Updated: Jun 18
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Can you complete a triathlon? Compete in the Olympics? Win the Superbowl?
If so, you are probably a world-class athlete.
Can you run a marathon? Keep up with a college basketball player? Complete basic training?
If so, you are probably an athlete.
Can you participate in an organized sport? Can you run a 5k? Do a push-up on your toes?
If so, you are probably in shape.
Can you walk up the stairs without getting winded? Keep up with your children and/or grandchildren? Put your carry-on into the overhead compartment?
If so, you are probably out of shape.
What does being in shape have to do with being a Christain? You might say, “as long as I’m saved, everything should be fine. I’ll go to heaven when I die and live the same life as every other Christian. Besides, nowhere in the Bible does it say that I need to be an Olympic athlete or a marine. I don’t have to be in shape.”
You are right and wrong. No, Christianity doesn’t have a fitness requirement. No, the Bible doesn’t say you have to be able to go six rounds with Conor McGregor, but it does say you should be able to complete your God-given tasks and that your body should further the Gospel.
Do Your Daily Tasks: Proverbs 31: 17 NIV
“She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.”
Proverbs 31 is the passage that describes the value of a wife of noble character and details that character. She is an entrepreneur, keeps a house, is generous, is disciplined, among many other qualities. The characteristic referred to in this verse is diligence.
Many verses in Proverbs (and Psalms) advise against laziness. For example, Proverbs 10:4 says, “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.” Wise Solomon praises discipline, hard work, and diligence because it pays off.
But Solomon doesn’t stop with “work vigorously,” he continues to say, “her arms are strong for her tasks.” AKA her arms are strong enough to complete her tasks. The ESV translation says, “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.”
Through Solomon, God is advising women to be physically strong. He doesn’t say we need to be as strong as men or as strong as world-class athletes, but strong enough to live your everyday life. If you need to be able to carry a basket of wet laundry up three flights of stairs, you should be in shape enough to do so.
Whenever she does, she does it with ALL HER POWER.
Run In Such a Way as to Get the Prize: 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27 NIV
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27 NIV
This passage is often used to compare our faith journey to running a race. “Run in such a way as to get the prize.” How does someone train for a race? Discipline, perseverance, and fitness. Self-control, effort, and purpose. Aim, dedication, and work.
Those characteristics apply to all areas of our health, not just our spiritual life because they are all intertwined. Multiple studies have been done researching how mental health affects physical health; how positive vibes help cancer patients.
Health is spiritual, mental, emotional, social, and physical. Discipline, self-control, aim, etc. should translate into every area of life. Devotions should be as routine as workouts. You should put just as much effort into girls' night out as you do in processing feelings. What you think about should have just as much purpose as going to church.
We should compare this passage to life, not just our spiritual health. Who said faith is just spiritual? The Christian life is about our relationship with God, our faith, but God doesn’t stop there. He wants all aspects of our life.
1 Corinthians 9 is entitled, “The Rights of an Apostle.” Paul defends himself to the Corinthians who questioned his apostleship. His evidence is that he has seen Jesus and produced spiritual fruit. Earlier in the passage, Paul explains that in order to minister to everyone, he becomes “all things to all people.” Using an athletic metaphor he helps the Corinthian church understand why he lives his life the way he does.
“I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessing.” 1 Corinthians 9:23 Paul does not run or box for his own sake but for the gospel. He disciplines his body for the gospel so his body works for him. You need to do the same.
How In-Shape Should We Be?
We aren’t all called to be Tim Tebow, but we were called to do specific tasks here on earth. And if those tasks require physical strength, we better have that strength. If God calls you to minister to triathlon runners, you should probably be able to complete a triathlon.
I’m not saying it’s a sin to be out of shape. I’ll let the scholars debate that. I want to encourage you to have enough physical, mental, and emotional strength to do your part to further the Gospel.
If you have mental health issues, you need to seek appropriate help. If you can’t walk up the stairs to your office without getting winded, you need to fix that. Do your part to further God’s kingdom.
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