Why Every Pastor Should Work Out

rockyEvery pastor at every age should work out. They should exercise, eat well, get sleep, drink lots of water, and practice moderation in all other areas of consumption.

Granted, physical exercise is a distant second to our other priorities, such as prayer, teaching, and pastoral counseling, etc., but it is still important. Paul didn’t forbid Timothy from exercising or showing concern for his physical health, he simply said that its profit was only “little” compared to more eternal priorities and rewards (1 Timothy 4:8).

Here’s the thing though. Pastors need to stay engaged in those more eternal priorities for an entire lifetime. We can’t be burning out or quitting prematurely because we’ve let the health of our bodies lag behind our spirits.

In a 2010 New York Times article, clergy members were dubiously ranked as having higher rates of obesity, hypertension, and depression, as well as lower life expectancies, than most Americans (For the article link, click here).

I certainly understand the stresses and pressures that accompany the clergy lifestyle, and indeed it seems nearly unavoidable to remain free from some of those effects; however, one of our perks as pastors and ministry leaders—if we’ll take advantage of it—is our ability to govern our time. We have the luxury of controlling our calendars and building moderate workout routines into the rhythm of our weekly schedules, and thus reaping the benefits of both increased strength and flexibility, and decreased stress and depression.

Church Leader, we need you. This generation needs you. And we’re going to continue needing you for many years and decades to come, so let’s commit to not letting Big Macs, soft drinks, or sedentary lifestyles cut our ministries short. Let’s devote a “little” time each week to the discipline of physical fitness so that we can spend years devoting the “majority” of our time to the things that matter most.

If you want to go for it and ramp up your workout commitments, here’s the skinny (no pun intended):

  1. Eat 5 or 6 small meals per day, containing balanced portions of protein, vegetables, fruit, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains.
  2. Drink 7 or 8 glasses of water each day.
  3. Lift weights three days each week, working out each body part once per week (a simple weightlifting routine of this nature should only take about thirty minutes to complete, including a few minutes to stretch and warm up).
  4. Do twenty minutes of cardio training (running, walking, biking, etc.) three times each week. Try to use an interval approach to your cardio routines, wherein you vary your running, walking, or biking speeds (interval training boosts the metabolism and strengthens cardiovascular health better than static cardio does). By the way, if you lift weights and do your cardio on the same day, lift weights before your cardio training.
  5. Pick a day each week where you rest your body and engage in some guilt-free eating of your favorite high calorie foods and desserts. You will have earned it, and it won’t be terribly detrimental to your overall workout aims.

The world’s worst metaphor

Horváth Károly súlyemelő
Image via Wikipedia

Whether it is Chuck Norris sliding up and down on his Total Gym, Duane Johnson (The Rock) pumping iron, or everyday Joe’s struggling in the gym, everyone knows that there is seldom growth without resistance—at least not the good kind of growth.

Expanding waistlines might develop naturally enough; however, increasing muscle mass, flexibility, and strength only comes through pushing against resistance.

It’s a terrible metaphor—not because it’s inaccurate or untrue—but because it’s just so painful.

No one likes resistance. No one likes to be challenged and stretched and pushed to the breaking point. And yet wise personal trainers know that the breaking point is actually the starting point for personal growth and development.

It is in carrying burdens too heavy for us that we learn to develop what the Bible calls endurance. The Greek word for endurance is hupomone, and it refers to the quality of character that refuses to collapse under heavy burdens.

  • It’s what Joseph had when he was unjustly thrown in to Potiphar’s dungeon.
  • It’s what Moses had when Pharaoh’s chariots were bearing down on him.
  • It’s what David had when he spent years on the run from King Saul.
  • It’s what YOU will need to fulfill God’s destiny for your life.

In Isaiah 43 God promises that floods and fires won’t drown or consume us. I wish the promise was that we could bypass those things altogether, but the reality is that sometimes resistance needs to be faced—even when we are walking in obedient fellowship with God.

God is not trying to squish you under your heavy burdens—He’s giving you strength, character, and a spiritual six-pack. He’s training you today for where He’s taking you tomorrow.

Innate miracles

Aneroid sphygmomanometer with stethoscope, use...
Image via Wikipedia

How many different miracles are you praying for right now? If you’re like me, you’re probably talking to God about dozens of situations that need His miraculous touch. And while its good and essential that we seek God for His supernatural power, it’s also important to make sure that we’re taking advantage of the natural power that’s He’s buried inside the Christian faith.

If we DO the things that Jesus calls us to do, supernatural power will flow through us naturally. Think about it.

  • If we withdraw each day for times of worship, solitude, and prayer, our stress and anxiety levels will decrease as we offload our cares on to Him.
  • If we forgive the people who hurt us, our tension and agitation will drop.
  • If we treat our bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit, and thus exercise in moderation and carefully watch what we put in them, we will reap the physical benefits of increased strength and flexibility, as well as the natural antidepressants that are triggered and released when we work out.
  • If we live with integrity and a clean conscience, our sleep will be more restful and untroubled.
  • If we lay our lives down for our closest friends, we will reap the  wondrous benefits of loyal friendship.
  • If we stay sexually faithful and pure, we will never have to worry about scandal or regret.

The Christian life is a miraculous life–and even while we wait for God’s supernatural touch, we can create lifestyles that innately invite His natural touch.

Mid-season trades

Andrew Bynum playing with the Los Angeles Lakers
Image via Wikipedia

Carmello Anthony is no longer a Denver Nugget. I’m sure that news is less than unimportant to you non-basketball fans; however, to those of us who follow the NBA, the mid-season trades can be a little weird. It’s strange to hear a basketball franchise brag about their star players and profess their long-term hopes and dreams, and then watch them trade them away like poker cards (fortunately the trade talks involving the L.A. Lakers’ Andrew Bynum were just rumors). Sorry, back to you and me.

As I observed this year’s trade negotiations, a persistent thought kept running through my head. I found myself wondering if I needed to make any trades in my own life. I wondered if I’m still on target to hit the goals of my life and calling, or if I’ve gotten too comfortable in the status quo. If championship teams are willing to make tough trades to stay competitive in something as temporal as basketball, shouldn’t you and I be willing to trade or sacrifice in our pursuit of Jesus Christ?

Hebrews 12:1 says, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Are we in competitive shape–ready to run God’s race for us–or do we need to make some tough, intentional trades? Are we carrying any baggage that will bog us down, or are we on track to say, “I have done the will of Him who sent me”?

Go to the well, baby!

Evander Holyfield vs. Lou Savarese, El Paso Te...
Image via Wikipedia

In 1996 Evander Holyfield won a technical knockout over the wildly favored Mike Tyson and went on to secure his place among boxing legends. As a die-hard Holyfield fan I’ve watched replays of that fight many times, and each time I’ve seen it I’ve been intrigued by a late-round interaction between Evander and his trainer Don Turner.

Deep in to the fight the cameras angled in on the Holyfield corner, and caught Turner’s mid-round counsel. Instead of giving Evander an emotional, advice-laden pep talk Turner simply and quietly said, “Go to the well, baby. Go to the well.” That was it. There was no, “You can do it, Evander! He’s all yours!” Or “Watch out for his left hook–he’s still dangerous!” There was simply a challenge to dig deep and tap in to his inner strength reserves. “Go to the well, baby. Go to the well.” 

And he did, so dominating the eleventh round that the referee had to stop the fight and rush to Tyson’s aid. 

I’ve always been intrigued by Don’s comment to Evander, and I’ve always wondered how the fight would have turned out if Evander had gone to the well and found that it was dry.

How about YOU? What’s in YOUR well? How deep are YOUR water reserves? How freely does the Spirit of God flow in YOUR life?

Digging wells is hard, sweaty, blister-forming work, but it’s also life-saving work, and God wants to help you and me dig deep in to the bedrock of His word and tap in to the ever-flowing source of His endless supply.

The best you’ll always see

Kobe Bryant 61 point game against the New York...
Image via Wikipedia

Recently, upon watching Kobe Bryant artfully complete an improbable jump shot, a commentator exclaimed, “Folks, that’s the best you’ll ever see!” And then his partner jumped in to add, “And, folks, that’s the best you’ll ALWAYS see.”

When I heard those words they ignited something deep inside me, and I thought, “I want that to be MY living epitaph.” I want my best life to be the life that those around me consistently see. I don’t want to occasionally touch my true potential, I want to offer God, my loved ones, and the world around me the best service I possibly can. Don’t you want to do that too? Anyone can periodically come through in the clutch, but to be a person of excellence that consistently pays the price to function at their optimum level in the key areas of their life is a rare thing.

The Apostle Paul calls us to this rarity when he says in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” Jim Eliot, martyred missionary in Ecuador, echoed this sentiment when he said, “Wherever you are, be all there. Live every experience to the hilt for the glory of God.”