Three years ago I lost my mobility for three months due to leg injuries. For the sake of great storytelling, I could blame something dramatic like a ski accident. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
The truth is, I’d neglected my physical health for several years prior. As a busy mom and ministry wife, I’d become an expert at finding reasons for not exercising:
- Gym membership costs too much.
- The gym is too far from home.
- Exercise makes my muscles ache.
- Ministry and writing deadlines come first.
- Family comes first.
- Jesus comes first.
Landing in a wheelchair with one leg in a cast and the other requiring surgery presented a wake-up call I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Insomnia struck night after night, giving me more than ample time to consider my response.
I faced two choices: Continue the same pattern of behavior or change my ways. The first choice would, no doubt, further damage my body. Ultimately, it would force me to quit the ministry that my husband and I co-direct because mobility issues would limit the international travel required of us.
The second choice would do the opposite. It would strengthen my body, make international travel easier, and ultimately, Lord willing, enable me to live long and strong for Him.
Making my choice was easy, unlike the effort required to take control of my health over the ensuing months. But wow—the results have amazed me. The process has enabled me to lose weight and gain strength, and it’s given me fresh insights as to why paying heed to our physical health matters so much when we’re in career ministry.
Some of these insights I’ve always known in my head but now I know them in my heart, and that’s brought transformation. For instance….
- Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:19,20)
God lives in me, therefore, I ought to treat His dwelling with respect. It deserves to be fueled with proper nutrition and to receive sufficient rest and exercise. As a steward of the body He’s given me, I’m responsible for keeping it in good repair as far as I’m able. No one else can do this for me.
- Our lives must align with our message.
Throughout my ministry, I’ve told my audiences that I (we) can do all things through Christ who gives me (us) strength (Philippians 4:13). And yet, when they looked at me, they received a conflicting message—that He wasn’t strong enough to help me develop self-control over my appetite and exercise habits. How, then, could He help them with their problems?
Our words and our lives must be consistent for the sake of those who follow our example and instruction. We want to inspire them to trust in God’s character and abilities not doubt whether He’s strong enough to answer their prayers.
- Our obedience in this area of our lives is an act of worship.
Psalm 84:2 says, “I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the LORD. With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God.” When we neglect our physical health, we soon feel sluggish in every area of our lives. We find it difficult to stay alert and be productive. And we sure don’t feel like singing joyfully to the living God.
But this living God is the One who created our bodies and who breathes air into our lungs. Caring for our bodies, then, isn’t a chore. It’s an act of worship to Him, a way of saying thank-you to Him for giving us life.
For those of us in career ministry, caring for our physical health is of vital importance. Our work load will tell us that we don’t have time for exercise, and our human nature will say it’s okay to eat whatever we want in whatever quantities we wish. But the facts say otherwise and force us to make choices every day.
When I chose to pursue health, I found a couple of accountability partners who also felt compelled to change their habits. I also joined a weekly online Bible study through a ministry called First Place 4 Health. http://www.firstplace4health.com
I began going to the gym for an hour several days each week as well as tracking my food intake through My Fitness Pal. https://www.myfitnesspal.com
Most importantly, I asked God to grant my efforts with success. He opened my eyes to read 1 Peter 5:7 with new understanding. “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and in his good time he will honor you. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you” (NLT).
Humbling ourselves before God means admitting we lack the strength needed to develop new healthy habits. When we do so, we can trust Him to empower us. After all, He cares about what happens to us, and that includes developing the habits needed to live long and strong as His servants.
Grace Fox has authored eight books including Moving from Fear to Freedom: A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation and produced its corresponding DVD-based small group Bible study. She and her husband co-direct International Messengers, a mission organization with 200 career staff in 25 countries. Grace’s books are available on her website, at bookstores nationwide, and on Amazon. Follow Grace on Facebook and Twitter for news and updates.