Tomorrow I will be one year older. One year closer to the big 4-0. To some, I’m still quite young, and for others, I’m ancient. But for me, I’m just achy. I have stomach issues that cause me to cough. I have plantar fasciitis in my feet, which cause me to wear special shoes. My fast twitch muscle fibers that once propelled me to run at speeds of a high school track star, now only allow for a slow jog. I have a strange lump on my back that I learned was a lipoma—nice. I now wear glasses, my eyesight’s pretty great except for when I try to read or drive at night. But as my body slowly falls apart, I’m not in any way discouraged because I’ve spent years reminding myself that this was coming.
I was a fitness professional for 8 years before moving into full-time ministry. I remember each new year would usher in resolutions and fitness historically lands at the top of the resolution goals for most people. And so each January fitness facilities are flooded with new members and new participants in group fitness classes (where you would have found me teaching classes). I assume part of the reason for this is that the previous two months were spent eating enormous amounts of food celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas. The other reason is that each year seems like a time to start anew.
I’m not opposed to resolutions or goals to start off a new year. Caring for our bodies can be a way to honor God. God created us not to lay waste to our bodies through abusing them, but so we might use them wisely for His glory and His purposes. Godliness is of supreme value, but we also know that physical training is of some value to the Lord. Paul helps us see this when he writes, “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” (1 Timothy 4:8).
So, we can assume that it is okay to pursue exercise as a goal for healthy living and most importantly for godly living. Exercise provides strength for service and it can be restorative and rejuvenating.
But the fact that there is a need for exercise at all is another reminder that we live in a fallen world with fallen bodies. In some ways, each new birthday for me is like a new year, and if the beginning of the new year serves as a reminder that we need to exercise and our bodies are falling apart, it is even more of a reminder that we need God.
The fall of mankind brought significant damage to the entire world. Not only did it bring sin into the world, cursing even our good deeds, but it also brought disease and death. The moment we are born our bodies begin the process of deteriorating. We develop and grow and fall apart. I see this in myself, knowing that I cannot jump as high or run as fast as I once did. And I find myself aching in places I never did before.
God informs Adam that as part of the punishment for his sin, humanity would “return to the ground” (Genesis 3:19). The very ground that Adam was created from, once pure and undefiled, there he would return to as dust.
We do all we can to prevent our bodies from drooping and changing and growing tired. We try every experimental drug and various forms of exercise to prolong or prevent the inevitable. But botox, plastic surgery, and a lifetime of marathons cannot prevent our inevitable fate. Like Adam, we are dust, and will return to the dust (Genesis 3:19).
No amount of exercise or treatment can stop it. And with every birthday, I’m reminded of it.
Resurrected Bodies and the Beauty of Christ
While there is nothing for us on this earth to be desired for all eternity, in God’s kindness, He doesn’t leave us alone in our disintegration. We know that in time he will make all things new and what was once wrought with disease and pain will one day rise into glory with Christ. Paul connects the fall and our resurrection when he writes, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:22–23).
If that wasn’t good news enough, Paul reminds us that not only will we be with Christ but that we will also be with him and like him, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:20–21).
Yes! God will make all things new. He will transform our bodies, the ones we are pulling and tucking and starving and beating to try to make beautiful — yes, he will make our bodies beautiful, pure, and glorious when he returns. Our bodies will never waste away or die again. And most importantly, we will be without sin.
Anything But Worship
As another year of my life commences, another age begins for me; my fallen and imperfect body is yet another way I can look to Christ. By his grace, we can take our eyes off of ourselves and fix them squarely on Jesus. Looking to Jesus helps us endure another year.
Our bodies are made for worship and, if the Lord has us live long enough, we may be left with bodies that are physically unable to do anything but worship.
Each ache and pain and droopy muscle that was once firm, is another reminder that we have a Savior who is perfect in beauty and unmarred by sin, and he is coming to get us, to return us to our pre-fall state, and to raise us to a condition more glorious than we can imagine.
There is no doubt that this year I’ll concentrate on physical fitness, it’s in my DNA and I love it, but it’s not the fitness that will sustain me, it’s Jesus and God’s word. Physical training is of some value, but if I desire to live out this year fully, then I’ll concentrate most of my energies on what and WHO will sustain me for all eternity.