Hallowed Hamstrings and Divine Dumbbells

How Exercise Can Be Spiritual

by Roger Sappington on

Articles 5 min read
Psalm 139:14 Colossians 3:17

You may have heard that the Bible says humans are “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God (Psalm 139:14). But did you know that by adulthood you have over 60,000 miles of blood vessels in your body (enough to circle the Earth twice)? You are probably also unaware of the fact that your nose can distinguish between over 1 trillion scents, or that ounce-for-ounce human bones are stronger than concrete and steel. I know, all this sounds too crazy to be true. But it is.

The human body is a spectacle like no other. It is an amazing gift provided to us by our Creator to enjoy and to use for his service. This doesn’t mean that our bodies always work the way they should. We are well aware of the fact that some of our bodies were either born with significant challenges or have experienced those challenges at some time in our lives. However, for most people on most days our bodies work with miraculous regularity. And, one of the best ways for us to steward this incredible vessel in which we dwell is to exercise.

Exercise can look like many things: a brisk walk, raking the leaves, swimming, squats and lunges, a pickup basketball game. The key thing about exercise is that it is a physical activity that requires our bodies to move with a measure of exertion. It is different than sitting, standing, or even walking at a normal pace.

Our Creator actually designed us to experience this kind of physical activity. We know this for a number of reasons. Exercise not only improves cardiovascular health, increases muscle mass, and improves bone density, but it is also very helpful to our mental health. When we exercise the brain releases healthy chemicals into the body that do all kinds of wonderful things for us like reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.      

The Bible and Exercise

You may be wondering what the Bible has to say about exercise. The answer is, not much. In fact, only one verse in all of Scripture addresses exercise directly. 1 Timothy 4:8 says, “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Paul tells Timothy that exercise is “of some value.” Lower than the value of reading your Bible or praying or serving in your church, but still of some value. The reason Paul gives for this evaluation is because at some point our bodies will wear out, whereas our spirits can be continually renewed and better prepared for the life to come. Some might say, “Then, why should we exercise at all?”

Let me share with you one big reason beyond the health benefits listed above: exercise enables us to serve the Lord (and others) with our bodies more faithfully and longer into life. Remember that Jesus said the two greatest commandments were to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” and “to love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31). Using our bodies to serve others is an act of worship and love towards God. The more we can bend and lift and run, the more opportunities we have for that kind of service.   

With this in mind let me share with your four ways you can honor God with your exercise.

4 Ways to Honor God with Your Exercise

  1. Be consistent.

Discipline is a virtue that can extend to every area of our lives. When we practice it in one part, it is easily transferrable to other areas. The same goes for slothfulness.

Exercise works best when we create a plan and stick to it. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t include variation in how we exercise or that we shouldn’t have periods of rest. However, like in most endeavors you get out of exercise what you put in.

Consistent exercise can be a demonstration to the Lord that you take seriously the call to steward the most important physical resource he has provided you.

  1. Be joyful.

Exercise doesn’t have to be drudgery. Find ways to exercise that you enjoy.

Get outside. Listen to a book while you’re on the bike. Go to Camp Gladiator with a friend.

My wife and I both love working out at the gym. However, she loves the classes and I prefer to hit the free weights and machines. Whatever causes you to give thanks to the Lord that he has given you a body that can move, do that thing.   

  1. Be aware.

Don’t make exercise an idol. I know this is a real problem in our culture, but it doesn’t have to be true for you.

You are not your body. Find your identity in Christ, not your waistline or your bench press.

Do no not spend inordinate amounts of time or money on exercise. Make sure that you are placing your training in godliness above your training in studliness.

  1. Be a witness.

Regardless of how you exercise there’s a good chance you will encounter other people at some point. As you do, exhibit the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Keep your eyes open for opportunities to bring the grace of Christ into other’s lives. The Lord has given me opportunities to pray for people and even share the gospel with some.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Colossians 3:17

About the Author

Dr. Roger Sappington (D. Min. Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, M. Div. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the Executive Pastor of Central Bible Church and the author of 30 Days in Exile.