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REVIEW: Spiritual reasons for physical health


Gary Thomas. Every Body Matters: Strengthening Your Body to Strengthen Your Soul. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan. 256 pages, $14.99.


Steve Willis. Winning the Food fight: Victory in the Physical and Spiritual Battle for Good Food and a Healthy Lifestyle. Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 2011. 224 pages, $19.99.

It’s common for Christians to reflect on the dangers related to the so-called “seven deadly sins.” 

Sermons frequently hammer home the harmful nature of lust, greed, sloth and pride.

Less often does anyone address the sinfulness of gluttony.

Let’s face it, that kind of sermon would be uncomfortable — in part because we can be greedy without our fellow congregant knowing; but carrying extra weight around isn’t exactly a private affair. We wear our gluttony.

Withthe Centers for Disease Control’s recent study indicating one out of threeAmerican adults is overweight, it’s easy to recognize our nation has a steep hillto climb. And, sadly, according to a 2010 Northwestern University study, peoplewho participate frequently in religious activities are more likely to bewearing extra weight than non-religious people. 

The task of losing weight, not to mention managing it, can beoverwhelming. But two new books give us a fresh sense of vigor toward ouroften-daunting health goals by applying biblical teachings to modern-dayfitness and nutrition.

InGary Thomas’ book “Every Body Matters: Strengthening Your Body to StrengthenYour Soul,” we are reminded that we should fine-tune our bodies just like wefocus on spiritually developing our souls. 

Thomas emphasizes this point throughout his book byreminding us of Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 2:21 — every body is an “instrumentfor noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any goodwork.”

In Thomas’ words, “Christians who don’t take their healthseriously don’t take their mission seriously. What we’re saying by our actionsis, ‘My life doesn’t really matter.’ But because of the ability of God to workpowerfully in any repentant sinner’s life, every body does matter.”

Thomasopens his book with teachings from the Bible that stir up conviction in us toaddress our health. He balances this with inspiring stories of individuals whohave overcome physical battles, including a 300-pound pastor who realized hisobesity was harming his ministry and a divorced woman who trained and ran amarathon. 

Thomas’ writing is fluid and conversational butenlightening and convicting enough to make me feel the need to put the bookdown and reflect before reading on.

Inthe author’s effort to make the task of getting healthy more manageable, heshares stories of those who have learned to strengthen their bodies and their soulsat the same time. He aims to help us retrain our thought processes so that we,too, can approach the task of eating right and exercising as a matter ofChristian discipleship and obedience.

Weshould listen to our hunger, Thomas says, but we shouldn’t let it enslave us.

Ifyour church is not addressing physical health, or if you think you’ve triedeverything to lose weight without success, then I suggest Thomas’ book. Youwill have Scriptural encouragement and reasons to be disciplined in your health.

In “Winning the Food Fight,” minister Steve Willisprovides more personalized stories of his church’s weight struggles andexperience with the ABC show “Food Revolution,” which came to his hometown,Huntington, W.Va., after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention namedit the unhealthiest city in the nation. 

Tired of watching people die from health issues thatcould be reversed through proper fitness and nutrition, Willis urges Christiansto see that God desires for us to live a healthy and vibrant life.

He cites Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:31 (“So whether you eator drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”) and Romans 12:1(“Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this isyour spiritual act of worship”). 

Willis provides practical, biblically based steps forreaders to transform their health habits. Some helpful steps he covers includemaking up your mind to be different, being a positive example in health for yourfamily, finding others to hold you accountable and provide support and beingsmart about nutrition, knowing where your food comes from. 

This book would be appropriate reading for a small group,as it has thought-provoking discussion questions at the end of each chapter.

Both of these books are challenging — sometimesuncomfortably so. But because they both tackle one of America’s most urgentproblems with godly wisdom, I can heartily recommend them both.

Ifa sound Scriptural argument would be most effective to get you motivated, thenThomas’ book is the best for you. But, if present-day personal stories are morelikely to get you moving, Willis’ would be more effective.

Ifwe are to carry out God’s work as Christian believers, we must address this issue.Let’s improve our health and the wellbeing of our church family so that we allcan be ready to do God’s work on earth.

SOPHIAM. CLANTON is a personal trainer and yoga and Pilates instructor at PepperdineUniversity in Malibu, Calif. She and her husband Caleb, a professor ofphilosophy at Pepperdine, attend the University Church of Christ in Malibu.


Filed under: Reviews Staff Reports

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