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God has really been speaking to me lately about how my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and how I need to take better care of it. And He has been saying the same thing to a lot of my friends and acquaintances. God has been telling us that He wants a healthy temple through which He can glorify His name.
I was pretty healthy most of my life without having to work at it, so I never picked up good habits (balanced meals, vitamins, being careful about how much fat I ate, etc.). As I got older, I began to put on some weight and my health began to deteriorate a little. After a few years weight gain, I got in a diet program and lost it. I kept it off for about two years. But over the past 4 years, I gained it all back and more besides (sigh).
The extra weight and lack of exercise effected my energy levels and left me feeling tired most of the time. I was also busy with the ministry demands and not getting enough sleep because of that. In short, I was not taking care of my body. Anytime I got sick, I looked to God to heal me. At first He did.
But He began to speak to me about taking better care of myself. I did not fully understand how to do that, so I did not do a good job of it. I was okay for normal day-to-day things, but I was not in the shape God needed me in for what He called me to do. Last year, God had a lot for me to do in the area of third-world missions. And my body just did not hold up to it. I went to Nigeria for a few weeks and when I flew home, I got dehydrated on the plane and ended up in the hospital with a severe kidney infection. I went to South Africa and Botswana last summer for six weeks. Our summer is their winter and it is much colder there than I expected. I held out health-wise for most of the trip. But as I became more and more exhausted (busy schedule and lack of the nutrients I was used to), I got sick. I flew home with some type of respiratory flu. It got worse on the plane and I ended up with walking pneumonia followed by a severe cough and respiratory problems that lasted a month. Shortly after that, I went to a humid and mosquito-infested part of India where I got so sick that I had to miss one of my scheduled speaking engagements and just rest/sleep for two days. In short, my body was not holding up for the assignments that God had for me.
My husband decided that I'd weakened my immune system and he asked me to take a year off from traveling to third world countries and try to recover. So my health affected where I was permitted to minister in 2005. God had opened some amazing doors for me, but I was unable to walk through them and had to turn down some speaking engagements that I really wanted to take.
I got home from India in October. I was not sick, but I was so exhausted that it was hard for me to function. I saw my doctor for a routine checkup and discovered that I had dangerously high cholesterol and the doctor wanted to put me on medication. I refused the medication and tried to change my eating habits to lower my cholesterol but did not understand what that entailed, so I did not do a sufficient job. My cholesterol went up (not down) on my recheck two months later. My doctor told me that I was at risk for heart disease and some other things.
I did not understand how this could be happening to me. So I went back to the Lord and cried out to Him to heal me. He began to bring me verses about how my body was His temple. There was 1 Cor 6:19, which said, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, Who is in you, Whom you have received from God? You are not your own." And even Jesus considered His body the temple of the Holy Spirit. God showed me that from John 2:19-22: 19Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days."
20The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" 21But the temple He had spoken of was His body. 22After He was raised from the dead, His disciples recalled what He had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
So what did all that mean to me in a health context? God obviously wanted me to take better care of myself so that I could do the things He had for me to do. It became clear that it was a matter of changing my eating and exercise habits because I was overweight and out-of-shape.
I am not alone in that boat. Many Christians all over the world have that same problem -- at least we do in the Westernized countries. I don't know how we got in this predicament. Many of us just don't value our bodies as God's property and we don't take suitable care of ourselves. We don't seem to realize that when we give our hearts to Jesus, God takes all of us. Our bodies don't belong to ourselves any more -- we belong to God and the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us. Ephesians 1:13-14 tells us, "having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession."
The King Of The Universe moves into us -- the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our lives. We should give Him a palace, but many of us offer Him a slum instead. Apparently the Holy Spirit does not like that. And He has begun speaking to many of us about the residence we are offering Him. He deserves the best and He wants the best. That means He wants many of us to make changes in our lifestyle to give Him the best that we can offer Him.
The good news is that He doesn't want us to do it on our own and then come present it to Him when we get it right. He is the great Transformer and He wants to work with us in the process. Philippians 3:21 tells us that He "will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself."
In other words, if we present ourselves to Him and ask Him to teach us how He wants us to take care of His temple (our bodies), He will! He will speak to us and give us insights; He will help us and provide the resources we need. In fact, He has an amazing way of bringing things together to help us succeed in what He directs us to do.
Let me share my own experience. Over the month of December, I began to research what eating low cholesterol meant, as well as what I needed to do to lose weight. It became clear to me that I needed to add exercise to my routine, dieting by itself was not going to do it. I bought an exercise trampoline and put it in my living room, hoping to work out on it as I watched television. Unfortunately, it did not work out that way. I used it for the first few days then I decided I was too tired and needed to sit and rest. So the trampoline went unused. Then I began to ask God for a better strategy, and I starting experimenting with various new foods at the grocery store. And God helped me find an eating strategy that would work for me.
Then on Jan. 8th, He spoke to me that it was time to start. I said, "Okay," and I invited Him into my eating. I asked Him to help me succeed and He was more than happy to oblige. I still had this nagging feeling that I needed to be exercising. So I asked Him about it. I was sitting at my computer when I asked Him. Shortly after that I went downstairs to my family room and the television was on. A commercial was playing about the Discovery Health channel offering an 8 week National Body Challenge. I missed the first half of the commercial, but the part I saw talked about a free eight week gym membership, free access to a diet web site, and other assorted tools. There motto was "If you have the will, we have the way." And then the commercial gave a URL. Talk about a quick answer to prayer! I ran back upstairs to sign up for their program.
The principle behind this is that God wants us to take good care of the temple of the Holy Spirit -- our bodies. He wants us to involve Him in the process rather than to try and do it totally on our own. He wants us to ask Him for help, and He will help us. He wants us to succeed.
I started changing my eating habits (lower cholesterol and lower calories) two weeks ago. I started working out at the gym one-and-a-half weeks ago. And I already see/feel major changes in my body and health. I am feeling good, not tired, and I have lots of energy. Because of this, it is so much easier to draw near to God when I am not worn out and exhausted all of the time. I have been having this amazing experience with God that has lasted for over a week now. My relationship and intimacy with Him has not been this good in a long time and I am enjoying it immensely. I feel happier than I have felt in a long time. And in addition to all that, I have also lost 5.5 lb. and my clothes are fitting looser.
The Holy Spirit is in this with me, walking right beside me and helping me to stay "highly motivated." These past two weeks have been great.
I would like to encourage you to invite the Holy Spirit into your eating and exercise. He will come and help you just like He helped me. He wants each of us to succeed in taking good care of His temple.