Now I realize I may be stepping on some toes with this blog (maybe even my own toes) but as one who has been an avid weightlifter (not bodybuilder) for years I can fully attest to what I am about to discuss and even though this has been a personal conviction in my own life I believe its fully applicable as a broad spectrum consensus on the subject.
I first started lifting weights back when I was only 16-17 years old. I was overweight my entire childhood and consistently the focal point of fat jokes. The summer before my senior year of High School I started running, did Slimfast and ended up losing close to 50lbs. I went from a chunky 180 lbs down to a lean 130-135 lbs! I then started messing around with some weights at home and eventually ended up joining a Bally’s (no jokes please-lol). Ever since then, I have been what I would call ‘an addict’ to weight lifting and even exercise in general. Some years would be spent in serious lifting and consuming supplements and then some years I would lean more towards the running and cardio side of things. I’ve enjoyed lifting weights & strength training all these years and keeping fit but never had a desire for bodybuilding-even though I was fascinated by the sport as a teen. I remember watching guys like Lee Haney and Shawn Ray on TV every day learning how to do the proper exercises.
As the years passed, not only did my lifting continue to increase and progress but my relationship with the Lord also progressed. This has brought me to the crux and foundation for writing this article. Weightlifting and exercise is by all means good for us. Strength training has been proven to increase our metabolisms, improve fat loss, strengthen our bodies, increase longevity and improve our overall heath in so many ways-as has consistent endurance training. Weightlifting though-as many who lift weights can attest-can turn into not only bodybuilding but even more so…an obsession! It can dominate one’s life, one’s checkbook and one’s time spent in front of a mirror. It can turn into pure, all-out narcissism at its worst!
Personally that kind of thing crosses over a line for me that ventures into enormous vanity and self-absorbance that ultimately steals from the presence of Christ in one’s life. Nothing wrong with lifting weights, staying in shape, working out, etc. but it can be taken to an extreme. John the Baptist stated in John 3:30 that “He (Jesus) must increase while I must decrease”. Jesus stated in the Gospels “you cannot serve two masters” and then again over in the book of 2nd Timothy, the apostle Paul stated, “There will be terrible times in the last days…people will be lovers of themselves…”. It’s not spiritually healthy to be that obsessed and absorbed with one’s self and/or one’s own body. I know many will disagree with me (maybe even you disagree with me as you are reading this) but from years of being around the sport and weightlifting myself, I know it to be true. God has convicted me many times about stepping away from it at times because it starts consuming me. My every thought becomes about the next workout, the next meal, the next supplement, the next mirror I can walk by. Trust me-been there, done that! The Bible states our ‘bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit’ and that ‘physical training is of some value’ so I believe there is definite benefit from keeping healthy, fit and strong but we must always keep a balance and be mindful of not crossing over into sin.
When people think of eating disorders they initially reference anorexia and bulimia but there is another end of that spectrum as well: the constant gorging that comes from engaging in bodybuilding. The pure volume of food you need to intake to grow muscles to that size is just astronomical (have done it for years). The Bible says in Proverbs 23:2 ‘Put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony’ (more on this later). Now I know not every person out there who may be a body builder is engrossed in themselves to such an extreme degree. I have met some lifters who are just naturally very humble and walk in true meekness even though they are chiseled like a Greek God. No stereotype is ever 100% accurate all the time but for the majority I know what I’m saying to be true. If you don’t believe me, go into your average gym, or even a hardcore gym, and take inventory of the people there. You know what you will typically see in an overwhelming fashion? Gross insecurity in one’s self. Many people get into weight lifting and bodybuilding to offset the extreme insecurity within them. Our security as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is to be in God-not ourselves. The Bible speaks extensively about the curse of trusting in man or trusting in yourself. We are to trust in Jesus for our provision, our health and also our confidence! Yes, even our confidence! The apostle Paul says to ‘put no confidence in the flesh’ or in other words-put no confidence in what we as humans can do. Our confidence and faith should be in Christ alone! Glory to God!
I do want to make one more point here and it is the opposite of what I have been talking about up to this point-the subject of obesity in the body of Christ. It is rampant much of the church today. Of all the sins preached on from the pulpit, things we are abstain from-gluttony is rarely if ever mentioned. There is a scripture that I mentioned earlier in this blog and it always sticks in my mind and it is Proverbs 23:2 “Put a knife to your throat if you’re given to gluttony” (NIV). Yes! Gluttony is a sin! Much of the church is extremely overweight. Eating out is the norm after every service (and in between) yet little is ever discussed about the dangers of overeating and over-indulging. Obesity leads to fatigue, sickness & disease, lethargy and just plain disdain for one’s self which is contrary to what the Word says about God’s people. Not only does it ruin self-image but if one is sick and lethargic all the time because they are overweight they will not be able to effectively serve in any type of ministry capacity.
So on one hand we have those who are over-engaged in giving attention to their bodies and on the other hand we have those who don’t give enough attention to their body. As previously mentioned, our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit and are to be cared for but nothing is to be exalted above the Lord Jesus Christ in our lives. When the love for our own selves exceeds the love we have for Christ we have set up an idol in our lives: US! It comes down to balance and being sensitive to the leading of the Lord in our lives. I know this article will annoy many and may even anger some but it is simply meant to provoke us to consider carefully how we are living our lives for the Lord.
I will close with this thought. Just because we can doesn’t always mean we should.The apostle Paul stated in his letter to the Corinthian church “All things are permissible for me….” This was a customary Corinthian saying and popular in those times (sounds like current times does it not?). Paul countered that statement with balance and spiritual integrity. When we read the entire verse it states “All things are permissible for me but not all things are profitable (I will not be mastered by anything). I would say that just as Paul iterated, let us not be mastered by anything! Weightlifting, strength training, cardiovascular endurance training-these are all good things for us. They keep us healthy and strong but let us always be sure to keep things in balance spiritually. Let us go onto maturity and wisdom in our walk with the Lord and by His abounding grace we will do so!