“Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Ephesians 4:29 (Excerpt From: Tony Dungy. “The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge”)
This may be the most challenging devotional I have attempted because the topic is difficult. It emphasizes paying attention to your health – your fitness, as it were. There’s lots of reasons for it – if we are to be a witness for Christ, then Jesus would have us consider our lifestyle which includes our appearance, not just how we act. Our sedentary lifestyles have, over time, made us a culture of either out-of-shape, or overweight, or worse.
The statistics in the U.S. are alarming. According to the Los Angeles County of Public Health, 42% of children in school are obese or overweight. Studies done by the Robert Wood Foundation determined that more than a third of adults (34.9%) were obese and two-thirds of adults were overweight in 2011-2012. The same studies from 2015 notes that sixty percent (60%) of adults do not get enough activity to realize health benefits. (http://stateofobesity.org/rates/). It doesn’t take much to connect the dots – if the adults in the family are overweight or lead sedentary lifestyles, their example gets passed on to their children. Being overweight is connected to a variety of medical conditions including diabetes and hypertension, many of which can shorten peoples’ life expectancy.
In our culture, appearance matters. A person who lacks self-discipline in their appearance has to overcome that in order to be a positive witness for Christ. Discipline is something that the Bible speaks about frequently, but not necessarily about fitness, per se. No matter how strong your faith is or how eloquent you can be, an unattractive appearance is a turn-off to people. I know this is not politically correct, but I am just being honest here.
My purpose here is not to be critical but to bring hope to those who might need a little encouragement to change their lifestyles. The title of this devotional is actually from a bestseller book written by a doctor and one of his patients. The actual title is Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit and Sexy – Until You’re 80 and Beyond, by Dr. Henry Lodge and Chris Crowley. The premise of the book is that, as we age, our bodies change. Starting in our 40’s, our bodies experience aging effects, which, if not counteracted by proper activity and nutrition, will cause one to have a slow decline in our overall health. There is a cure, however: maintain an active lifestyle and you can actually stop the decline until you die. The good news is that even if you haven’t been active since your 40’s, you can regain a lot of the decline by becoming active again. This isn’t rocket science folks. The bottom line is that being active has a positive effect on your health. The book comes in two versions, one for women (pink) and one for men (yellow). I actually bought copies for everyone in my office some years ago to try and encourage those around me to be conscious of their health. It was the best money I’ve spent.
My son-in-law, Ben Fischer, is a doctor in Raleigh, NC and several years ago he initiated a program called the Fischer Project for his patients. He invited them to attend a highly structured 13-week program where they would learn to exercise and obtain information on leading a healthy lifestyle. He was assisted by a nutritionist and a physical trainer. The local YMCA provided a free 3-month membership. His goal was to help his patients develop healthy habits of eating and exercise. Eventually, Blue Cross, a local health insurer, backed the program and recently told him that his program got the best results of any that they had seen. Again, all he was really doing was encouraging his patients to take charge of their lives and encourage some self-discipline. He tells his patients that he could always medicate their maladies, but if they would spend time in the Fischer Project, he could reduce or totally eliminate some of their symptoms. It worked. The program is now in its 7th year, and his patients are healthier as a result.
Throughout scripture, we are instructed to have self-discipline – not just in learning scripture on a daily basis, but in our lifestyle. Paul exhorts us to train and to run the race well in 1 Corinthians 9:24:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”
The picture above is of my oldest son, Bill III and me when I was just getting into biking a couple of years ago. He pushed me, and as a result, I have worked hard to expand my range and am now able to do 45 miles at a time. If I can do it, so can you. I also don’t miss the extra 25 pounds that I had a year ago.
So, my challenge is pretty clear. How is your self-discipline? Do you need some encouragement to live a healthy lifestyle? You might read Younger Next Year to encourage you and give you steps that you can take to turn back your biological clock. You will be glad you did, and your family will too. They get the benefit of having you around longer as well as your being able to participate in family activities that you might not have been able to before. At a minimum, you can be an example to your children and family so you can pass along healthy lifestyle habits to the next generation.
Amazon carries Younger Next Year in paperback and audiobooks: