The second area of personal discipline that is needed in our lives deals with the discipline of the body. This is a very difficult area, and many of the Lord’s people struggle in combating the appetites of the flesh. Many have a desire to see improvement but feel defeated in the constant “battle of the bulge.” It is not my intention to give anyone who reads this article a guilt trip or to set myself up as the perfect example of disciplining the body. I have the same flesh and bones as you and can testify along with you of the frustrating, uphill war in bringing the body into subjection. However, I do not want you to have a pity party and succumb to the conclusion that there’s no hope and go through life feeling sorry for yourself. “I can’t help myself!” “I guess I was meant to be this way.” “There’s no use trying because it doesn’t help!” This type of thinking is not Biblical; Philippians 4:13 is still in the Bible! “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
First John 4:4 declares, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” It’s my desire to help you see victory in disciplining the body. First Corinthians 6:19, 20 says, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” The extent that the Lord uses us depends on how much we yield our bodies to Him. The body is not a showcase, nor is it a garbage can — it is a temple! And we are to glorify God in our bodies. How do we discipline this body?
First, by our eating habits. First Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” I’ve heard the old adage that some people live to eat and others eat to live. If a person lives to eat, he will pay a terrible cost for that decision. Dr. Bob Jones Sr. often said, “Every dissipation of youth will draw a draft in old age.” A person cannot abuse his eating habits without someday paying the consequences. Dr. Bob Jordan from Lansdale, Pennsylvania, said, “As a Christian, you need to get to the place where you tell your body what to do and not have your body telling you what to do.” If you are a slave to your body in the area of eating, there can be victory. First Corinthians 9:27 says, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection.” This conquest is not accomplished by will power but by Word power — the power of God’s Word. As I travel across the country as an evangelist, I have to be careful in the area of eating. People are very kind in preparing meals for us, and I could dig my own grave with the dinner fork! The same can be true of anyone else.
The second way of disciplining the body is by exercise. In 1 Timothy 4:8 we read, “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things.” It is true that the benefits of exercising are limited and the profits of godly living are weighty and eternal. However, many Christians have used this as an excuse not to exercise. Many years ago I read an article written by a doctor who stated, “A person cannot be healthy without some form of exercise.” This is correct and needs to be heralded across this country to the Lord’s people. (It’s important that a person see a physician before beginning any exercise program.) Doctors have said for years that people need to get their heart rate up at least three times a week for at least twenty minutes. There are a variety of things you can do in exercising, and I’m going to relate to you what I do. But before I do, I want to give my reason for exercising and trying to eat properly. I try to keep myself in good condition so that the Lord can use me in His service. Twenty-nine years ago I started running because of a good friend of mine, Tom Zempel. I was thirty pounds overweight and was tired all the time. I began running, and it has greatly benefited me in losing the extra weight and having a higher energy level. For years I have also done push ups and crunches on a regular basis. I have never allowed my exercise program to interfere with my ministry; however, I feel that exercising has tremendously aided me in the ministry. I have told many ministers at preachers’ meetings that it would be nice if we could cut their heads off and put them onto the bodies of younger ministers. Many pastors have great “muscular” minds, but from the neck down their bodies are an absolute mess. If we could put these exercised minds on the bodies of young men, it would be a marvel to behold!
I’m sure there’s someone who’s thinking, “I have no time to exercise; I’m too busy serving the Lord.” People who think this are headed for physical disaster; one day they’ll be lying in a hospital bed with heart problems that will sideline them for months, perhaps years. Exercising does not require hours of time each day — it can be anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour. The benefits outweigh the alternative of hospital time and constant medication. The goal of eating right and exercising is so that the Lord can use us for His glory. It’s my conviction that a person who exercises will actually accomplish more in his daytime hours than if he doesn’t exercise. It’s not wasted time but time wisely invested in a body that is a temple to glorify the Lord.
In closing, I encourage you to consider some form of exercise. Running, walking, swimming, weightlifting, and aerobics are just a few.
Jerry Sivnksty is an evangelist based in Starr, SC.
(Originally published in FrontLine • September / October 2005. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)