If you are not Superman, whose vascular system is exponentially energized by photosynthesis of a yellow sun, or a Duracell Bunny, who can pummel a drum for ten hours from four AA batteries, you need to put some thought into how to charge your body.
This may seem as obvious as a gleaming golden arch, but many Christians view sanctification as merely a spiritual pursuit. We err as Plato did, drawing too sharp a distinction between spiritual wellbeing and physical succour. After all, didn’t Paul tut-tut disparagingly at treadmills and jump ropes when he pointed out that, “Bodily training profits little, while godliness profits in every way, for it holds promise for this life and the life to come” (1 Tim 4:8)?
Well, yes, if you have to choose between being eternally godly, or fighting fit, then remember that your body will one day fuel the secret subterranean lives of creatures that you now temporarily outweigh.
But most of us do not have to choose between the two. We could benefit from mastering our memory verses, while working a Stairmaster.
The truth is that as we are physical-spiritual composites. Our spirit effects our body; e.g. stress and sleeplessness can be triggers for maladies as diverse as depression, obesity, and cancer. And our bodies effect our spirits, as Jesus noted when he chided his narcoleptic prayer partners for having willing spirits ensconced in weak flesh (Mark 14:38).
What I am proposing is simply that we who are keen on working out or salvation in fear and trembling, not fear and tremble at the thought of working out our abs. I don’t mean to be trite, I mean to be biblical. I have experienced the temptation to crabbiness and discouragement that accompanies poor eating, sleeping, and jogging habits. And I have enjoyed the benefit of energized spiritual commitment that accompanied a regiment of sweaty exercise and early bedtime.
Consider Elijah. In 1 Kings 18 the prophet profited from some of the most exhilarating spiritual warfare in history. In a single day he challenged the religious system of his day, he talked some serious smack, he prayed fire down from heaven, and he effectively broke the back of Baal worship in his generation. His ministry was vindicated by miracles and mass recommitment of Israel. What a rush! And then he fell into a funk that ended with him asking God to kill him. Wait, what? Yup, in 1 King 19:4 Elijah’s low self-esteem led to suicidal thoughts and clinical depression (to borrow some contemporary psychobabble favorites). How would God cure his floundering emo kid? I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t Prozac.
Please indulge my brief digression for a paragraph. I recently looked up the possible symptoms and cures for depression on a reputed medical diagnostic website. The site listed symptoms like listlessness, lethargy, cynicism, self-absorption, sadness, hopelessness, and anti-social behavior like the desire to be left alone. No surprises there. What caught my attention, though, was the two headings under which cures were offered. The first category of cures was what I expected to find on a medical website: chemical cures (mostly various anti-depressant pills). The second category of cures, however, was “natural cures for depression” including: exercise, regular sleep patterns, taking up a hobby like photography, volunteering to help others, spending time with positive people, and eating healthy food. So, the same site said that you can cure this disease by a) drugging yourself, or b) snapping out of it. Wow. It’s like they read Jay Adams or something.
Anyway, back to Elijah. Which of those categories would the angel who ministered to our burnt-out prophet employ?
And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God (1 Kings 19: 5-8).
God helped Elijah’s sanctification with a nap and a snack. I have more to say on this, and you could read more blog posts on this, but we all have something far more holy to do, and yes, it involves a bagel and a Lay-Z-Boy.