Jesus at the Gym 

(An article for the July 2,000 Deep Cove Crier)

Ever since I was rear-ended by a taxi on November 29th 1999, my body has been giving me signals that I couldn’t ignore.  My body has been saying in numerous ways: ‘Go to the gym.  Strengthen your neck and back muscles’.  When my chiropractor said the same thing, my procrastination came to an end.  Being assigned to a personal fitness trainer has turned the gymnastic equipment from an unfathomable mystery into a set of helpful tools.

One of the weaknesses of my past ‘get fit’ experiences was that I tended to do too much in a short period.  The result was usually that I would injure myself and end up being less than enthusiastic about ‘getting back on board’.  I remember a period when I jogged a mile and a half every day, but didn’t pace myself enough.  Hobbling up the stairs can be very humbling for a dedicated jogger!

This time around, my personal trainer has given me a set of gradually increasing gymnastic exercises that have so far avoided injuring me.  With my neck and shoulder pain significantly reduced, I am actually starting to look forward to going to the local gym. I have been learning that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that I need to do my part in rebuilding that temple.

Ultimately my body does not belong to me.  By working out and getting in shape, I am honouring the true Master of my body.  Because I am made up of body, mind, and spirit, ‘getting fit’ applies to all three areas of body, mind, and spirit.  Rather than letting my stomach be my god (Philippians 3:19), I can learn to offer my body as a living sacrifice to my Lord.

The Good Book says that ‘physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things’.  Sometimes we put so much energy into getting physically fit that we forget about getting spiritually fit.  Prayer, bible reading and church attendance can be seen as forms of Christian calisthenics.  Getting physically or spiritually fit requires far more than good intentions.  We have to discipline ourselves to get off the couch and go for it.  Sometimes we feel too tired to lift weights, walk on the treadmill, or even to read our bible.  But if we wait until we are in the mood, our physical and spiritual lives will take a nose-dive.

The Good Book says that ‘No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful’.  As I watch my fellow Gym members huffing and puffing, it is easy to see why many people give up before they see lasting results.  The Good Book also says however that perseverance in such discipline will ultimately bear fruit.  Whether at the Rec Centre Gym or at God’s Gym (the local church), ‘hanging in there’ is the key to lasting change.

Some people have the idea that Jesus was a wimp.  The truth is that Jesus was very physically and spiritually fit.  There is no record that Jesus was ever sick.  Jesus worked for many years until the age of 30, doing hard physical labour in his step-father Joseph’s carpenter shop.  While spreading the good news through Israel, Jesus engaged in long-distance walking and mountain hiking.  While cleansing the temple of money-changers and animals, Jesus showed such remarkable physical strength that no one dared stop him.

After his resurrection, Jesus said that he would be with us forever.  He would never leave us or forsake us (even at the gym).  Does Jesus hang around gyms?  The answer is clearly yes.  He is waiting for each of us at our local Rec Centres, waiting to show his love and peace, waiting to encourage us and strengthen us.  My prayer is that each of us will let Jesus be our personal trainer.

The Reverend Ed Hird, Rector, St. Simon’s Anglican Church

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St. Simon's Anglican Church 
North Vancouver, B.C.