If we are going to be the impactful leaders and influencers God has called us to be, we need to make sure we are leading ourselves well. One critical area of health is, of course, our physical health.
When it comes to physical health, our problem is not that we don’t know what to do. We already know: eat right, get plenty of exercise, stop smoking, don’t drink too much, get plenty of sleep, blah blah blah…we’ve heard it all before. We already know what to do. I’m increasingly convinced that right thinking and motivations are everything if we are going to succeed at being at our physical best.
Imagine if you were at the doctor’s office for your routine physical. You’re waiting for the doctor, and in walks God to talk to you about your health and fitness.
What do you think God would say to you?
I think we would be surprised at what God would say to each of us in that moment. Here are three things I believe He would tell us:
WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU
The first thing that I think God would say to each of us about our physical health is, “I want you to see what’s in it for you!”
Many of us have had it drilled into us that God is a God of “shoulds” and “oughts” and shaking his finger at us and scolding us, but when we look at Scripture, that’s just not what we see. Over and over again, God gives instruction for our good. If we look specifically at the dietary restrictions God placed on His people, many forbidden foods contain high concentrations of toxic heavy metals, pathogenic bacteria and viruses making them dangerous for human consumption. God’s not out to be a kill-joy by limiting our menu. He wants us to be healthy because he wants us to have the best life possible.
Any amount of research into physical health supports this: you’ll be sick less often, sharper mentally, more relaxed, and more productive taking are of yourself in the right ways.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU
I don’t think God would stop at what’s in it for us personally. I think God would also say, “I want you to see what’s in it for the people around you.” We’ve already said people who are in better shape are more relaxed, more patient and less stressed. I don’t know about you, but one of the things I hate the most is when I’m grouchy and impatient with my family.
God would say to me, “Dave, when you’re making better health decisions, when you’re taking better care of yourself, you’re going to have a lot less of those times when you’re popping off at your kids and not exactly being father of the year. Do it for yourself, but do it for them too.”
Taking good care of ourselves not only makes us more enjoyable people to be around, it makes us more likely to simply be around.
Think of the people in your life who you’d honestly say, “I’d do just about anything for them.” Now ask yourself if “anything” includes taking better care of yourself physically. If you’ve got kids, maybe you need to get some pictures of your kids and just think about being around for them: seeing them graduate, walking your daughter down the aisle, knowing your grandchildren… You want to be around and the people who love you want you to be around. Take next steps towards physical health for the people that love you.
DO IT FOR YOU AND ME
This one might surprise you, but I think God would also say, “Do it for you and me.” Our health decisions can affect our relationship with God.
Managing our bodies is really about stewardship. The Bible talks about our bodies as the temple of God. In other words my body really isn’t mine, I’m just managing it. The decisions I make about my body are really an opportunity for me to honor God.
Looking good and feeling good has never been enough motivation for me in this area. Making God smile, however, has proven a strong motivator to keep going. I have found that praying before every meal helps me stay on track. I’m not talking about the ritual prayer, “God is great, God is good, now we thank him for our food,” but instead praying before each meal and sincerely thanking God for the food I’m about to eat. I ask that He would give me the discipline to eat in way that would make Him smile, and I try to see every bite as an act of worship, as a way to increase my intimacy with God.
Sometimes I think to myself, “Jesus allowed his body to be beaten and spat upon. He climbed that hill carrying that cross and He let people break his body— all for my benefit. The least I can do is eat a side of steamed vegetables! It’s extreme, but for me it’s extremely effective.
I think the last thing God would say to each of us regarding our physical health would be a reminder of His love for us in spite of ourselves. He would say, “You could sit on the couch, eat potato chips, drink a 2-liter bottle of Coke and finish it off with a bag of double-stuffed Oreos every day for the rest of your life and get as big as a house, and you know what? I wouldn’t love you any less. You could also eat only fresh fruits and vegetables and go to the gym and be the most in-shape person and I would not love you a single bit more.”
The issue isn’t being accepted or loved by God; Jesus makes the heart of God clear on that. What is at stake is the quality of your life, and the quality of your relationships with other people and with God Himself. You don’t have to change so He will love you; you can change because He already does.