I don’t run triathlons or marathons. Nor am I a fitness freak. But, as a 58-year-old preacher, I’ve become increasingly aware of my mortality and the ever-sagging effects of gravity.
It was early on in my ministry experience that I began to realize I’d better start working out or bad stuff was going to happen to me. Heart attacks, diabetes, and strokes happen to pastors too.
It was easy for me to dismiss my out-of-shapeness in ministry, because for years I was in excellent shape. In my late teens and early 20s, I was a roofer by trade. Consistently putting in 10- to 12-hour days of manual labor made me slim, tan, and quasi-ripped. In college, I had 8% body fat and could hang with the best of them when it came to push-ups, sit-ups, and the like.
Face Your Excuses
But then something strange happened. I stopped roofing and planted a church.
I exchanged my roofing hammer for a commentary, my ladder for a desk, and my once-rigorous manual-labor job for a sedentary calling. To add injury to insult, I tore my ACL while dancing to a Michael Jackson video (don’t ask). And I let my injury give me an excuse to be even less active.
I ballooned from 155 to 223. The closest I came to working out was sprinting to the kitchen and curling a fork full of food to my face. Consequently, my blood pressure spiked and my energy dropped. In the middle of the day, I began scheduling what I affectionately nicknamed “fat naps” to try to compensate for my lack of energy.
I felt guilty every time I preached on self-control, because it was obvious I wasn’t controlling my own appetites. I coped with stress by eating. I coped with ministry frustrations by eating. I coped with the guilt I felt from eating by eating.
Although I came from a very health-conscious family full of bodybuilders and powerlifters, I had kind of dismissed all of that as a bit “unspiritual.” My body, I reasoned, was temporal anyway. Why would I spend time going through the pain and strain of working out when I was going to get a new body in Heaven someday?
But what I came to realize was that if I didn’t do something soon my body was going to be really temporal. If I didn’t do something drastic, I was going to be in Heaven sooner than I had planned.
1 Timothy 4:8 reminds us:
…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.
As church leaders, we rightfully focus on the importance of eternal values. But if we don’t stay in decent shape, our time on Earth to live out those values may be cut short due to a stroke or heart attack.