rooted to thrive - Physical health
In our series ‘Rooted to thrive’, I said last week that whilst scripture doesn’t write down rules for every aspect of life, it does give us guidance for living in every aspect of life, so that we can thrive as Christians in every aspect of life, by being firmly rooted in Christ, getting our energy from life through our relationship with Jesus, as we seek to live for him and in the power of his Spirit. I said that being rooted to thrive doesn’t mean that all of a sudden we live the perfect life, and nothing ever goes wrong. I shared of how the apostle Paul experienced all sorts of struggles, and yet even when he was in prison, or suffering shipwreck he still thrived through his relationship with Jesus.
Last week we focused in on how to thrive in our workplaces by changing our mindset so that whatever we do, we do it as though we were serving the Lord Jesus himself.
Over the next three sessions that I bring, we are going to think about how we can be rooted to thrive in Jesus in our health – we will look this week at our physical health, next week at mental health, and then in our third session, at how to thrive in ill-health.
Fascinating again, that in God’s Sovereignty, we come to this at a time when our Government chooses to address the issue of health with respect to obesity.
Those of you who were around any of our prayer times early in the past week will know that I have been caught up with John 6 and Jesus saying, ‘I am the bread of life’, and the need which we have to feed on him if we are to thrive.
I mentioned last week about our being created in the image of God, in the likeness of God. I was focusing last week on what it meant to be creative and to be working because as we are made in the image, in the likeness of a Creator God who loves to be at work – and so in our nature, if we are to thrive we need to work, to be productive, to create, as when we do that it brings fulfilment as we do what we were created in God’s image to do.
I’m going to make another tentative suggestion about something of what it means to be made in the image of God today.
There is one Creator God, but we know him as a triune God – three in one – Father, Son and Spirit. All three were involved in creation. At the start of Scripture, it begins with the words, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ and we have the sense of Father God at work in creation. At the start of John’s gospel, it begins with these words:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
Later we read, The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us and we know that the Word is Jesus, God with us, Immanuel – so Jesus was involved in creation.
And back in Genesis 1 we read that the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters…
So the triune God, Father, Son and Spirit all working together in creation.
There is a sense too, that we are triune beings also, made in the image of God – we are body, mind and spirit – one human being, but with three dimensions to whom we are. The analogy is limited, but nonetheless it is there, part of our being made in the image, the likeness of God – and just as when one part of the Trinity suffers, the whole Trinity suffers – so when Jesus took our sin on the cross, and the Father had to turn his face away, so when one part of our triune being suffers, whether body, mind or spirit, it affects the other part of our beings.
If we are to have good physical health and good mental health and good spiritual health, we need to feed each part of our being well.
Turn with me if you would in your Bibles, physical or digital, to John chapter 6 and we’re going to read from v25-40.
Earlier in the chapter, we read of Jesus meeting the needs for physical health, in miraculously feeding 5000+ people with 2 loaves of bread and 5 fish. We then read of him and the disciples engaging in some physical exercise – the disciples rowing across the lake – 3 or 4 miles of rowing – that’s a significant work out! And Jesus having a good workout too – going for a walk of at least the same distance, albeit a large proportion of his walk being on the water!
Later, having got to the other side of the lake at Capernaum, the people who had been following Jesus found him and we get this conversation:
Jesus makes it clear that your primary priority ought to be your spiritual health. You need to come and feed on him regularly – when we do that we have spiritual health that satisfies our souls, and when our souls are satisfied by being firmly rooted in Jesus, then we can begin to satisfy our bodies and our minds.
It’s interesting that Jesus comes to talk about satisfying our spiritual needs by talking out of the context of satisfying physical and mental needs – feeding 5000+ people and meeting their physical need, and even with the disciples who were afraid when they saw Jesus walking on the water in the midst of stormy conditions, satisfying their mental needs by assuring them, ‘It is I; don’t be afraid.’
We are rooted to thrive in our physical health, when we are firstly rooted to thrive in Jesus for our spiritual health. But just looking after our spiritual health isn’t the end of the story. So much of what Jesus did was about meeting physical need, whether it was feeding thousands of people with minimal food supplies; healing people with physical limitations, or ensuring that the disciples got rest by taking them away to the other side of the lake.
How can scripture guide us in terms of our physical health, as well as our spiritual and mental health?
One of the starting points is to recognise that our bodies, if we are Christians, and have put our faith and trust in Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross, are holy places that need to be cared for well.
1 Corinthians 3:16,17 says:
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives among you. If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
And then chapter 6:19,20 says:
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honour God with your bodies.
In the first reference, the temple is the plural body, the church – God living and moving amongst us by his Spirit – and we’ve known the sense of that in many ways recently. And there is a warning against destroying God’s temple, the church.
But the second reference is personal – not the body, the church – but you, if you are a Christian believer, and me – our bodies are temples where God lives by his Spirit – therefore we should take care of and honour God with our bodies.
We need to honour the government as it seeks to take the bull by the horns and address the problems of obesity in our nation.
We need to honour those who seek to work with this in their own lives – aware of one person who during this period of lockdown has come closer to the Lord, and in doing so, has been empowered to lose weight and to alter patterns of eating after years of battle – and has now lost several stone!
As someone who loves cycling myself, great to see the Government encouragement to get people cycling – but it doesn’t matter how, the fact is that our bodies were made to be used – in the past physical exertion was more a part of daily life, of working life, and was often the means of getting from one place to another… today, it is so easy to jump in the car, or on public transport.
It’s fascinating how often sport is referenced in scripture as an illustration for spiritual health. If you were to turn over a few pages in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, you’d read these words:
24 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. 25 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 for ever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Paul references how athletes engaging in a race will not just turn up and compete – they will prepare well; they will go into strict training; they won’t approach life aimlessly, but will discipline themselves so that they can compete to the best of their abilities.
Paul says, ‘Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly’. In other words, he is intentional in how he lives his life. He is disciplined in what he does and how he behaves.
That’s why we have the phrase ‘spiritual disciplines’, because we need to be disciplined in putting them into practice.
If we need to be disciplined in caring for our spiritual health, we should be disciplined in caring for our physical health – if you had a special guest coming to stay, you would want your home to be in the best possible state – similarly with the Holy Spirit coming to stay in our lives, we should seek to make his home, our physical bodies, the best they can be. That means taking the exercise that we should and eating and drinking healthily.
Earlier in 1 Corinthians 6 Paul writes, v9-11:
9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[a] 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
So often when we look at these verses we pick up on all the sexual sin – or we pick up additionally on the slanderers or the swindlers – those who rip other people off, either through the things that they say, or the things that they do…. but how often do we pick up on the sins that don’t necessarily involve sin with or too another – those sins which we do to ourselves – the greedy, the drunkards.
Now one might say that the greedy bit is about stuff, getting more stuff – and that application is definitely there – but as it lies alongside the drunkards – about excessive consumption of alcohol or other intoxicating substances – its fair to think that the ‘greedy’ may well apply to eating too much….
Some of us battle with our weight, myself included – it can be down to poor mental health, and poor spiritual health, so we seek to fill our need by eating.
It can be down to the fact that we are not taking the physical exercise we should for our own physical health – and that affects our mental health – and can affect our spiritual health too.
I know for me, that since arriving in Tamworth I put on over a stone and a half, and that’s largely down to consuming the same amount of food, whilst exercising considerably less! I’ve managed to lose half a stone, but that’s only 1/3 of what I’d gained – more to do!
In Psalm 8 David writes:
‘When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that your are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?’
For David to consider the heavens meant going out to look and to see – maybe for him it was part of his physical work as a shepherd, or maybe this was later and he had to deliberately go out to look and to consider.
For us to consider the heavens might mean a few clicks on our phone, tablet or computer – but we miss the point.
If we want to be rooted to thrive in physical health, we need to be disciplined like we need to be disciplined in spiritual disciplines if we are to be rooted in Christ to thrive spiritually.
Maybe we need to be determined to put things right, so that we might thrive in every part of our being.
One lady I know has battled with poor physical health for years, been very limited in what she can do – but being stuck at home during lockdown is not good for some of us mentally and emotionally, so she determined that she would go for a walk each day. At first, to manage a mile was nigh on impossible – she was utterly shattered after each walk – there was great rejoicing when she reached a mile for the first time – now, she is walking 4-6 miles most days!! And is better for it in every way!
Body- mind-spirit are interlinked and if we want to thrive in one, then we need to make sure we thrive in them all….
So maybe for you, to be rooted to thrive in physical health means making sure that you are rooted to thrive in your spiritual health, being firmly rooted into Jesus, which will also help your mental health (more on that next week!) then, the likelihood of abusing your body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, by overeating or over-drinking is reduced.
If you are not yet a Christian and haven’t yet given your life to Jesus and received the gift of the Holy Spirit, then maybe that’s a first step for you to take! If you need help with that, then come to the prayer room after the service, or make contact with us if you’re watching this later.
Once you are rooted into Jesus, then maybe you need to be disciplined in thinking, how do I take care of this temple of the Holy Spirit? What will feed it well? What will not do it good?
Maybe you need to think about physical exercise.
Even Psalm 23 hints at physical exercise – he makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters – David would have had to take physical exercise to get there to receive that blessing.
Maybe for you getting out for a walk is the right thing; maybe for others, perhaps following the Government’s advice and getting out on a bike – you see and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation in a different way when out walking, running or cycling than ever you do inside a car – and engaging with God’s creation enables you to thrive as it stirs your spirit and helps your mind (more on that next week!)
Maybe because of your circumstances it might be better to swim, or join a gym, or engage in some team sport, or get a rowing machine, or a static bike or whatever.
Be rooted to thrive in Jesus for your physical health. Remember that your body, as a Christian, is the temple of the Holy Spirit, so care for it well – think about what you put into it – and think about how you use it so it can be healthy.
If you don’t use it, it won’t be healthy. Reference lady I mentioned earlier.
We may have doubts about what our bodies can do – the truth is, in the main, they can do far more than we can imagine!
I remember the first sprint triathlon I did – I couldn’t understand why on earth they called it a ‘sprint’ triathlon – in my mind, if I could just finish it, I’d be happy! Some years later, whilst I might be absolutely shattered at the end of a sprint triathlon, cos I’ve given it my all, it seemed really short because I had conditioned my body to go for much longer.
You might be thinking, what on earth am I supposed to do?
Well, ask the Lord, and ask yourself, what would bring me joy? What could I share in with others?