Come Saturday (tommorrow), I will have been exercising daily for 48 weeks, which I realized ammounts to twelve months counting each month by weeks of four (although an actual year is 52 weeks, so I’m not quite here).
A couple of years ago, after quite a journey in pretty much all areas of my life (social, occupational, familial) which had been… I’ll just say quite discouraging, I found myself in a physical condition which had seemed overwhelming. A few years prior, my mom had had a heart attack… on mother’s day… followed by a quadruple bypass surgery. My Aunt had pased away shortly before that because of heart, and diabetes complications.
I hadn’t gained weight fast, and like a lot of guys, I seem to gain weight all over so that its buildup is less noticeable over time. I also tend to view myself as me in highschool, trim and fit, with maybe a little padding added. I had gotten to the point, though, that I couldn’t bend down to tie my shoes without a good deal of discomfort.
Combining the realization of my own physical condition with a number of other elements which had been taking place in my life, I became depressed. I had a sense that my weight was just one more issue, one that seemed impossible to overcome. I recall being up late – I was also experiencing consistent insomnia – and praying in a sense of desperation about my situation.
Has God ever spoken to you? Does His mesage in your life seem to be somewhat themed?
If you’ve ever read the book of Daniel, you may have noticed an interesting phenomenon. While Daniel had some amazing visionary experiences, and prophetically foretold future events, the revelation, itself was extremely taxing on him. Daniel required supernatural strengthening in order to cope with the immensity of the Word of the Lord:
‘And, behold, one like the similitude of the sons of man touched my lips: then I opened my mouth and spake, and said unto him that stood before me, O my Lord, by the vision my sorrows are turned upon me, and I have retained no strength. For how can he servant of my lord talk with his my lord? for as for me, straightway there remained no strength in me, neither is there breath in me. Then there came again and touched me… and he strengthened me … and when he had spoken unto me, I was strengthened, and said, Let my lord speak; for thou hast strengthened me.’ (Daniel 10:16-19)
You may (or may not) have noticed that the prophetic experiences of Daniel’s life spoke singularly of Empires that would arise through history, the roles of those empires in history, and God dealing with them.
From Nebechadnezzar’s initial dream of a great image made of various metals, to Daniel’s dream in chapter 7, to the vision that subsequently followed, all of his revelation had to do with the rise and fall of Empires; both secular empires, and the coming Mesiah’s kingdom (see, also my post on Daniel 9:27).
What less people seem to notice, is that all the dreams and visions of Daniel are one-and-the same. The content of every one of Daniel’s prophetic experiences (as chronicled in the book) all give greater, and greater clarity to the initial dream of Nebbachadnezzar: the coming of sundry empires until Christ’s kingdom is established – and ultimately fully conquers all others.
Rather than delving into that just here, I’ll point out another interesting phenomena in the life of Daniel. While the revelations of Daniel essentially revealed the same Truth again, and again, the burden of this revelation was immense upon Daniel. Notice in the passage above Daniel is timid – nay even afraid – to hear the Word of the Lord, again. Have you ever been so overwhelmed by the word of the Lord that you are almost afraid to hear another?
In the passage above, an angel was sent to Daniel to interpret for him the vision he had seen some years prior, which vision is described in chapter 8… and he vision of chapter 8 (as well as a visit from an angel in chapter 9) had given greater clarity to a prophetic dream that daniel relayed in chapter 7. All of these visionary experiences described coming empires, chiefly the coming of Christ, and His kingdom, and the final antichrist empire which Christ will eventually destroy. As mentioned, it is interestingly the very same message (albeit with varying levels of complexity and detail) that Nebachadnezzar recieved in the dream which the Lord had given him early in the life of Daniel (Daniel 2).
Yet, we see consistently that Daniel is overwhelmed by the magnitude of the revelation that God had given him (Dan 8:17 & 27, 10:8-19, etc.). There is an immense weight to a True word from the Lord, and when one’s life is turned into a message from God the magnitude of it is overwhelming. (Not to mention, the content of DANIEL’S revelation was immense – the great empites of history culminating in the kingdom of Christ’s full conquest thereof at the end of the world!)
Some years back, I interned with a pastor named James. James was chronically overweight. At one point the minister of another church came and prophesied to him that the Lord had revealed a demonic plot to prematurely take his life. The minister who declared this owned a gym, and had felt a burden – having recieved the word – to help Pastor James to get in shape. I don’t know all that he had offered by way of help, but I believe the offer included free gym membership, and personal training.
I don’t know how far James took him up on the offer, but after about a year from the time this word was given, James (still overweight) had a stroke while preaching and passed away shortly after. The minister who had visited quite evidently had had the word of the Lord. Witnessing these things has had an impact on my own perspective of health. Obedience to the mind of the Lord, and right stewardship of the bodies would have been the right – and spiritual – response. Don’t get me wrong, I think that James likely took the word seriously, and probably had spent some time at the gym in response to the invitation, but likely (it seems) only for a short time.
In my momment of crisis, I realized that was likely an issue for me as well… I had at times become more health-conscious in the past and started exercising, only to eventually give up the habit. I couldn’t even trust myself. The example of that I’d seen in James, and others drove that home well.
Those were issues on the physical side, on the spiritual side, like Daniel I was overwhelmed. The Lord had been teaching me a number of things, an immense revelation far too big for myself. I’d been ostracised for [elements of] it (Matt 5:10-12), driven away from family, friends, and… yes, at least one point so overwhelmed by he message that I was dumbfounded certain days. I had prayed in a field all night, and the Lord unveiled a passage of scripture to me that unlocked an immense mystery, the rammifications of which left me staggered for several days. I recall going to a prayer meeting at a local church in the days following that revelation hoping to get some relief but none comprehended the burden I was under and I was quite unable to communicate. It was not a vision, but I certainly understand the experience of Ezekiel (3:15), and Daniel in this regard, I was left astonished for several days.
Well, to make a long story short, although I finally fell asleep that evening still feeling overwhelmed, defeated and afraid for my physical health, the Lord began to answer my prayers (He’ll answer your prayers, too). Shortly after that night of my prayer, my wife found a treadmill at a garage-sale for $50!
I faithfully used that treadmill daily for about 9 months when I started having chronic pain in my heel from the daily impacts of running. In those 9 months I lost a good deal of weight, but then plateau’d and stopped reaching goals; I had felt pretty good about the weight I had lost… but just frankly, I quickly hated running. Talk about boring! I tried to use the time in prayer but keeping your mind on that while straining your body is quite a discipline which I coukd rarely accomplish. At first i had lost a good deal of weight, but to continue making any gains I had to be on that thing for an hour every morning, and while I still worked toward efficiency goals, I dreaded the morning workouts.
I had come to believe more tangibly that taking care of my body is an act of worship, so I took it for a discipline and kept at it… until the pain in my heel started to debilitate my ability to do so. Then we had a new baby. The baby’s room was in the same room as the treadmill… so I couldn’t get up in the morning before work to get on the treadmill and wake the baby.
Well several months go by and then turn into a year… year and a half… I avoided the scale because I realized I had gained back all that I’d lost. (My wife thinks I gained more.)
She had looked in the area for different gyms but… who can afford a gym membership?
Eventually, I got a job in a city about a half hour away from where we live, and up the street is a Salvation Army gym. Now… we couldn’t afford gym membership anywhere else we looked but… we checked this one out anyways. As it was owned by the Salvation Army, they took their gym as a community outreach; turns out they had a scholarship program so that we could sign up the whole family for an affordable rate! AND, as i mentioned, the gym is right up the street from my work; in fact, 10 minutes walking distance! (God will answer your prayers.)
I started exercising every day (save Sunday) – strength training, since I had discovered how boring and unrewarding (for me) constant cardio was. I would eat at my desk while working, take an hour for lunch and spend it at the gym; on Saturdays I’d head over there with the whole family.
And all that worked great… until COVID hit. I got laid off from my job (unrelated to COVID, yet correlating with the begining of the shut downs), and a week later the gym shut down (I could no longer afford it anyways).
Try finding a job when the whole world shuts down over a virus. Nobody wants you in their office to fill out an application, they’re not hiring anyways because they’re laying off ‘non-essential’ personell themselves…
Believe it or not, the layoff was an immense blessing from God; even the closure of the gym. God had laid on my heart to write a book, and so, while the world slept I picked up a new routine: exercise at home for an hour in the morning, work search the internet, work on the book. Government stimulous kicked in, so I was making full-time pay collecting unempoyment. It was like the government was paying me to worship God full-time! Really, it was quite evident to me that God had orchestrated circumstances so that I could write the book (linked at bottom), which I believe is an essential message for the church, even for such a time as this – and it expounds he revelation which I briefly prefaced above.
And, a byproduct additional blessing was that I formed the morning, daily exercise habit.
I realized that I never really needed the gym at all. I had a couple of dumbells as my only home equipment to start out with (I think we may sell the treadmill), but I discovered that’s really all you need if you know how to use them. But I also realize that if God hadn’t opened the door at the gym I never would have developed the habit of exercising, or likely tranferred that habit to a home workout routine without the confidence, and knowledge built while using the gym. I also started educating myself outside of the gym, watching fitness trainers on Youtube (mainly Athlean-X); I have slowly been adding to my home workout equipment (I found an over-the-doorframe pullup bar, and just recently have added exercise bands).
Of course, I’m also eating a lot better than I used to. I weight train, and eat to feed muscle growth. I don’t do intermittent fasting, keto, or any other specialty diet, but I try to eat more protien and less sugar and carbs. I have started to experiment with ‘calorie cycling’ (as I have found some accidental success with that in the past) and I find its not too difficult to stay in a caloric deficit with a lot of eggs. I also don’t avoid fruits to keep away from the sugars, I figure if Adam and Eve used them for their chief diet, then I shouldn’t keep from them. I eschew the man-made sugars and pile up the God-made ones.
In these nearly 48 weeks I have lost above 40+ lbs (hoping that by the time I officially hit a year, it will be in the 45+ range). At 35 I definately feel better physically than I did at 33, in fact I think I’m begining to feel as good as I did in my early 20s.
I don’t ussually focus on issues of the body in my blog, but I do think we too often neglect the care of our bodies for spiritual pursuits. Yet, if we can adjust our thinking, we should realize that caring for our body is worship. There seems to be a church stigma (I had it) which views ‘over-much’ care for the body as idolatry… or as vanity. It certainly CAN be those things, if we put our flesh before the Spirit of God (to be carnally minded is death), but I don’t really think we’re in much danger of falling into hose snares if our motivation for fitness is to honor God with our bodies.
How can we accomplish anything for God if we are not healthy enough to do so? If our lives end early because we neglected to care for our body?
Christian worship is often reduced to pop-songs we sing on Sundays. Perhaps I should sing more hymns, but my view of worship has been changed through the course of my life, I strive to do service to Christ in the things I do.
‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.’ (Rom 12:1)
As promised, my book: Discerning the Antichrist