Greater Health

Written by Paris Barnes (Illinois, USA)

Paris is a University Chemistry professor and an active runner. His life was reclaimed by God at 38 years old after going through a series of personal hardships. He serves Jesus Christ actively in his local church in the childrens, youth, hospitality and missions team ministries. He dearly loves his wife Tracy and their three kitties.

October 14, 2023

I did not start asking questions about the importance of Jesus Christ until late 2012.
I suffered from back pain for the better part of two years prior to when the Lord reclaimed me.
My body weight amplified my back problem as I weighed well over 250 pounds (or 113 kg).
Shortly after Christmas Day in late December 2012, I reached down to pick up one of our cats and ruptured one of the discs in the lumbar region.
I started losing mobility in my left leg over the next few days.
I was admitted to the hospital and surgery was done to repair my back within a week.
Prior to my personal health scare, I asked a close friend of mine more about the importance of Jesus in his life.
Shortly after my surgery, I started attending church, proclaimed Christ as my Lord and Savior, confessed that I was a sinner, and was baptized. 

I was called to be part of God’s family, but I did not recognize the importance having a healthy body.
I lost a substantial amount of body fat after my back surgery, but I did it for selfish reasons.
I did not want to lose the ability to walk.
I did not want to saddle my wife with the responsibility for taking care of me physically.
I did not want to be overweight.
My self-centeredness for weight loss had nothing to do with God and made maintaining my health unsustainable. Reflecting back, it does not surprise me that shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic started, I weighed nearly 300 pounds (or over 136 kg). 

Around May 2020, I was miserable, working from home, separated from my professional calling.
I realized I was professionally and spiritually discontent.
My wife and I started walking nearly every day.
Eventually, I decided to start running.
I found an amateur coach who encouraged me to pray and be grateful for something every mile as I was preparing for my first half marathon.
As I ran those miles, I started praying for people I cared about.
My workout time became spiritually-rooted.
Eventually, I realized that I needed to have a healthy body to do the work God called me to do to grow His Kingdom. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 states that 

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus died for us and sent a helper that dwells within our bodies.
Paul reminds us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, so we should take care of our temples.
This is the only body God gives us.
In order to serve God, help others, and honor our employers, we should consider modeling the Christian life by keeping our bodies healthy.
Personal health allows us to carry out God’s work, from serving in our churches on work days, helping in the community, and traveling to all corners of the earth to expose others to Jesus. 

How can we care for our temples?
Making good dietary choices and being active is glorifying God through our bodies. 1 Timothy 4:7-8 tells us that

Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

1 Timothy 4:7-8

This scripture tells us that bodily training is of value, but godliness is valuable in all ways.
The verse does not disconnect the two ideas, as training for a healthy body can go hand-in-hand with training for godliness.
Synergistically, a healthy spirit leads to a healthy body and a healthy mind.

Ryan and Sara Hall are people I look up to and value as Christian athletes.
I read a blog written by Sara as I wrote this blog entry.
She referenced Matthew 6:21, that says “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Sara also wrote that God does not want us to sit around singing songs about him.
She states that as athletes, we have to be careful not to change what God calls us to do into idols.
If we place our athletic training, running races, and other related activities higher than God, then our desires become sinful.
Sara reminds us that everything worldly (including our bodies) will fail us, but God will never will.

Running helps us maintain a healthy temple of the Holy Spirit, but we need to remain right-minded and not allow our training and diet to become our idols.

Prayer and Reflection

  1. Thank God for all the provisions he has given you, including the ability to eat healthy foods and to take care of your body in a meaningful way.
  2. Reflect on how spiritual, emotional, and physical health all rely on one another.
  3. Critically ask yourself if you prioritize God when training or if physical activity has become your idol.
    If you see your behavior as sinful, repent, ask for forgiveness, and ask God to change your heart.
  4. Pray alongside below:

Heavenly Father – thank you for Paul’s Spirit-inspired words at the beginning of Hebrews 12.
I pray that we put aside the sin that clings so closely to us so that we run the race you set before us with endurance.
The bodies you created for us are temples of the Holy Spirit.
Please help us keep the temples you gave us healthy so that we can do what we are guided to do to glorify you.
Please help us guard our minds and protect us from idolizing personal health.
Our focus in all we do should be you.

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