Exercise in the Bible

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Exercise and the BibleI exercise every day. I’m so regular in my exercise routine that I no longer show my membership card when I enter the gym; the front desk attendant just waves me in. I never feel better than when I’m in the water (it’s the only time that I’m truly pain free), so missing a day of exercise is really out of the question.

But, the other day an interesting thought occurred to me: “What does the Bible say about exercise?” When that question is posed someone will almost immediately quote 1 Timothy 4:7-8: “Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” The reasoning goes: “Since bodily training – aka exercise – is only of “some value,” we need not bother with bodily exercise.” We readily understand that godliness – which will last beyond this world – stands head and shoulders above bodily training, but Paul does say bodily training has value.

But, what value does bodily training have? Tomorrow, I’ll discuss ways bodily exercise benefits our spiritual lives and makes us better servants of God. But, today I simply want us to notice how frequently physical exercise is mentioned in Scripture.

  • The Christian life is compared to a race.
    • “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” (1 Cor 9:24)
    • “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb 12:1)
  • Paul’s apostolic ministry is compared to a race.
    • “I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain” (Gal 2:2)
    • Hold “fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain” (Phil 2:16)
  • An athlete’s self-control is given as an example of Christian self-control.
    • “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:25-27)
  • Hindrances to the Christian life are compared to a runner’s hindrances.
    • “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” (Gal 5:7)

As his mortal life neared its end, Paul saw the completion of his work as the winning of an athletic contest: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim 4:7-8). May each of us live that we may obtain “the crown of righteousness” given to those who run their course well.

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