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To your Health

Why Bother

Risë Rafferty

08/30/2011

The doctors said they’d found an abnormality and more tests were needed right away. We talked about her worries. I shared with her some interesting information I’d recently read on how she could approach the “what ifs” nutritionally.

Days later, her response to the information was this: “That’s all well and good. But most research is backed by an agenda. I’m sure that changing my diet would be helpful, but so what if it added a few more years to my life? Frankly, I don’t want to give up what brings me so much pleasure. Food is meant to be enjoyed. How horrible to deny yourself things that bring pleasure to this whole mess. No one likes to be told what to do.”

She’s right. No one likes to be told what to do. No one wants to give up what gives them pleasure. Food was meant to enjoy. Eating shouldn’t be a practice in punitive, monastic self-denial. No one cares! Why bother?

These thoughts are especially reinforced when a health enthusiast dies prematurely of cancer or heart disease. What good did all those years of healthy living do them? They could have “lived it up” and still died at the same age. Then there’s Aunt So-and-So who drank and ate as she jolly well pleased and lived to the ripe old age of 94! Clearly, longevity doesn’t seem to cut it as a daily incentive to healthy living.

In the long run, got to, need to, can’t, have to and should fail to adequately motivate us to do much of anything. Even our daughter once asked us, her health enthusiast parents, “What if I wanted to eat meat?”

“Well, that is your choice,” my husband responded.

“It’s my choice?”

“Yes.”

“OK. I just wanted to make sure, ’cause if I had to be a vegetarian, I would want to eat meat.”

Self-esteem, wanting to take care of yourself, can foster good health habits. But when self-esteem crashes, so can our health plans. Disease prevention can be another powerful motivator. When you experience how much better you look and feel, how well your body functions, and how significantly your health and stamina improve, you want to maintain that momentum. For some, the cause and effect of living healthfully just makes sense. For others, the “everyone is going to die of something” mentality diminishes the strength of this incentive.

Why, then, do Christians make healthful lifestyle choices? The Word of God inspires within us the impetus and gives us the reasons for our lifestyle choices, resulting in a willing, joyous, determined consistency.

Jesus tells his followers, “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). In other words, You are the seasoning that brings out God’s flavors on earth. You’re here to be light bearers, illuminating truths that give the world an accurate picture of God. You are on a light stand to glorify your Father in heaven.

To glorify means to render or esteem glorious, magnificent, luminous. It is to ascribe honor. It esteems God, rather than self, as glorious. It recognizes the value of the gift of Himself for us. We respond by living our lives for Him—by rendering our lives back to Him in a way that represents His love and life to a dying world.

The physical and spiritual dimensions of life cannot be separated. “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NKJV).

Although this verse isn’t specifically dealing with healthful living, it does lay a philosophical foundation for making careful lifestyle choices. Our bodies have been redeemed, both physically and spiritually—purchased by God for a higher purpose. It is because we have been redeemed with a price and know the value of who we are in Christ that we choose to glorify God in our bodies.

While God has not specifically dealt with Twinkies and fried cheese sticks, for example, in past centuries, His Word has enjoined His people—from Adam and Eve to the present generation—to bring their bodies into subjection. Approaching the Christian experience like an athlete, I understand the importance of deliberate and well-informed self control. Because I am a Christian, I do not live aimlessly or with futile effort. That is why I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest I should be disqualified as a Christian (see 1 Corinthians 9:24–27). This makes sense only as we remember that the spirit and the flesh are dependent upon one another (see James 2:26). In this context, we better understand how:

“Anything that lessens physical strength enfeebles the mind and makes it less capable of discriminating between right and wrong” (Mind, Character & Personality, vol. 2, p. 441).

“He who cherishes the light which God has given him upon health reform has an important aid in the work of becoming sanctified through the truth, and fitted for immortality. But if he disregards that light and lives in violation of natural law… his spiritual powers are benumbed” (Counsels on Health, p. 22).

Scripture convinces me that presenting my body as a living sacrifice, even in what I eat or drink, brings glory to God. I have a personal concept of what that looks like. Yours will naturally be different. I’m shaving off the rigidity and remembering that the kingdom of God is not meat and drink (see Romans 14:17).

When encouraging others toward healthful living I try to communicate what Winston Churchill put succinctly: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” The courage to continue—that’s what counts. And really, it’s not a bother.