When it comes to something we would rather ignore, we tend to do two things: we either live in denial about the issue or we underestimate its importance. Maintaining physical fitness in the ministry is where I often see these two reactions.
Before I say more, please understand that I’m not talking about those who have any type of physical limitation preventing them from being as physically fit as they would like to be. They always have my deepest prayers and understanding. I am talking about those of us who need to raise our physical fitness to a higher level than we now have it.
In the all familiar passage of 1 Corinthians 9:24–27, Paul discusses what is commonly referred to as the “race for the crown”. Using the analogy of an athletic game, he discusses the importance of faithfulness and discipline in order to receive the reward God reserves for the faithful. Paul wanted to do whatever was necessary in disciplining himself so that, unlike others he knew, he would never forsake his calling. He looked forward to that day when God would say, “Well done!” His analogy of an athletic game is very fitting as he seeks a crown that is imperishable.
But what does that mean practically? It involves the physical, not simply the spiritual. Paul says in verse 27, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” If we are physically able, fitness is important to our performance in the ministry. We have to think of not only spiritual disciplines such as our personal prayer and Bible study time, but also keeping physically fit.
Over 40 years ago, I started running as exercise. I run three miles a day and typically only miss two days a week at the most. I cannot begin to tell you the difference that has made in my life. It’s helped me think better and faster, maintain a heavy speaking load involving frequent travel, and impacted my enthusiasm. It has even enabled me to catch my plane flights when they change my gate at the last moment!
If you don’t have some type of exercise program, I beg you as your brother in Christ, to find one as quickly as possible and stick to it. Don’t worry so much about finding something you like; instead, worry about finding something you need. Be sure it is strenuous, demanding, and does what it needs to do. Along with exercise, watch your diet very carefully, because keeping physically fit relates to two subjects: eating and exercise.
I address this with such passion because I am concerned for so many of my brothers and sisters in Christ who have let their physical fitness decline as they have aged. It soon takes a toll on both their energy and their enthusiasm. In order to be everything God wants us to be, do what Paul says: “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection.” Don’t live in denial about the situation and don’t underestimate its importance. It’s a matter of stewardship as you seek to obtain the crown He has for you.