Nowadays the world uses the expression “temple” in a somewhat sarcastic way imitating how believers refer to their physical bodies. The world of course pays scant attention to what lives inside the temple, that is, our spirit. Rather, their focus is primarily on staying physically fit in a well-toned and good-looking body.
Not wanting to follow the world, some believers may have gone to the opposite extreme of ignoring their bodies and thus physical health altogether. They have found a convenient excuse to indulge in certain kinds of food and drink to the point of doing harm to their bodies. Using this same excuse, some believers now pamper their flesh by avoiding physical exercise altogether. But let us remember that our physical body was purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross. Actually, it’s God’s property—his temple loaned to us in which we serve him during our earthly sojourn.
Or perhaps we have been exposed to teaching on grace which has unwittingly given us license to eat whatever we want. Since we are no longer under law but now under grace, we can eat whatever we want as long as we give thanks to God.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” (1 Corinthians 6:12-13)
It’s not unreasonable from Paul’s words above to conclude that for believers today grace can become a convenient cover for a lack of self-control in the area of diet as well. Yes, we can “eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience.” However, “not everything is beneficial” for our bodies. We must not be mastered by any kind of food. But this is exactly what has happened to many in the Church. We have become addicted or enslaved to certain foods, often unhealthy foods which will ruin the good health the Lord entrusted to most of us when he created us in our mother’s womb. But didn’t Jesus come to set us free from slavery to sin?
Now lack of self-control in the area of lust, for example, can definitely lead to the sin of sexual immorality. Paul warns us about this type of sin.
1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.
Paul urges us to flee from sexual immorality since it is in some way worse than other sins—it is sinning against our own body. Now could a lack of self-control in the area of eating and physical exercise also result in sinning against our own body by degrading our physical health?
We of course are not equating overeating and lack of exercise with sexual immorality. Nevertheless, the consequences of a lifestyle marked by such a lack of self-control can be severe. When our health fails, we ourselves first of all will suffer physically. Our finances can be strained. Our loved ones will worry over us and will need to sacrifice their time and effort to show their concern for us. Our earthly lives will be impacted negatively. But for a believer who looks forward to his or her reward in the next age, the consequences can be eternal.
Our reward from the Lord in the next age is in part determined by our fruitfulness for the Lord in this life. The parable of the minas in Luke tells us that our authority to reign with Christ in his kingdom will be proportional to our “production” for Him in this life on earth. The greater our production now, the greater our authority will be in the next age. There are of course other factors as well involved involved in the determination of our eternal reward. Our Eternal Reward in the Next Age
“The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’ “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’ (Luke 19:16-19)
Do you want to accomplish EVERYTHING God has prepared for you to do?
Let’s say that God has prepared in advance certain good works for us to do during the number of years he has allotted us on earth.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
But because we lack self-control and discipline, we fail to do our part in taking proper care of the physical body He entrusted to us. Consequently our health suffers and we are unable to continue the ministry the Lord has given us. Yes, we still might be able to pray and intercede, but God actually had other things for us to do as well. In the worst case scenario, we die prematurely from cancer, from a stroke, or a heart attack. Our ministry has been cut short. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, we will not receive our reward in full because we have not completed the works God prepared in advance for us to do.
God’s perfect will for us is not done automatically in our lives. We are responsible to do our part. We must know his commands and obey them. Among other things, we are commanded to walk in love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The latter should include self-control in every facet of our lives, including the proper stewardship of our bodies.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22-24)
Through Jesus Christ believers have been given the Holy Spirit through whom we are enabled to walk according to the fruit of the Spirit. But in the Church today there are many believers, including many pastors and servants of God—some of them quite well-known—whose health is now compromised by high blood sugar, high blood pressure, obesity, and other diet-related diseases. The primary cause of this is lack of self-control in the area of food and physical exercise. We understand that in many less developed areas of the world there is little general understanding of this area, and so the Lord may overlook our shortcomings. But we who live in the West where we constantly hear about the impact of diet and exercise on our health may have scant excuse before the Lord.
While other areas of our personal lives as believers are undoubtedly more important, this particular area has been neglected by the Church for far too long. Many have fallen short of God’s perfect will in this area, and will have reason to regret. Yes, we are called to minister to others in this life. But we must balance this with ministry to our own families and to our own bodies. These two areas have also been entrusted to us by our Lord.
God’s grace for us personally
Although we personally have been in full-time ministry since 1978, neither of us takes any prescription medication at all. Our energy is now as it was a quarter century ago—literally. As we obey the Lord, being good stewards of the physical bodies as well as the work he’s entrusted to us, he is graciously fulfilling his promise to us in Psalm 92.
The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green… (Psalm 92:12-14)
We are now enjoying heaven on earth. We are not concerned with saving up for retirement. Rather we are storing our treasure in heaven as, staying fresh and green, we continue to bear good fruit for the Lord until we depart after finishing the race.
We feel that this year (2015) we are just beginning the second half of the ministry the Lord graciously entrusted to us beginning in 1978. Our prayer is that through this second half the Lord will continue to keep us “fresh and green” as he did for his servants Caleb and Moses in the Old Testament who remained active and bore fruit for the Lord far, far longer than most others.
We personally do not want to leave this life in the usual way—simply because our physical bodies have run down and reached their expiration date. Rather, we want to leave this life only because we have completed all the fruitful works God prepared for us to do on earth. We want to finish our earthly race and win like the legendary racehorse Secretariat who won the Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes in 1973. Secretariat won the race going away at the finish line—by a literally mind-boggling 31 lengths ahead of the other superbly-trained racehorses. We also want to win the race going away—physically “fresh and green” just as we are today. We want to leave this life at the peak of our fruit-bearing for the kingdom of God.
That is our personal prayer to our gracious and faithful Lord who called us to begin racing for him in 1978.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)