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The Ultimate Exercise Plan

Milton Berle poked fun at the exaggerated value our culture places on exercise.  He says, “I went to a funeral where the casket was open.  A woman walked by and said, ‘He looks terrific.’  Another woman said, ‘Why shouldn’t he?  He jogged every morning.’”  Berle’s funny story reminds me of a quote I once read from Bernie S. Siegel, M.D., “I’ve done the research, and I hate to tell you, but everybody dies - lovers, joggers, vegetarians and nonsmokers.  I’m telling you this so that some of you who jog at 5 a.m. and eat vegetables will occasionally sleep late and have an ice-cream cone.”  I don’t think Dr. Siegel is suggesting we stop loving, exercising, eating properly, or avoid harmful habits like smoking.  He is telling us with tongue-in-cheek what we know is true but so often seek to deny - we can jog, hike, bike, swim, curtail the caffeine, count the calories, and control the cholesterol (and we should).  But physical fitness will prove unable to keep us young and alive forever.

The apostle Paul describes the ultimate exercise plan to his young preacher-friend Timothy in 1 Timothy 4: 7-8, “But reject profane and old wives fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness.  For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having a promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”  The 1st century Roman/Greek culture in which Paul and Timothy lived was much like our 21st century American culture.  Taking care of the body and keeping it physically fit was of extreme, even of utmost importance to many people.   There were all kinds of athletic games and contests for which athletes vigorously trained and to which crowds gathered to watch.  But Paul wants Timothy, and us, to know that time spent at Gold’s Gym can never accomplish the same thing as time spent in God’s Gym!  For sure, “bodily exercise profits a little,” and there are many people who need to acknowledge that truth.  But Paul’s point is that there is a greater kind of exercise which yields a much greater kind of result than an improved figure or lower blood pressure or an increased life expectancy.  Bodily exercise leads to physical fitness; exercising ourselves in godliness leads to spiritual fitness!  Bodily exercise leads to stronger muscles and a stronger heart, etc., but exercising in godliness leads to a stronger faith and soul!  Bodily exercise helps us live longer here, while exercising ourselves to godliness leads to eternal life.  Are you involved in God’s ultimate exercise plan?!

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ