Apostle Paul illustrates spiritual discipline by mentioning physical discipline in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. It reads “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
Apostle Paul’s words are convicting and very important for every Christian to understand. He uses this athletic analogy to illustrate the importance of spiritual discipline while not neglecting physical discipline. He uses one to illustrate the importance of the other. Notice that he mentions disciplining his body so that it serves him, not the other way around. Apostle Paul also mentions physical training in 1 Timothy 4:8, which reads “For bodily exercise is only of little profit but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and all for the life to come.” Notice that he does not dismiss the importance of physical training. He prioritizes physical exercise by showing that godliness is of greater value. I like to tell people that physical exercise is not everything, but it is something. And it is important.
There is nothing wrong with physical training as long as the Christian does not make it more important than godliness. In fact, we should see our need to be physically fit as important.
I like to correlate my physical fitness with my faith. I train hard physically so I can have the energy to practice my faith through going wherever God leads me without physical restrictions. Jesus and the disciples walked for miles and miles. They had to have the physical stamina and proper healthy eating habits to endure long journeys. The Apostle Paul endured very hard journeys, and I am sure his physical well-being had something to do with him being sustained on his journey. We read in the Gospel that Jesus left Jerusalem for Galilee. That is a little over 116 miles! I dare to ask if many preachers could walk that today.
It is no secret that our foods are mostly processed, packed full of sugar, and very salty. Unfortunately, many of the unhealthiest people in our community are church-going, Bible-carrying believers. That should not be. Fasting, which is a staple in our faith, is met with much disapproval in our day because resisting food is difficult. This is because our foods are like drugs. They are addicting and cancerous; yet, many still eat them joyfully. How can we refer to ourselves as disciples if we are not disciplined? We should lead the way in a healthy lifestyle that promotes proper nutrition and an active lifestyle with some kind of exercise. We were not called to be sedentary. We must discipline our flesh so that our stomach is not our god. How can we properly say that we can resist the devil if we cannot resist a box of donuts?
Let’s consider our health and physical well-being. God has given us our bodies, so be a must be proper stewards over them. We can do that by watching what we consume and staying active. If we don’t discipline our flesh, it will discipline us!