As human beings created in the image of God, we are psychosomatic; that is, we are soul and body, together, and always will be. Though completely glorified—made new—even our resurrected bodies will forever be connected to our spirit. Therefore, it is spiritual business to care for our physical bodies. Both our body and spirit “require attention in living in a way that is pleasing to God.” That’s the main gist of a new book by pastor and physical education enthusiast John Lehman. The book’s content measures up to its title: Fit for the Master: Glorifying God in a Healthy Body.
Now in my 50’s, I increasingly see the importance of the proper care of my body. The extra 20 pounds my frame has been carrying around the past decade are not only affecting my physical energy level, but the lack of a consistent exercise regime also hinders my spirit. I touched on this just a bit a couple days ago. For this reason, I read Fit for the Master; I was seeking basic counsel for the average person who wants to get and stay in shape in order to serve God most effectively and efficiently while on this earth. I’ll summarize the book’s value in five points.
Qualified to Write – In the Foreword, a physical education professor at the University of West Georgia says of the author: “John demonstrates the epitome of health, physical activity, and continuous energy, while remaining actively involved in so many different pursuits. As a fitness fanatic myself, I have participated with John in many athletic endeavors, including cycling, swimming, basketball, tennis, racquetball, softball, weight training, and, most notably, hundreds of hours pounding the pavement and trails. John has a true passion for physical fitness, and effectively uses his similar interests with others as opportunities to grow, mentor, and share the gospel.”
Our Fallen Bodies Require Attention – “Most people grow and mature to full strength by about the time they are twenty-five years old. It is documented that peak physical condition is achieved at this stage. If life consists, as Scripture calls it, of three score and ten years—that is, seventy years (see Psalm 90)—that means that the body from age twenty-five on does not continue to improve but actually begins to deteriorate. As in anything, when something is left to itself, it will begin the process of atrophy. That is not to say that a person who is committed to keeping fit is guaranteed a long and healthy life, but it does mean that not exercising is beginning a process where the body is no longer as fit for God’s use as it would be if exercise were routinely undertaken.”
A Balanced Book and Accessible Book – Fit for the Master consistently pleads for living a well-balanced life; this is a life that gives attention to food intake, physical exercise, and rest patterns. The care of one’s material being has some affect upon our sense of joy and peace. “While the Bible nowhere explains how or why endorphins are released in response to physical exertion, the fact of the matter is this: people engaging in physical activity typically enjoy heightened euphoric feelings, and therefore a significant sense of wellbeing. Exercise (keep in mind that exercise involves exertion) releases these endorphins. So, people who pursue endorphin-releasing activities have this sense of joy and peace.” The chapter on rest (often missing from physical fitness books) is very valuable as it honors God’s original design in creation.
A Practical Book – Fit for the Master is immensely practical. What I mean is that it does not merely convict you with principles and leave you guilty for being out of shape. Instead, the books provides simple guidance for immediate application. By the time I got to the final chapter, I already knew how many ounces of water my body needs per day, and how many minutes of regular exercise per week are needed for me to maintain a healthy weight. The book also contains exercise diagrams and charts.
Not Body Worship – Finally, because the book’s focus is on the care of our body, it properly maintains that physical exercise is limited in its value. Love remains the greatest of all. Foremost in our minds must be the development of our godliness. “Exercise enhances the body, so if that body is to be used for God’s glory—which was His intention from the beginning—then the focus of the exercise is to help us be more fit for God’s use. To desire to have a fit body just for its own sake (not considering our responsibility and duty to serve God) is to put the cart before the horse. Bodily exercise is profitable, for it does bring one into a state of greater fitness, but it is not merely fitness in itself that is going to ultimately bring God glory. God is glorified when we find contentment in whatever state He has placed us. This involves our loving Him first and foremost and loving others also—see Matthew 22:38.”