The most insidious lies are not the ones so blatantly false we can easily reject them, but the ones that carry with them an element of truth and thereby draw us in. Such is the case with our culture’s over-emphasis on physical fitness.
Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), and therefore we do want to care for them, as they are the “life suits” that carry us from birth to death in this world. We need to eat right, exercise, and avoid the sinful lifestyles—like immorality, drug and alcohol abuse, gluttony, laziness—that erode these temples that belong to our Lord. “Physical training is of some value” (1 Timothy 4:8 NIV).
But we can carry this desire to enhance our physical beings too far. Consider our culture’s current fascination with everything physical and health-related in an attempt to keep our bodies indefinitely youthful, as if that were the most important value in life.
We are besieged daily with endless promotions of yet another diet, exercise, or fitness regime guaranteed to usher us into physical nirvana. Surgeries to make us look perpetually young and vibrant draw hundreds of thousands annually. Young women and a growing number of young men struggle with eating disorders trying to attain what the world labels as ideal.
When I work out at our local YMCA, I can’t help but be amazed at the fervor with which men and women, young and old, are daily pursuing physical fitness. I often think how better their lives, their families, and our community would be if they would devote even half the time they spent at the gym to pursuing God.
Because, as you know, Paul emphasizes a different point in the verse I started to quote above: “Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).
Last I checked, the death rate for us humans is still 100 percent. Until God puts an end to history on this earth, no one, no matter how many marathons they may have run, will get out of this life physically alive.
We need to aim for the real marathon in life, that daily effort of seeking Him and serving Him with our whole heart for His glory. God, empower us to do that!