The Spirituality of Physical Health

By Matthew McNutt Posted on April 01 2010

It’s strange to me to realize that one of the most intensely spiritual times of my life was the eight months I was competing for the big prize on season three of NBC’s the Biggest Loser. Honestly, I went into the experience with no connection in my mind between the spiritual and the physical. I thought taking care of myself as a pastor meant regular time in the Word, quiet times, keeping my spiritual walk on track, but I came out of those months with an entirely different outlook.

It turned out I had an inner Gnostic hiding in my belief system. Not quite in the same way as those the Apostle Paul railed against, but still, there was a definite separation of the spiritual and physical in my mind. I put my priority on the soul, that eternal part of me, and ignored the value of the physical, temporal side of my being. But I think the truth is something far different; that God has designed us to be healthy spiritually AND physically, and we experience a fullness with Him when those two are in alignment that just doesn’t compare to anything else.

During my time competing on Biggest Loser, I was really starting to notice that God’s teaching style is different than mine; I want to learn things immediately. I’m frustrated if I can’t do something right after a few tries. God, on the other hand, has a much slower approach. He wanted us to appreciate our need for a Savior, so he had us live under the law for thousands of years. He wanted us to understand the significance of Christ sacrificing Himself for us, so we sacrificed animals for thousands of years. The ultimate purpose of marriage, revealed in scripture thousands of years after God instituted marriage, is so we can begin to fathom the relationship Christ has with the church. Over and over God has used teaching methods that are subtle. Rather than just tell us what to believe or understand, He creates an environment that so ingrains the teaching into our very culture that when He reveals the deeper truth behind it we instinctively understand the lesson.

What jumped out at me in all this was the overwhelming number of scriptures throughout the Old Testament speaking to the sacredness, holiness, importance and care of the temple. Those passages aren’t there as some sort of history lesson – they still apply today. In fact, I firmly believe that one of the primary purposes of the Old Testament temple was to prepare us for the incredible privilege and responsibility it is for our bodies to now serve as temples! 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT) reads, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”
As I lost the weight and pursued a healthier lifestyle, I got more and more excited about the idea of pursuing health to honor God with my body, not just to extend my life by a few years or win some prize on a reality TV show. What I discovered is that my faith and Christianity experienced a high that is hard to describe! God wants us to be physically healthy, He designed us to be, and part of caring for ourselves as shepherds and leaders is prioritizing the care of His temples, our bodies. Part of responsibility as leaders is to model that same care and value! Our bodies are the sacred, holy dwelling place of the Creator of the Universe – we are called to treat them that way!

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NLT). 


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From john on April 01, 2010

Great article…I think its something that all too often is overlooked.  How much more effective could we be for God if our health wasn’t bogging us down (not to say there won’t be times when we get the flu!)

I really liked the parallels you drew between the sacrifices/marriage and care of the temple. Never looked at it that way. Thanks for the good illustration/application!

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From Garland on April 01, 2010

Thanks for the encouragement.  I lost 55 pounds after thinking I was just getting old when I was really abusing my body with food and lack of exercise.  My weight has become a spiritual issue to me.  One that I need to maintain as much as a devotional life.

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From Becky Foster on April 01, 2010

Wow, thanks for that reminder! It is so easy to get so focused on the spiritual aspect of ministry that we forget to care for our main tool in ministry, ourselves. That dualistic approach to life seems to sneak up on us, but as temples of the Holy Spirit, our bodies deserve to be kept up as well as our souls!

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From Andrew Burden on April 02, 2010

I find that when I haven’t been to the gym for even a couple days, I feel sluggish overall, and that leads to irritability that often manifests towards the students. Last week was a prime example. I worked straight up until time for youth group. (I do video editing for the student ministry, but I volunteer as a small group leader.) Even though I sat on my tail all day, I was exhausted and didn’t have that endorphin rush to energize me. I ended up saying something to a student that I really wish I hadn’t said. He didn’t care whether I had been to the gym or not. He just knew my words affected him.

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From Becky on April 03, 2010

I started working out regularly and having discipline with my physical fitness a little more than a year ago.  I’m much more useful to God now that I’m a lot healthier.  It’s made a huge difference in my energy level, sleep habits, emotional stability and attitude about everything.  I think it’s very important, but it’s often neglected.

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From Marv Nelson on April 08, 2010

I need to get back on the horse!  My weight has fluctuated but I should keep it down and remain healthy.  Thanks for sharing and showing how as Youth Pastors how important this piece is to our lives!

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