Pastor, Is Your Preventative Maintenance Plan Well?
The connection between the physical and spiritual is one worth evaluating, time and time again.1 Further, the reality may be better observed through the lens of "cooperation." In some sense, there is a collaborative, cooperative connection that is difficult to articulate, but is factual, nonetheless. The spiritual is not only "housed" within the body, albeit temporarily, the Christian seems to have a deeper hunger for godliness when the physical is given some level of preventative maintenance with a view to offer an investment in fortifying longevity for ministerial effectiveness.
Correlating the Physical and the Spiritual
Christian medical physician Harold Paul Adolph underscores the connection between the physical and the spiritual in his book Holyistic Attitudes:
Despite our collective preoccupation with lifting weights, playing tennis, and swimming into oblivion, it seems that many of us have failed to recognize one fundamental truth: to experience true physical wellness, we cannot concentrate solely on exercise and diets. We must develop our spiritual health, as well. The fact is, a direct relationship exists between the health of our spirits and the well-being of our bodies. After nearly thirty years as a practicing physician and surgeon, I've found that people who are experiencing fellowship with God-whose spiritual lives are grounded in Him-can enjoy a significantly improved degree of physical health.2
Dr. Adolph also believes that there are five habits that must be practiced for the body to function effectively. As well, each of the functions has spiritual fitness corollaries as seen below:
||Celebration and Thanksgiving
Providing further elaboration upon the connections between the physical and spiritual realms, Dr. Adolph underscores the importance of this issue.3
- Exercise: If spirits are going to be healthy, they must be subjected to the discipline of athletes. A healthy spiritual regimen includes prayer, devotional reading, and regular fellowship with a body of believers.
- Diet: Restricted diets potentially provide a pathway to healthy living. Similarly, it is wise to investigate what the soul is consuming on a regular basis with a focus upon the nutrition of God's Word.
- Elimination/Confession: Cleaning the natural systems of the human body is a normal and natural way of removing toxins. Spiritually, such waste materials as unconfessed sin, hatred, greed, bitterness, and pride must be eliminated to remove hindrances to the maturation process.
- Vacations/Celebrations and Thanksgiving: Removing oneself from the daily routines of life can provide the means to recuperation and restoration. Believers must be vigilant in observing regular times of celebration and thanksgiving to God in reflecting upon His many gifts of grace.
- Checkups/Inventory: Annual checkups provide investigative tools to evaluate thecondition of one's temple. Likewise, the monitoring of the spirit's vital signs, such as the frequency of classic spiritual disciplines can determine the growth or lack thereof in one's walk with Christ Jesus.
The Illustrative Use of Physical Health Symptoms
Pastor Gene Wilkes compares physical symptoms with one's spiritual condition in his contribution to LifeWay Christian Resources' Fit 4 series, With All My Soul: God's Design for Spiritual Wellness:
Spiritual illness results when we seek to solve our spiritual hunger with unspiritual things. Religious activity, believe it or not, may be a symptom of spiritual illness. Religion is the outward actions of your inward relationship with God. Sick religion is tending more to your outward appearance as a religious person than to your personal relationship with God. Jesus warned against such activity, and we are to avoid it in our journey to spiritual wellness.4
Wilkes then provides a "list of symptoms" that may indicate that someone is "filling a spiritual hunger and thirst with unspiritual things.5 Such descriptive imagery brings light to the interconnection between the physical and the spiritual.
- Shortness of breath: A regular occurrence for someone who can only spend a few minutes in prayer.
- Spiritual obesity: This condition describes someone who is so deeply involved in religious church activity that it prevents ministry to those whom Jesus has called Christians to serve. Too many church activities envelope evangelistic opportunities.
- High blood pressure: One's schedule is flowing over with activities, consequently limiting the time available to build a quality relationship with God.
- Clogged arteries: This occurs when someone "eats" and "drinks" from the places of entertainment, thus hindering the Holy Spirit's ministry of encouraging believers and reaching the lost through the individual lives of saints.
- High cholesterol: When one "eats" food that has been prepared by others, more than personally opening the heart and mind to seek God, "fat" becomes more prevalent than real "nutrition."
Metaphorically, these negative health descriptors can bring the reality of spiritual wellness to the forefront. Rather than seeing the physical apart from the spiritual, or vice versa, an embrace of a holistic living will keep one from trying to operate in "compartmentalistic" existence.
Honesty. Are you truly honest in evaluating your wellness, both spiritually and physically? Refusing to be candid can lead to denial and isolation.
History. Are you regularly examining your physical and spiritual heath conditions? Such an examination should be a period of investment in reaching maturation and wholeness.
Housing. Do you compartmentalize the physical and the spiritual? Even though the earthly bodily dwelling is only tentage, do you care for it, while also recognizing predisposed genetic challenges?
© Jim Fisher, Ph.D.
Christian Education and Leadership Concepts, LLC.
Fit for the Fight, September 2010
Much of the information is taken from the author's dissertation: The Relationship between Selected Disciplines of Physical Wellness and Spiritual Wellness among Southern Baptist Pastors, 2006.
1 Much of the information is taken from the author's dissertation: The Relationship between Selected Disciplines of Physical Wellness and Spiritual Wellness among Southern Baptist Pastors, 2006.
2 Harold Paul Adolph, Holyistic Attitudes: God's Prescription for Your Good Health, (Hannibal, Mo: Hannibal Books, 1986), 5-6.
3 Ibid, 6-9.
4 Gene Wilkes, With All My Soul: God's Design for Spiritual Wellness, (Nashville, TN: LifeWay Press, 2001), 52.
5 Ibid, 52.