How can we balance physical body and faith?
Anglican minister John Wesley founded the Methodist Movement. He emphasized the need for both personal piety and social justice; that there was “no holiness, but social holiness” and that our faith could not be lived in isolation.
During Lent one year when I was in college, a group of us began to meet in the chapel early in the morning with the hope of creating a more disciplined life. We sought to experience the sense of accountability nurtured by John Wesley and others of the Holy Club, a group he and his brother and others participated in, seeking to grow in their faith and serve God fully. We too hoped to live a life of practicing our faith more fully. We met early, sought to pray, study scriptures, hold ourselves accountable, serve the poor, and exercise. We sought to be both spiritually and physically fit.
Wesley had an understanding of God’s grace and salvation that was centered in a lifetime journey of growing closer to God and one another as sisters and brothers in faith. When Wesley looked around, he saw that those who claimed to have faith inwardly did not seem to live faith outwardly. This observation inspired Wesley’s definition of salvation: “By salvation I mean not (according to the vulgar notion) deliverance from hell, or going to heaven, but a present deliverance from sin, a restoration of the soul to its primitive health… the renewal of our souls after the image of God in righteousness and true holiness, in justice, mercy, and truth.”
People may have orthodox belief, and yet not have orthopraxis. How we live is just as important as what we believe. Holiness is about wholeness and a holistic approach to life. At every moment, Wesley wanted believers to feel the presence of God in every part of their lives. He believed spiritual holiness calls us also to live into physical wholeness. Wesley wrote a well-publicized book entitled Primitive Physick where he gave advice and offered remedies for illnesses. A balanced diet, exercise and proper rest, with all things in their appropriate degree, were important to this holistic way of looking at health. In one letter Wesley shared, “Exercise, especially as the spring comes on, will be of greater service to your health than a hundred medicines.”
Our daily covenant group met all through Lent that year. We’d gather early in the morning for prayer and singing. We would walk together, eat together, and work on mission projects. So often something like Lent, or the beginning of a new year, will get us motivated to think holistically about our health, to think preventatively and order our lives in proper self care and the caretaking of our souls.
Today, as a pastor, I recognize that the health of most clergy is some of the worst compared to other careers. As a bunch, we are often overweight, burnt out and poor at our own self care. What would Wesley think of us? As I prepare to watch the Olympics with my family and we discuss the dedication and perseverance of Olympic athletes, I consider how we may be spiritual athletes for Christ. How can we practice our faith and live it out knowing that Christ cares about our bodies and our souls?
During seminary, I began practicing crossing myself in prayer, using prayer beads, praying the labyrinth, and doing walking prayers. These practices gave me comfort knowing that God cared for all of me and I responded with all of me to God’s grace. I long for the days in high school and college when I would run for miles in the woods, breathing in the smells of nature, observing God at work in both the unfathomable depths and the intricacies around me. I would feel my heart race knowing that God, who started the rhythm in my heart, drummed that same rhythm faster in those moments.
It is not Lent, it is not the start of a new year, but watching the Olympics brings me motivation to run the race with perseverance, to recall that my body is a temple, and grow in my faith — body, mind, and soul. May God’s grace work healing in you and bring healing to a broken world. May we all overflow with healing wholeness and grow in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
Good answer! Thank you so much!!!
Faith is the most important. It comes with salvation, as a gift from God. When we soak our minds in the Bible, our minds are renewed. When that has happened, God begins to point out to us all areas of our life, a bit at a time, that need “cleaning up”. I’ve watched one amazing Pastor (male) who has been able to lose an incredible amount of weight over a few years. When asked how he did it, he said that he had to face his sin of gluttony.
I’d just like to add, even though I am not overweight, I’m very close to it, and have been battling the temptation to over eat. I know it’s root is gluttony. I have asked the LORD to help me let go of this besetting sin of gluttony. I know that God will help me, but never in the way I imagine. That’s part of trusting fully in Christ.
These are things the Holy Spirit convicts us of once we have been saved.
Just a note on the previous comment: there are two things in it that are not scriptural (and we are to test all things by God’s Word), one is women are not to teach men in the church, so “female pastors” is an idea outside of scripture - in fact, against scripture. And the second thing mentioned is using prayer beads. God specifically points out to the Jews REPEATEDLY throughout the Old Testament that something He despises is mixing our praise of Him with praise to other practices that come from idolatrous superstitions: such as prayer beads, making statues of various “holy” people then burning candles or incense to them, to name a few.
Not saying the intentions of the previous reply are “bad”. I was greatly misled for many years about what is right in God’s sight and what is not right in God’s sight. The only way I finally started clearing out the bad from the good was after I decided to just READ the Bible through. Front cover to back cover. No one needs to keep track of how long it takes you. This is not a race. Though to let you know, at only 3 1/2 hours of reading a day (what I would normally give to a good fiction book) I can read the Bible through in my own language in about 3 weeks to 24 days. Nothing else I have ever done or heard or read has helped me sort out the balances God wants in my life than simply reading the Bible through. And it has also, by the way, helped me identify false teachers too. Not just what gender is a pastor, that’s just one factor. Many male pastors are not to be trusted at all. Some can be about half trusted. But which half? How does one really know? Read the Bible yourself in your native language. Read it all the way through. And when you finish, go back and start over. The more of it you read, the more you understand. And if you have the Holy Spirit, the more you will be shown by Him while you read God’s Word sincerely wanting to learn from Him.
Thank you for your sharing. it is very useful.