The “Great Commandment” is what I like to call a facemask moment for both the original followers and opponents of Jesus. Those who have played football with a helmet know exactly what happens in that moment when your coach wants your undivided attention. The facemask is held firmly in his calloused hands until he senses that you know what to do (or not do) on the next play.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength…this is the greatest and most important command (Deut 6:5; Matt 22:37-38; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27).
This is Jesus’ literal bottom line summary of the ten commandments as well as the whole of scripture. For the next few weekly blogs, I will unwrap the implications of the Great Commandment on the pastor’s life. As the leader of Pastoral Leadership at LifeWay, my goal is to help pastors become spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy. I base that goal on my conviction that healthy churches are led by healthy pastors.
Because this is the first week of the year when we are most likely to pursue physical fitness, I will begin with “Love the Lord…with all your strength.” Here are a few ideas that, hopefully, will be helpful and encouraging to you.
1. Create an Enjoyable Exercise Plan
…the training of the body has a limited benefit (1 Tim 4:7b).
Many of us grew up hearing the KJV, “Bodily exercise profiteth little…” That is the way Brits talked 400 years ago, but it misses the point entirely in 21st century English. This virtual paraphrase better catches Paul’s intent, “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better” (v. 8 NLT). The present tense of the verb “train” indicates that both spiritual and physical training should be a lifetime pursuit for Timothy – and us.
Your fitness plan will only be sustainable if you enjoy it. Don’t be afraid to try new exercises or sports. There have never been more ways to get off your seat and on your feet than today. Dr. James Levine from the Mayo Clinic likes to say that “sitting is the new smoking.” Here are some of his helpful tips.
Although I have enjoyed the help of trainers and partners, I do most of my workouts alone. I do both cardio and strength training twice a week each, which is what health experts recommend.
2. Make a Sustainable Eating Plan
I’m not into fad diets or training programs. Although you can often reach your health goals faster with them, you will also submit yourself to dramatic rebounds once you tire of their intensity and insanity.
A good exercise plan will not even come close to accommodating for a poor eating plan. ChooseMyPlate.gov or WebMD.com has trustworthy articles available for free. Restaurants and grocery stores are not always helpful advocates for your dietary goals. My wife Janet (a registered diatition and university nutrition professor) says, “know before you go.” I personally hate counting calories or reading food labels, but I have not found a more effective way to keep my weight goals. Unless you too are married to an RD, do your homework.
3. Keep Fitness in Perspective
Physical fitness becomes idolatry for us when our “temples” become places of worship instead of vessels for worship.
Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary (temple) of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body (1 Cor 6:19-20).
If vanity is one extreme response to physical fitness, then apathy is truly its evil twin. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 68% of adults are overweight or obese. The National Institute of Health defines “overweight” as a waist circumference greater than or equal to 40” for men or 35” for women. This is more than a vanity problem as they are at a much higher risk for preventable death. Obesity (34.9%) is not only lethal, it is also expensive. The medical costs last year for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of healthy weight.
4. Pray Daily for Discipline
“Train” (gymnatize) can also be translated as “discipline.” I know this is a sensitive subject, and one to which more pastors will likely fail than succeed, but since our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, doesn’t it follow that we should take care of them? Also, is it not fair to say that the people we preach to about discipline and discipleship will form a conclusion about our personal discipline right when we walk on stage?
Pastors, let us pray for one another to have the discipline and determination to be spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy for the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom.
What are some other ways that we can love God with all of our strength? How do you plan on honoring God with your body in 2015?