Does God Care About Exercise?

Exercise is one of those subjects that seems to divide people into three groups. First, there’s the health nuts, whose idea of a good time is strapping on a backpack full of bricks and doing wind sprints up steep hills. Then there’s the couch potatoes, whose idea of a good time is a bag of chips, an industrial sized tub of French onion dip, and a king sized Slurpee. Then there’s the rest of us, who know we should exercise, and even own several pieces of exercise equipment, but never quite find the time to do it.

Everywhere you look, people are telling us we should exercise. But does God care about exercise? Does it really matter to God if I step onto my treadmill?

Nowhere in the Bible will you find a scripture that says, “You must exercise three times a week ( and make sure one of those days is a good cardio work out).” But we do read in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Every minute of our lives is to be lived for the glory of God, and exercise is a wonderful means of helping us live for the glory of God. How? By extending our years of service to God, and by making us more effective in serving the Lord.

Exercise Extends Our Years of Serving God

Have you ever considered that exercise could be the difference between serving God for 60 years or serving God for 75 years? Think about this for a moment. Maintaining a healthy body could result in God giving you many additional years to care for your spouse. Staying in good shape could result in God allowing you to share the gospel with hundreds of additional people. Those endless miles on the treadmill could result in many additional years of faithfully serving your church. Yes, I understand that God has numbered our days. In his sovereignty, God knows exactly how many days we will live upon this earth. But God uses means, and exercise is a means of adding years of fruitful labor to our lives.

Exercise Makes Us More Effective In Serving The Lord

Not only does exercise extend our years of serving the Lord, it also makes us more effective in serving the Lord. The truth is, an unhealthy body can limit our capacity to serve the Lord. Being unhealthy leads to less energy and less stamina, which ultimately limits our service for the Lord. Those who exercise regularly and are in good health are able to serve the Lord and others consistently, and for longer periods of time.

Charles Spurgeon said, “A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind’s face would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is next best”

These truths should dramatically affect our approach to exercise! We don’t ultimately exercise for the purpose of losing weight or so that we look good. We exercise for the glory of God. We lace up our running shoes and pound the pavement so that we can serve God effectively for years to come. We lift weights so that at age 65 we can share the gospel with our grandchildren. We go to the gym so that we can lovingly care for our spouse for many years.

So let me encourage you to exercise. Not because it’s a good thing to do, but because God’s glory is at stake. Think of the future as you go out and jog today.

photo by kk+

Comments

  1. Hamster says

    Great stuff, Stephen! You've provided the push to hop on the treadmill today, and to not feel "bad" for taking time out to exercise regularly…all for the glory of God!

  2. Jennifer Altrogge says

    Thanks, Stephen. This was a much needed reminder of the importance of keeping the body fit in order to better serve.

  3. Every Square Inch says

    First time visiting your blog. Thanks for your post on a Christ centered view of exercise.

    Of course, Spurgeon was himself a smoker of cigars and died at a relatively young 58. ;-)

  4. Stephen Altrogge says

    Every Square Inch,

    Thanks for stopping by. I think Spurgeon is a prime example of what happens if we don’t exercise. He was afflicted by so many physical ailments and I have to wonder if part of it was because he didn’t take care of himself properly.

    Of course Spurgeon also far exceeded any ministry I will ever have!

  5. Anonymous says

    Amazing…. I just got a treadmill today and was sitting here wondering what motivation will actually keep me on the thing when the novelty wears off (in about 4 days). Thank you for your timely and biblical encouragement that goes way beyond what I ‘ought’ to do. – Lisa

  6. Stephen Altrogge says

    Lisa,So glad to hear the post was encouraging! Sometimes (or many times) I need extra motivation to exercise!

  7. aussiekristian says

    Add to that the benefits of fellowship through corporate exercise with your brothers/sisters. I’m looking forward to a round of golf with 4 guys from my church on Friday as much for the time I’ll spend getting to know them better as I will hoping that I can hit the dimpled sphere in a roughly straight direction.

  8. Trillia says

    Stephen, This is great! I don't know if you know but I have a blog about fitness. Check it out if you get a chance! It'll be linked as my name. I will make sure to feature this article! I love it when I see people who aren't in the fitness field and who are Christians encouraging other Christians to exercise and care for their bodies- even if it's minimal. I have a little training program going on right now. I'm going to relaunch it in April so I'll make sure to let you and Mark know more as it comes closer! With Joy,Trillia

    • Katie Gibson says

      I'm doing some research for a paper I'm writing on glorifying God by maintaining a physically fit body and was reading this article. I saw your comment about your own blog. Just wondering if it was still going, and if it is could you post a link to it?

  9. Stephen Altrogge says

    Trillia,

    SO glad you enjoyed the post. I’ll make sure to keep an eye on your blog as well. God is kind to give us exercise isn’t he?

  10. Jennifer Partin says

    When I think of exercise I am always reminded of Eric Liddel’s quote from Chariots of Fire. He says, when I run I feel His pleasure.

    God is in every area of our lives– often times, we are just too busy to take notice. Thanks for reminding us to be good stewards over our temples. :)

  11. says

    Wow. I really needed this encouragement. I am soon to be 33 and pretty out of shape. My wife and I just joined the local YMCA and we are trying to get started working out but it is difficult to start. This post is going to be useful to both of us! Thanks!

  12. says

    Stephen! Why did I only discover this blog tonight? I’m usually more on the ball with these sorts of things. Or did I stumble upon the blog early on, and then forget about it? I’m not sure which one I’d be more embarrassed by. =)

    Anyway, I had some thoughts on this post (old though it may be), and I was hoping to get your insights on them:

    “Nowhere in the Bible will you find a scripture that says, “You must exercise three times a week….'”

    That’s very true, and it ought to be a warning against our trying to make some sort of rule—or even recommendation—one way or the other. Right?

    “But we do read in 1 Corinthians 10:31, ‘So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.'” Every minute of our lives is to be lived for the glory of God, and exercise is a wonderful means of helping us live for the glory of God. How? By extending our years of service to God, and by making us more effective in serving the Lord.

    “So let me encourage you to exercise…because God’s glory is at stake.”

    Hmm… I think, if you read that verse again in its fuller context, it seems that Paul’s intent was to discourage such “option ‘a’ is more godly than option ‘b'” arguments regarding certain matters (“For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience?” v.29). In fact I’m quite confident that Paul’s statement in verse 31, correctly applied to the matter of exercise, would be “whether you jog or eat Big Macs, do it to glorify God.”

    See, Paul was saying that the person who engages in a particular activity and the person who abstains both do right if their aim in partaking or abstaining is God’s glory. Exercise is not automatically glorifying to God, as your examples seem to imply (“We lace up our running shoes and pound the pavement so that we can serve God effectively”). On the contrary, many who exercise do it for self-centered, materialistic or even sexually immoral reasons. This is why Paul said, “&hellispe;whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”: because we can very easily do these things without once taking His glory into account.

    My deepest concern here is that you’ve taken a “good idea” that’s without Biblical mandate, and essentially created a new tool by which to judge our brothers and sisters (“Susie, I and the other ladies in Care Group noticed you haven’t been going to the gym for a few months…”). If Scripture is silent on the matter, then we ought to follow its example.

    That’s the funny thing, though: there is a passage that specifically speak of exercise in relation to godliness, and I was actually shocked to not find in your post (as it seemed a no-brainer for this topic)! I was hoping you could weigh in on it (no pun intended):

    “Rather train yourself for godliness; 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.” — 1 Timothy 4:8 (ESV)

    It seems to me that Paul is not only saying that exercise doesn’t inherently glorify God, but he even seems to imply that it’s at odds with pursuing God’s glory! That sounds a lot different from the conclusion you’ve arrived at here, but maybe I’m just not properly connecting the dots. Could you help me see what I’m not seeing? Thanks!

  13. Stephen Altrogge says

    Travis – Thanks for your thoughtful input. I need to think these things through more deeply. Just a few thoughts.

    My intent in this post wasn’t to create a biblical mandate out of exercise. It’s not a sin to not exercise, and I’m not going to keep exercise accountability tabs on my caregroup members. I was more trying to put exercise into the big picture of eternity, namely that exercise may be a way to help us serve the Lord more effectively by extending the years of our life.

    In terms of 1 Cor 10:31, you’re right, exercise isn’t inherently godly. But in this passage Paul is talking about eating, and he concludes his discussion with the sweeping statement about eating, drinking, and all other things being done for the glory of God. He takes a small subject, eating, and then blows it wide open, saying that all things should be done for the glory of God. Life should be lived for the glory of God. In my mind, exercise, while not a mandate, can be be very helpful in living for the glory of God.

    I don’t think 1 Tim 4:8 is creating a dichotomy between exercise and godliness. It seems more that Paul is saying that exercise is of some value, but godliness is infinitely more value.

    Those are just my thoughts. Thanks for searching the scriptures and seeking to not go beyond scripture.

  14. Daniel says

    Thanks for the great post Stephen. I have done some major research on healthy living (eating healthy and regular exercise) and there are major benefits. Just a few of the benefits are better sleep, stronger bones, less sickness, longer mental acuteness) God cares for our body just as much as our spirit and soul. People who try and separate the importance of the three walk on dangerous ground.

    One must be careful not to exercise for the wrong reasons, I have to watch myself and ask myself regularly “why am I doing this.” God created us to Glorify Him and I pray that in all I do would magnify His name Spirit, Body and Soul!

  15. says

    we bought some exercise equipment from a local supplier and most of them are made in china. i do not know if those exercise equipment would last long.’*”

  16. Charles says

    Thank you Stephen for this post. I was a fitness junkie in college until I herniated a couple of discs which kept me out of the weight room for 6 months. Ever since that (March of 2007), I've been very unmotivated to exercise. I exercised here and there, but never on a consistent basis. I just started exercising again today, and I was worried that I might stop again until I came across this post. Thank you for reminding me that exercising is a means to glorify God by making me healthier and living longer in the long run.

  17. cinderella says

    Just discovered your blog yesterday. Good article. Gives me a pat on the back when I groan about my muscle aches after workouts… :)

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