Posts Tagged ‘Christian Living’

Working Out to the Glory of Bod or God?

July 16, 2008

A year ago, I exited college a largely excited man entering into the life of searching for work and wifey. Little did I realize how large I would leave college.

I entered my freshman year at UCSD at a normal weight of 135lbs. I remember hearing about the horrors and terrors of “freshman fifteen”, where first year students would generally gain an average of fifteen pounds their first year of college. Unfortunately for me, I joined the Freshman Fifteen Club prematurely after my first quarter in college.

( before college 2003, in the blue)

I don’t recall learning much my freshman year in college. But what I did learn was that OVT had breakfast burritos until 1am and california burritos, pollo asada fries, and In’n’Out burgers were absolutely delicious.

I finished my freshman year weighing 185lbs and thus the Freshman Fifty Club was born.

A year ago, I graduated college weighing at my all-time-high-score of 197lbs.

Since then, I’ve dedicated myself to a healthy diet and a consistent weight-training routine. In a year I have lost 40lbs of fat and gained about 20lbs of muscle and am in the best shape since entering UCSD.

What was once a struggle to eat healthy has now become a daily routine. But what I wasn’t expecting or ready for was how exercise and being fit offered new struggles which might seem very trivial and contrite. But as a Christian, I would humbly have to deal with them. Here is what I have learned through my experience.

“for bodily discipline is only of little profit but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8 (emphasis added)

As Americans we are bombarded daily with advertising for being fit. Whether it be the newest fads in dieting or the newest gear to get you stronger, over the past few years, there has been a heavy emphasis on proper eating and physical exercise that has caused many, myself including, to examine their lifestyles. But what is problematic is when Christians become out of balance by putting too much emphasis on the physical man while neglecting the spiritual man. This is one area that I struggled with greatly. I pursued exercise so devotedly that it was my greatest discipline. I worked out everyday from 9:30pm to 11pm except Sundays. I made a schedule of when I would eat, what I would eat, how much I would eat, and even calculated the amount of fat, calories, protein, and carbohydrates I was consuming. I was so good at keeping a routine. I was so good at being on time with everything. I was so disciplined. If only I showed equal attention to spiritual things. Regretfully, while my physical body was getting healthier, my spiritual body was decaying. I put so much emphasis on exercise that, unknowingly, it turned into idolatry. Instead of worshiping God the Father, I focused my worship towards my routine. I traded in a disciplined life of prayer, Bible reading, and evangelism for a disciplined life of bench presses, barbell curls, and triceps extensions. I fed myself with a prescription of protein shakes, salads, chicken, and fish instead of feeding myself with the Word of God and the fellowship with other believers. Sadly, I loved the thought of working out more than thoughts on God.

“And beware not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.” Deuteronomy 4:19 (emphasis added)

What was especially hard for me was acknowledging that working out was turning into a form of idolatry. I made excuses saying, “How can it be an idol when it’s good for you?”. But isn’t that where idols usually generate from? God has blessed us with so much good. We have been blessed financially, we have been blessed with family and friends, we are blessed by the roofs over our heads, we are blessed with so much abundance. Idolatry forms when we focus our attention on blessings instead of the One who blesses. In my case, my attention was predominantly on the blessings of my health instead on the One who blesses me with my health.

“Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine, or with gluttonous eaters of meat; For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe one with rags.” Proverbs 23:20-21(emphasis added)

The other extreme is when you are so spiritually-minded that you neglect your body by eating unhealthily, gluttony, or a lack of exercise. Gluttony seems to be a sin that Christians like to ignore. We are quick to label smoking and drinking as sins, but gluttony seems to be more accepted or at least tolerated within Christians and within the church. Why is that? Many Christians would never even consider the notion of smoking a cigarette or drinking alcohol, but have no qualms about gorging themselves at the dinner table to the point where they can eat no longer. This was especially evident my first year in college as I even prided myself in my ability to eat great amounts of food. Whether it be going to El Coti’s and eating three burritos in one sitting or setting the In’n’Out record of eating a 17×17, surely my eating habits were a prime example of gluttony.

“put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.” Proverbs 23:2 (emphasis added)

I believe that our physical appetites are an analogy of our ability to control ourselves. If we are unable to control our eating habits, it may be safe to assume that we are unable to control other habits that are sinful such as lust, covetousness, and anger. We are not to let our appetites control us, but rather we are to control our appetites. Galatians 5 teaches us of the fruits of the Spirit common to all believers. One of the fruits of the Spirit noted is “self-control”. As Christians, I believe it is important to display self-control in all things including our appetites. So does eating at a buffet not glorify God? Does that mean that if you eat over the suggested serving size noted on your food label, you are disobeying God? Clearly, each person has their own varying amount of food that their body needs to consume based on size, height, weight, and even sex. But, I do believe that we know when we have eaten too little, just enough, or too much. As I learn more about the sin of gluttony, I think that it’s more and more important to identify when you have consumed more than needed.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (emphasis added)

1 Timothy 4:8 instructs us that physical training is of value but godliness is of greater value. What it does not instruct us is that physical training is of no value. There is importance in physical training and exercise. Ephesians 5:29 states, “for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church”. Notice that we are to nourish our bodies and cherish our bodies. While this may not directly command us to exercise and work out, what it does promote is to treat our bodies with care and love “just as Christ also does the church”. We are taught to be stewards of what God has given us. This isn’t limited to our money and possessions but we are to be stewards of our bodies as well. Glorify God in your body.

So, how can I work out and eat to the glory of God?

1. Pray. Pray that you would have the right attitude when you exercise. Acknowledge God as the Giver who grants you the health to serve and enjoy. Keep your priorities in line. A healthy physical man does not make a healthy spiritual man.

2. Listen to a sermon. I find that a sermon is perfect to listen to while you work out. Depending on who’s preaching, each sermon should be around 45 minutes, the same amount of time a good workout should take. Of course, if you listen to a message by Pastor John, you may have to lengthen your workout.

3. Bring a friend. Fellowship together while you exercise. I’ve made many friendships from meeting people at the gym or by just helping someone else be disciplined in exercising.

4. Eat healthy. Fast food is no good. Cook your own food. Read the nutritional facts on what you buy at the super markets. Learn the different types of fats and carbohydrates. And don’t overeat.

5. Play basketball. Once or twice a week many of the church guys go out to play basketball. Not only is it great exercise but the ministry of sports is especially great for guys to get to know each other. There is something about playing with a ball that enables guys to build friendships. I don’t know what the equivalent is for girls. My guess is playing with makeup.