The right mindset for exercise


Throughout the years, I’ve gone through periods when I’ve been really motivated to exercise. 

Being very slim through high school, I approached sixth form and university, just wanting to be buff enough to impress girls (I failed). At the age of 20 I became a Christian, and I still struggled with my body image. I wanted to look buff (I failed). As of these days, I’m just trying to make sure I live past my 20's. Don't get me wrong, I still work out and absolutely love it - but my motivations have changed over the years.

What hasn’t changed is how unhealthy some of these motivations are.

Perhaps some individuals are naturally motivated to exercise- Kudos to the people who post videos and pictures of their training routines each day! But I guess most people are like me: their motivations go up and down like a kid on a bouncy castle. One day I decided to do some research on the long term benefits of exercise and how to gain weight/muscle. The questions I considered were, "What if the results from my work-out lasted me through a lifetime or perhaps forever? Would that motivate me to become a gym fanatic and finally be buff?"

In awe of discipline

I love football and basketball. I have noticed during any sporting season I'm always in awe watching athletes- especially footballers. I'm always impressed by their athletic excellence, but even more so when I think about the disciplined training it takes them to achieve their goal or target.

At the end of every season when the champions stand on the winners' podiums with huge smiles on their faces and medals resting on their chests, they are definitely reaping the benefits of their training during the season. But according to God's word, the Bible, there’s a far more superior kind of training—not because physical training isn't beneficial or worthy, but because it has limited value which can only last for a short while (1Timothy 4:7-8).

What does God think of my gym routines and training?

Months after I become a Christian, as I was growing in God's word and dwelling in his presence, I began wondering what God thought about physical exercise and gym workouts. Well, here’s what I found:

God thinks it has beneficial outcomes, but limited value.

So while I'm running around, doing routines and lifting weights to exercise my strength, I have to always rest in the knowledge that it’s a good thing to do. Keeping my body in good shape is highly commendable and wise — but it’s only going to get me so far.

This is what the Apostle Paul said to young Timothy:

“But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness, for the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” -1 Timothy 4:7-8

We could summarise Paul’s thoughts in this way: Physical training is good, but spiritual training is even better. This is because physical strength is temporary, while godliness is eternal. When Paul talks about “training for godliness”, I think he means doing the things that make us spiritually strong every day. It means engaging in daily activities that make us more like Jesus. Maybe lifting our Bibles can be less desirable than lifting a weight, but neglecting it means we miss out on more than just good health but a relationship with God and spiritual growth.

Thinking of the future

How often do you think about your eternity? The truth is, we should think about it more than we do. There’s no doubt or question that all of us will live forever; the question is what that forever will be like. So we should make investments now, knowing that the consequences will never end. We should take good care of our bodies, but we have something far more superior to care for. How healthy is our soul? This has impacted what I focus on from day to day. My physical strength may get me into shape, but it won’t get me into Heaven.

"By Grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” – Ephesians 2:8

 As I use the metaphor of exercise and the right mindset for it, I dare not think I contribute something to my salvation. John Calvin once wrote, “If, on the part of God, it is grace alone, and if we bring nothing but faith, which strips us of all commendations, it follows that salvation does not come from us.” Therefore faith, of course, is something that we can and ought to exercise – this guarantees spiritual growth, authentic discipleship and the desire for God’s word. It is true that we are the ones who put our faith in Christ Jesus, but God gives us this faith and guarantees that we will exercise it unto salvation, securing an eternal relationship with him in heaven. If our hearts, mind and souls are captivated by the saving grace of God, then we are compelled to live for God in doing good works for His glory.

Building spiritual muscle

God gives us the ability to build 'spiritual muscle' when we let go of sin and hold on to Jesus. We are invited to His gym: graciously providing us with His revealed word in the Bible, His people as the Church, and even His ear.

So let’s dig in deeper, enjoy fellowship and pray. Sportsmen train hard knowing they want to be prepared for matches ahead of them and wanting to be able to compete at a high level. All of us will face spiritual challenges, trials and battles. Are you prepared? Coasting doesn’t work for athletes and it won’t work for Christians. We’ll only make it through this marathon by God’s grace and His word.

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." - 2 Corinthians 4:18

It’s helpful for me to remember that while the benefits of physical training are limited, the benefits of spiritual training are unlimited. On the days when I don’t feel like praying or reading God’s Word, I can remind myself that the benefits aren't small or temporary. It won’t only help me next week, it will help me in the next life. That’s all the motivation I need.

Emmie Yvon. M .

Blog 7Kings Norwich