Back in Week One of 7 Weeks to a Build Stronger Body, I briefly mentioned the link between our physical bodies and our spiritual life. We tend to think of them as being completely separate entities, but they are not. They are both part of the whole that makes us who we are and we can strengthen them both at the same time.
Strengthen Your Spirit While You Strengthen Your Body
I promised to give you some specific ways you can connect with the spiritual aspect of physical exercise during your workout. This is not something you hear from most fitness enthusiasts. Nor are you likely to hear it at church.
As I said before, the idea of the spiritual being connected with the physical body during exercise is typically from an Eastern, non-Christian worldview. Although I don’t agree with many of their spiritual ideas, I will not go so far as to say that my faith has no role whatsoever in my fitness. I believe it does. I believe that my relationship with God through Jesus is relevant to every aspect of my life, including my workouts.
There are many ways to strengthen your spirit while you are strengthening your body. Here are some ideas to get you started.
The Eastern concept of meditation is very different from the Biblical form of meditation. Don’t get confused because we use the same word to describe two very different activities.
The purpose of Biblical meditation is not to empty your mind, but to fill your mind with God’s truth. To think more deeply about a particular Scripture, a sermon you heard recently, the character and nature of God, or what you discussed at Bible study.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.
Psalm 119:15-16, ESV
Meditation engages your mind as well as your spirit. It is good to meditate during quiet and still times, but nothing says you can’t meditate while you walk or jog or do any other exercise you don’t have to concentrate too hard to accomplish safely.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
Philippians 4:8, NIV
Meditation is thinking about God. Prayer is talking to God. God is always available and He wants us to talk to Him non-stop, no matter where we are or what we’re doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:17, NIV
If you don’t have a running buddy or a workout partner to talk to, enjoy your friendship with God. Whatever you would tell your friend or husband or mentor, tell God. He’s called you His friend and He is listening.
I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends since I have told you everything the Father told me.
John 15:15, NLT
As much as possible, try to exercise outdoors in God’s creation. Worship Him for the beauty and intricacy you see around you. Breathe fresh air and know every breath you take is a gift from Him.
This is what God the Lord says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
Isaiah 42:5, NIV
When God created the first family, He placed them in a garden, not a house or a city or an apartment. I believe we were created to interact with the natural world God created. Enjoying the outdoors soothes us in ways that staying cooped up inside simply cannot.
Pop in your ear buds and listen to whatever style of God-honoring music you prefer to praise Him with. Music was made for worship. The world perverts music in all sorts of ways, but it is meant to praise the Lord.
Sing for joy to God our strength!
When I’m working out, I really don’t like to count reps. Counting is mentally boring. When my brain checks out, my body soon follows. So while I’m doing lots of reps of exercises that don’t require a lot of mental concentration like crunches or pushups, I play a jammin’ contemporary Christian song that pumps me up.
Instead of counting reps, I just do as many as I can for a verse, or chorus, or whole song depending on what the exercise is. When the time I’ve determined is up, I switch to a new exercise and a new time goal. Sometimes, I get so into the music and praising God that don’t even realize how hard my body is working!
- Thank God for your body and all the wonderful things it can do.
- Thank Him for whatever health you have.
- Thank Him for the progress you are making.
- Thank Him in advance for the answers to prayer He’s working on but hasn’t yet revealed.
- Thank Him for all the wonderful people in your life that motivate you to get strong because you want to be with them and enjoy them.
- Thank Him for the awesome new body you’re going to get someday!
- Thank Him that He humbled Himself to come to earth and wear a human body for 3 decades.
- Thank Him for His scandalous love for you that bought you back from darkness to be His Beloved.
- Thank Him that you won’t live forever on this earth no matter how healthy you are, but you will enjoy His presence for all Eternity!
In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18, NASB
There are physical benefits to exercises from yoga and Tai Chi and Eastern martial arts, but I don’t agree with a lot of the philosophy that sometimes goes along with these forms of exercise.
I prefer workout DVDs that are focused on the exercise aspect allowing me to focus my own spiritual connections. However, when I do come across some philosophy embedded in a particular exercise, I don’t blindly swallow it. I run it through my Christian filter. I “chew the meat and spit the bone”.
Sometimes, I find it necessary and helpful to “translate” what the trainer is saying so that it agrees with my worldview. The particular exercise or body position is not the problem, just the meaning that is sometimes assigned to it.
For example, when I do yoga, I do the movement called sun salutations, but I don’t ever think about saluting the sun. I praise the Lord of Creation. I don’t worship the creation He made. I worship the Creator. Which is greater, the sun which makes life on earth possible? Or the One who created the sun and the life it sustains?
When I do Tai Chi, I concentrate on God as my Source. He is the Giver and Sustainer of all Life and Energy. I don’t try to gather energy from the sky or the earth. I know that Jesus is my All and All. I may move my body like the people who are actually trying to gather energy from various places, but in my heart, I’m asking God to fill me and equip me that I may bring glory to Him.
While stretching one arm up and the other down, I don’t try to find a “neutral space” between good and evil. I don’t believe such a place exists. Instead, I visualize pushing myself away from evil and pressing in as close to God’s goodness and perfect love as I can get.
I have come across some workouts that are not worth translating and I don’t do them at all. The ones I use are primarily focused on the physical aspects of the exercise and occasionally toss in a comment or two about Eastern spirituality. I can translate a sentence or two, but I steer clear of workouts that are chock full of spiritual applications I disagree with. I don’t want to crowd my mental and spiritual space with thoughts that don’t align with God’s Word.
Building a stronger body can also help you strengthen your spirit. There’s no good reason to separate your Christian faith from your fitness routine. You are maintaining the upkeep of God’s temple, after all!
What’s one way you are going mesh your faith and fitness this week?
In the next post, we’re going to examine the role rest and recovery plays in building a strong body.
Click here to find the links to all the posts in this series.
Next post in this series:
Week Five: Recover Adequately