Sent:  April 24, 2002

Subject:  God’s Gym

Good Morning Ethan & Emily:

I was doing some cleaning today, and I ran across the paperwork I got from the physical fitness center where Ethan set me up for a free workout with a personal trainer.  I really learned a lot from the session, and I realize that I need to get myself on a regular exercise schedule.  There is no denying it…physical exercise is good for us, and out of respect for ourselves and for God who created us and gives us life, we should do all we can to eat right and exercise regularly to keep our bodies fit.

For many years I thought that the Bible taught that physical exercise was of no real value.  In the King James Version, we read in 1 Timothy 4:8:  “for bodily exercise profiteth little….”  This always puzzled me, as I knew that physical exercise is always beneficial.  Now having studied from other translations, I have a clearer indication as to what Paul was saying.  The New Living Translation puts it this way:  “Physical exercise has some value, but….”  We’ll get to the “but” later but at least I am assured that God acknowledges that there are benefits from…as we say today:  “pounding the pavement” and “hitting the gym.” 

Actually, you might be surprised to learn that Paul, the most famous missionary in the New Testament and the author of the books of Timothy, must have been quite a sports fan.  Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible describes Paul as follows:

“This amazing apostle was many things.  He was a missionary, a soul-winner, a pastor, a great theologian, a tentmaker, etc.  But in his spare time he also seemed to be a sports lover.  Often in his writings, Paul uses sports as an analogy to get his point across.  For example:

(1) Wrestling:  ‘For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’ (Eph. 6:12)

(2) Boxing: ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith’ (2 Tim. 4:7).  ‘…so fight I, not as one that beateth the air’ (1 Cor. 9:26)

(3) Racing:  ‘Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize?  So run that ye may obtain.’ (1 Cor. 9:24,26).  I, therefore, so run, not as uncertainly…But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection….’ (1 Cor. 9:26-27)

Speaking to 1st Century Hebrew Christians, Paul challenged them:  ‘Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience (“endurance” in NLT) the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith….’ (Hebrews 12:1-2)”

But although physical exercise has definite benefits…even more important than physical exercise is spiritual exercise.  Paul spoke directly about this to Timothy in the verse we discussed at the beginning of our study today:  “Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.” (1 Timothy 4:8)

He goes on to tell Timothy:  “Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received…Give your complete attention to these matters.  Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress.  Keep a close watch on yourself and on your teaching.  Stay true to what is right, and God will save you and those who hear you.” (vv. 14-15)

The advice Paul was giving this fervent new Christian was to exercise much his spiritual gifts and to work hard.  Just look at the verbs:  “Do not neglect,” “Give,” “Throw,” “Keep”, and “Stay.”

Serving the Lord is not easy and to live effectively for the Lord and to have maximum impact for Him, we must work hard, to “fight” evil, to “fight” for what is right, and to “run with endurance” the race of life.  This takes spiritual stamina which cannot be achieved without prayer, Bible study, and a righteous lifestyle.

Use your time wisely.  Time on the StairMaster or treadmill is important, but the best workout you can have…and one that has benefits that last forever…are the times you spend alone with God in prayer and in His Word.  Physical fitness will fade over time if neglected…even those beautifully sculptured ads that are so popular today.  But spiritual exercise builds faith and spiritual power that serve you well in this lifetime and beyond.

Make sure you are signed up and an active member not in Gold’s Gym (as of 2002 the largest fitness gym chain in the world)…but in God’s Gym!

Have a great day.

“Exercising” from my devotional desk…