Physical Discipline for Spiritual Health

1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God with your body.”

This world is one of abundance, telling us to keep pushing ourselves in the gym, so we can look our best, or telling us to continue enjoying all the desserts because we only live once. But as Christians, we are not called to live in the ways of this world. Instead, we should discipline ourselves, so that we do not push ourselves too far in either extreme. In other words, we need to make sure there is balance in our lives, and that we are taking care of our bodies for the purpose of glorifying God.

Just as we should discipline ourselves in our spiritual lives, so should we discipline ourselves so as to maintain physical health. However, this doesn’t mean we have to try so hard to fit the world’s expectations; rather, we can rest knowing that we are created in God’s image, set apart, just as Ephesians 2:10 reads, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” We have been created and called by God, and our purpose is to imitate Christ. We should be mindful to treat our bodies with the idea that they were “bought with a price,” like 1 Corinthians 6:20 states.

Not only is discipline about creating balance, but about forming habits. Just as I struggle to be in the Word, so also do I struggle to eat healthily and exercise routinely. Scripture tells us it will “seem painful” (Hebrew 12: 11), but by forming habits and routines, we may better glorify God with both the way we live out our faith and the way we treat our bodies.

If you are anything like me, you all too often compare yourself and your outward image to women girls on social media or in magazines. But I encourage you, rather than wishing to look like someone else or obsessing over the size of your jeans, embrace who God made you to be by stewarding the vessel He has gifted you. He has molded you in His image with a purpose. Indeed, Psalm 139: 14 exclaims that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” He has given us the ability to serve Him and share the good news, and so we should steward our outward bodies so as to best fulfill our calling, rather than tweaking them to fit worldly standards. It is important to learn physical discipline because, if we have accepted Christ, He now dwells in us. Read that again. The Savior of the World is using you as a vessel to accomplish His mission.

If this is a hard message for you, something to consider is that Jesus approached those who society saw as unapproachable. He came to the lepers, the beggars, and the gentiles (some of whom were deemed unclean and untouchable) and saw past their physical condition; he saw their hearts and forgave their sins. Similarly, we too often tend to focus on our outward flaws and inabilities, while we should be focusing on our heart, for that is the part that Christ cares most about. By realizing that everything happens for a reason and in accordance with the Will of God, we may better glorify Him because we can accept that God is at work in us in ways we cannot explain, no matter what challenges our physical bodies may face. If you are facing chronic illness, surgery, disease, or any other physical ailment, know that God is using it to grow His Kingdom and grow you in Christ-likeness. We have hope as Christians, for we know that this world will be made new, us along with it. We will be healed and fully ourselves because we will be reunited with our Heavenly Father, who we will have the pleasure of worshipping forever and ever. A great depiction of the significance of maintaining our physical bodies is evident in C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, as he writes, “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. . . . You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage, but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” Since we have been bought with a price, let’s recognize the importance of giving our lives to Christ, glorifying Him in our thoughts, words, and deeds.

You are God’s handiwork. He made you in His image and you are beautiful in His sight. You have been called to go forth and share the joy of the Gospel, no matter what size, shape, or age you are! Every part of your story is used by God. None of it is irredeemable. Take comfort in the fact that no matter where you are in your journey, no matter what your circumstances are, God wants to come dwell in you.

Ending questions:

How can you be a better caretaker of the Temple that God has given you?

The scars on our bodies tell stories. What stories do yours tell?

How is God at the center of it, working through you, to tell His story?

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