Why Does Disciplining Your Body Add Value to Your Purpose?
Do you have a hard time remaining consistent with things, especially exercise? You push yourself to do it for a time, but then things happen (ex. getting sick, busy schedule) that causes you to stop. You get out of routine and don’t pick it back up again.
On Thursday, my Life post titled, Starting Over, explained the story of me rebuilding the ability to exercise again after seven years of no success. Growing up, my “why” for exercise was always for superficial gain. Though I thoroughly enjoyed swimming, as I grew, my goal became to be a lifeguard. In most of my twenties, it was to look and feel strong with a toned body; always striving for those six-pack abs! In my mid-twenties, it was to release anger.
The desire to exercise didn’t dissipate in my thirties while my muscles stayed in their atrophied, dormant state. But the “why” was under question. What is the point of me wanting to strive to be healthy and push my body to do hard things, should God bless me with the opportunity to do it again? I knew the reason had to be greater than superficial or it wouldn’t last because of my track record.
In areas of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health, have you ever questioned your “why?” What are your purposes to developing habits in these areas?
Asking the “why” question has become popular language in the business world. If you know your why, you’re more able to achieve success because you have a profound source driving your desire forward. If you aimlessly work at something, you’re far more likely to quit and/or be unsuccessful.
The why for my exercising came when the Lord restored my health. At first, it started with the simple fact that I no longer had an excuse not to exercise. The Lord had been building my endurance to stretch and walk. He gave me greater self-control and discipline, and brought books like Winning the War in Your Mind, by Craig Groeschel, and Discipline Equals Freedom, by Jocko Willink, to help form a stronger mindset to remain more consistent.
With those in mind, and seeing the consistent results of my increasing ability to exercise, the stronger “why” came.
One of my favourite and most challenging passages in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (ESV)
As I begin to exercise again, it is now with a greater, lasting purpose. Under the care and gracious provision of God, it is to take care of this “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). God has given me another chance at this, and this time to do it from a healthy, eternal perspective; one that keeps me going despite disturbances in my schedule.
With the understanding that my body is a “temple of the Holy Spirit,” it reminds me that I am an adopted daughter of the Most-High God and therefore a citizen of heaven. Because of this identity, I am also a warrior of Jesus Christ, fighting for my homeland. What does a warrior do? He/she trains. She disciplines herself to become the best warrior she can be, because she understands the risks involved if she does not. This must happen holistically. She needs to condition her body to endure. She must train her mind to keep focused on the mission and resist giving up or listening to the enemy. She needs to gain spiritual strength so she’s conditioned to listen for her Commander’s leading and doesn’t lose the understanding of her identity when battles come.
In the passage in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul mentioned his reason why he took care of his body: to win the imperishable wreath. That sounds like a spiritual gain. How did his physical conditioning affect his spiritual state?
“But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (vs. 27) – It’s by being an example of Jesus Christ, keeping self-control, and seeing that everything is interconnected for the glory of God. By disciplining his body, Paul was outwardly revealing what he was doing on the inside spiritually. He was the same author who penned that our bodies are a “temple of the Holy Spirit.” Therefore, as a Christian, you should strive to represent Christ with your whole body; building spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical muscle/strength. The more you learn to discipline yourself to represent Christ, by His power and the work of His Spirit within you, you will see greater results, and therefore be an example to others.
Earlier in 1 Corinthians 9, Paul mentioned how he could join any group – Jew, Gentile, the weak, etc. because of his disciplined life. By focusing solely on Christ and disciplining himself in all areas for the sake of the gospel, he could live like any culture he visited without compromising his faith and actions for Christ.
You see, your spirit, mind, body, and soul are all intertwined, and all should work together to give glory to God. This includes how you take care of your body. Are you worshipping yourself or the Lord? That’s a tricky one to think about, and one I have been and continue to be weak in, but something I continually strive to give over to Christ and seek His will.
By being fully devoted to Christ, you’ll receive the reward of feeling good in your heart, mind, and body. With the right focus, you’ll take your eyes off yourself and body, and fix them on the Lord. You can appreciate your success, but all with thanks and praise to the Lord for helping you achieve it, and giving praise for His great work in you.
The way you treat your body (exercise, the foods you eat, what you do) will change over time. None of this you can do on your own. This greater why can only be lasting by God’s work in you, which comes by prayer and your desire to change; to represent Christ in a greater way.
If you’re struggling to exercise or even see your identity in Christ in a great way, ask the Lord for His help. Surrendering yourself by creating greater dependency on the Lord will actually result in the greatest transformation.
Will you be perfect at this every day for the rest of your life? No.
Will I? No.
But that’s the beauty of working with the Lord. He gives us grace to start again, and keep going. This same God will give you the strength to endure, especially when you are dependent on Him and not yourself to make it happen.
So, I challenge you. Is it time for you to pursue Christ in a deeper way, and start disciplining yourself holistically as a warrior of Jesus, a citizen of heaven, a son/daughter of the Most-High God? Are you going to start training with me? Let me know if you’re interested!