Scripture: I Corinthians 9:24-27
Sermon: Get Fit! by Pastor Todd Buurstra
How many of our New Year’s Resolutions were to get fit! After last week’s Super Bowl I found a schedule of this 6 week NFL training camp schedule, advertised by Mark Sanchez for aspiring pros. The mornings are dedicated to speed and the afternoons to power:
9 AM Linear Speed Mechanics
10:30 AM Post-workout Recovery Nutrition
11 AM Treatment/Massage—I’d choose massage myself.
1 PM Intengrated Core Training
2:30 PM Post-Workout Recovery Nutrition—sounds like a snack to me
3 PM Wonderlic Prep Workshop
4 PM Treatment or Massage
That’s 8 hours of speed and power training, all for the opportunity to get beat up on the gridiron!
Since Corinth was the home to the Isthmian Games, second only to the ancient Olympics, Paul has physical training/fitness in mind in v. 24… How does God fit us spiritually?
Before we answer that, I need to help you see some assumptions behind God’s view of us.
First, God says humans work best when our spirits drive our bodies. Today however, in our secular age, our bodies tend to be in the driver’s seat. Why do I say that? Well, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word, “fitness?” Body or soul? Now before secular humanism, the answer might have been soul, but today its body. Even up until the Civil War, when war, famine, or national calamity hit, what did our presidents often call for? A day of prayer and fasting! In a pluralistic age you can still call for that, but it doesn’t even occur to us!
In the biblical creation story, God put the spirit into the body to animate it . Remem-bering that the word for spirit and breath are the same in the Bible, here’s the picture… So if we’re out of shape, it’s good to join Zumba, but focus more on your outlook. For God made our spirits to give life to the body. Paul says,… Now don’t go out and beat your body up; just understand that Paul is simply trying to say that he disciplines his body for his soul’s sake.
And this is true in sports, also. After Duke won back to back national basketball championships their swagger resulted in this t-shirt: the front read: You can talk the game, but can you play the game? The back answered: We can play. As Coach K. preaches: mental toughness beats physical toughness. God’s way is spirit drives bodies. How’s your spirit?
Second biblical assumption, even beyond this, spirit determines life. Thinking of the Isthmian gold medal, which wasn’t a medal but a wreath that would wither, Paul writes…
Today we act as if our body determines our life. Just think about our list of critical factors for a longer life. There’s: eat well, exercise well, play well… All of them are physical, right? Very few researchers ever add pray well! Though Duke University (this must be their week) Professor Harold Koenig writes that researchers found weekly religious service attendees had a 36% lower mortality rate than less frequent attendees! By that measure, I’d take faith’s odds over even exercise, though both are best! It’s not the body that determines life, but spirit!
God’s word tells us of the importance of the Spirit, not only in creation, but in Sredemption. Romans 8 teaches that the Spirit gives life. Does this mean that God will give spiritual people a longer life? Maybe. The Spirit is less concerned about quantity than quality. Want to live enthusiastically? Live en theos, in God, to find passion for life’s best, even God!
So the Bible’s conclusion? Spiritual fitness is at least as important as physical fitness. Then how does God make us spiritually fit? The thumb of our hand vision says that we take hold of God’s blessings through daily prayer and Bible reading. Now this is more than a prayer on the fly. Rather it’s a set time when you turn off electronics and turn on to God. I do mine around 6:15 AM. By exercising my prayer and faith muscles God gets me fit for my life!
Does spiritual fitness really help? When it seemed that Linda’s mother, Olivia, was knocking on death’s door, I visited her in Weehawkin. Her tumor on her right cheek was out to about here. They had quadrupled, or more, her steroids, and more than doubled her pain meds. In that state I asked her, Olivia, how does your faith help you face, what Paul calls, the last great enemy? Now some people might say, I still believe God can do a miracle! In other words, faith persuades God to do what I want. Now I believe that faith can help God do miracles, but Olivia acknowledged, in my words, that miracles are by definition rare. No, this Baptist preacher’s wife, whom I learned had trained for the Methodist ministry herself, and had ministered from the organ and the pulpit in Alabama churches, this woman of great faith didn’t bat an eyelash but said it more like this: My faith doesn’t force me to battle death; it helps me accept it. It’s in God’s hands. And I could see by the glint in her eye that she knew God was loving and good. If that’s what her hours of prayer and Bible study did for her wrestling with the angel of death, imagine what spiritual fitness can do for you and I, just trying to pay bills, or raise kids, or live with arthritis. I can’t think of anything more helpful so, get fit! Amen.