Being reasonably fit for God

Since I started school, I haven’t been in the best of health. Migraines and fever weren’t uncommon resulting in me lying on bed wasting the day away. Well, to be fair, it wasn’t exactly a waste of time. I had the opportunity to reflect and so I began asking myself a question: Given the frequency of my illness, how long can I actually last in christian ministry? In fact, has my field and scope of ministry been restricted seeing that my fitness and health really isn’t anywhere near good?

It dawned on me that perhaps, too often we have considered the availability of a person serving purely in terms of an internal, spiritual disposition while neglecting the physical body. But could it be also true that the availability of a person depends on his physical health and fitness? At this point Jim Elliot comes to mind. Most of us know Jim Elliot as the missionary to Ecuador and for his very famous and mature reflection that “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” As far as I recall reading his biography, Elliot was prepared for full time ministry years before he actually went into the field. In fact, his very famous quote was penned down in his journal in 1949 October 28 at the age of 22 and roughly 7 years before he was killed. If there was a person who had eternity in mind, it was Jim Elliot. At university, Jim was very intentional with his time making sure that he did not take up too many “extra-curricular activities, fearing that he might become occupied in nonessentials and miss the essentials of life.”[1] So what activity did he take up? Wrestling. His reasoning was quite simple:

I wrestle solely for the strength and co-ordination of muscle tone that the body receives while working out, with the ultimate end that of presenting a more useful body as a living sacrifice.[2]

For Elliot, physical training was part of the preparation for ministry work, in particular life as a missionary. It meant offering to God a healthier body that God could use. Concerning 1 Timothy 4:8, while others would ignore the first half of the verse and focus on the fact that godliness had a wider scope of value, Elliot looked at the first half of the verse and recognised that physical training was not useless but had some value even in the eyes of God. Physical exercise was for Elliot part of what it meant to make oneself available for God.

With the philosophy of Jim Elliot in mind, I woke up this morning all pumped up and determined to go for a jog in order to train up my body. As I jogged and enjoyed the morning breeze, a sudden thought came to me: “This is a very big mistake. Why am I doing this again?” I realised that while Jim Elliot had a point about physical exercise and availability for God, he made it sound easier than it really was. Oh well, who ever said it was going to be easy in the first place? :/

[1] Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1981), 16.

[2] Ibid.


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