Get fit: Physical health is a spiritual issue

Meredith Flynn —  June 4, 2015

COMMENTARY | Heath Tibbetts

Looking down at the scale, I was shocked. I knew I wasn’t making healthy choices when it came to exercise or eating, but I never expected to see my 5’11’’ frame register at 50 pounds over my ideal weight!

Heath_Tibbetts_June3For years I had attempted short excursions into exercise or healthier eating, but never with any results or real dedication. And as I contemplated my situation, I realized for the first time that my weight problem wasn’t a physical issue…it was a spiritual one.

“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

My life habits weren’t glorifying God. Food was often a comfort for me when I was stressed or just wanted to forget everything around me. It became clear to me that if I was looking for comfort or peace, I needed to start going to God.

So I did.

I began allowing more opportunities for prayer and found God growing that time both in length and in depth. Scripture became my food in times of trouble, and I worked more diligently on applying the Bible and not just reading it. But I also realized I needed to be more physically active.

“For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way…” (1 Timothy 4:8).

Paul wasn’t telling young Timothy to pursue spiritual health and deny physical health. Bodily training is of “some value,” and our spiritual life should influence our physical life. I was determined to do exactly that, because I had known far too many
pastors with self-imposed health problems that were a result of unhealthy choices. I decided I wasn’t going to be one of those men. The choice had to be made now if I wanted to be physically able to serve God, my family, and my church.

So, I began to exercise regularly. It wasn’t intense, but it was something. Lunch choices became more than just “regular” or “super-sized.” Fried foods and soda didn’t go away for me, but the quantities did. When someone would ask about my weight loss, my common response was, “I stopped going back for thirds.”

Eventually I took up running, and 2011 was spent running several times a week, anywhere from three miles to a personal best of nine. Before every run and every workout I reminded myself of this: “Quitting is easier than completing.” I prayed before my workouts and my runs that God would give me the physical strength, as well as the mental strength, to become a more effective tool for his service. And sure enough, God answered my prayer.

It took a while, but by the end of 2011, I was down to my target weight. And other than some occasional fluctuations (hello, Christmas candy!) that’s right where I’m at today. A knee injury last year claimed my running career, so now I’m at the gym early in the mornings four times a week. And through all this, I’m stronger and healthier today than at any point in my life, including Basic Training!

Through this, I’ve learned some valuable lessons:

1. Stop making excuses about your eating. Claiming your Baptist heritage (potlucks, fried chicken, fried everything) just isn’t funny anymore.

2. Not feeling full is not the same as feeling hungry.

3. Be patient! Change takes time, especially when you’re changing your life and not just your body.

4. Set goals! My first run was sad. So I set a goal of one mile and worked up to it. Then three. Then five.

If you struggle with weight, stop thinking of it solely as a physical issue. Admit that it’s a spiritual issue. Repent of gluttony and idolatry of food. Pray for the resolve to complete instead of quit. And remember that God desires the glory even as you eat and drink.

Heath Tibbetts is pastor of First Baptist Church, Machesney Park.

Meredith Flynn


Meredith is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.