Thursday, June 26, 2014

Pursuing Health for the Glory of God

I'm sitting in my dining room looking at a painting of Venice, Italy. I was there a few years ago, and though the painting is set about 150 years before I stood in that place, modern Venice looks much the same. I actually recognize the three cathedrals in the painting as well as some of the other structures. 

Being an American, the longevity of the Venecian culture is inspiring to me but as I think about it a little more deeply, I can't help but come to the conclusion that all earthly glory fades – eventually. At one time the Italians were so powerful and influential around the world but now their glory has largely faded on the world scene and people visit Italy to see what used to be. They visit it as one would a museum. It is essentially a nation-sized monument to a glory that has faded away. 

And all earthly glory is like this. It fades away. It may seem powerful and inspiring and immovable and worth giving ourselves to for a time, but in the end it will fade away just like a flower or a vapor or a blade of grass. 

Now, when it comes to the pursuit of health, we must be careful and search our hearts to ensure that we're pursuing it for the right reasons – reasons that will last, reasons whose glory will not fade away. And what would those reasons be? Achieving a particular weight? Being able to fit into a pair of pants or, for the ladies, a dress? Looking good in swimming attire? Fitting in with a certain crowd? Being able to lift a certain weight or complete a certain number of repetitions of a certain exercise? Being able to run or ride or climb fast or long, or to accomplish any athletic goal? 

It seems patently obvious to me that the glory of all such things will fade away, and fade away fast. If we're pursuing health to achieve these ends we will be sorely disappointed and our end will be no better than our beginning. 

Therefore, as I reflect on these things it seems to me that the only glory that will never fade away – that CAN never fade away – is the glory of God expressed in his purposes. This is why Jesus taught us that the most important commandment of all is this: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is one. You shall LOVE the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. And the second is like it: You shall LOVE your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:28-34). 

In other words, he was saying, "Spend your life pursuing the only thing worth pursuing and pursue this thing in everything else you do – namely, God himself, the eternal one.” 

So the only motive for pursuing health that will not fade away is the passion to love God more by caring for that which he has entrusted to us, namely, our bodies. If my pursuit of health is essentially the pursuit of the glory of God, I will not be disappointed because God's glory will never fade away. As David said in Psalm 16:11, "You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." – that is, pleasures that will never fade away. 

So I invite you to search your heart with me and think deeply about WHY you're pursuing health. Will the things you're pursuing last or will they fade away? Why spend your life running after things that will undoubtedly fade away? Why not pursue God in all things since God and his purposes will never fade away?

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