart disease. As soon as Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, improper diet and poor decision-making entered the world. The moment they lost sight of God’s particular instruction, the hereditary path to selfish craving and gluttony opened up to all humankind.
Fitness Requires Righteousness & Faith
From that point on, every child born came into the world through pain, stained by this corruption, and all of life would be affected by it. To this day, we are feeling the affliction caused by disobedience as life gets challenging, overwhelming, and difficult. Our bodies suffer from pain and stress, demoralization and depression. It’s an unavoidable pain whether we’re fit or unfit, existing in both the lazy and the active and among those who overeat and those who diet. That is why we need Jesus, the sinless savior, because everyone, like Adam and Eve, will inevitably succumb to self-will.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. —2 Cor. 5:21
It makes you wonder why complete obedience was required in the first place. Why even afford the opportunity to disobey? Doesn’t it seem like God overreacted a bit? Those are both serious questions to ask. But it’s difficult to understand the will of an omniscient God when we as finite humans define life how we see fit rather than how He sees it. Once we get to know God and become more familiar with who He is, we will better understand His infinitely profound mind and His perfect ways.
What we can conclude from God’s reaction is that He desires for us to live life as He instructs us in all things. Everything in creation was perfect until Adam and Eve disregarded God’s commandment for something that was unsanctioned and untrue. Through a short-lived moment of satisfied hunger and selfish ambition, Adam and Eve’s anxiety, insecurity, and guilt cast a dark shadow on the human race, resulting in three emergent factors in today’s eating disorders.
Health and fitness should be pursued by getting our bodies right with God, with godly ambition, by contentment in Christ, through the confidence of the Holy Spirit. When our actions reflect that we trust what God says, it is called faith.
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. —Heb. 11:3
Not everything real is visible. Not all power is to be found here on earth and restricted to humans. There is a power we have not yet seen face to face, a king enthroned in heaven through whom all things came to be by the word of His mouth (Ps. 33:9). His very breath gave all of us life (Genesis 2:7). This power is what gives God the authority to determine what is good and what is bad, and by faith, we submit to how He lovingly governs and wisely rules our lives.
I pray this week that the sovereignty of God, the strength of Christ Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit lovingly governs and wisely rules over your diet and exercise. Amen.