Exercise is a huge part of my life. I go to the gym about 4 times a week, and now that the weather in Indiana is starting to warm up, my husband and I take our dog for a walk in the evenings. (I think my dog likes going for walks more than I do. He’s totally smiling in that picture, ha). Recently I began feeling convicted about how important physical exercise was in my life. My day didn’t feel right unless I did some sort of exercise, but I could easily skip my daily Bible reading time and not think twice. I was putting time at the gym in front of time with God. This weighed heavy on my heart, so I began to pray about it.
What were my motivations for going to the gym? Was it for praise from others or for me to praise myself? Was it to feel good about myself? I don’t know what the motivation was, but I knew it wasn’t right. Our purpose should be to please God; He will be the one to examine the motivations of our heart (1 Thessalonians 2:4).
So should I feel guilty for going to the gym to improve my physical health? No, we are free in Christ. But should I be placing exercise as my number one priority? No, God should be our number one priority. Physical activity provides many cardiovascular benefits, so I’m not trying to deter you from exercise—that’s not the point. You should be exercising your body, but more importantly, you should be exercising your spirit.
So can we combine the two—physical and spiritual exercise? So glad you asked.
Spending time with God is often stereotyped as sitting in a quiet room, nose-deep in a bible or sitting in silence in church, but it doesn’t have to be that way. However you choose to spend time with God is your decision, but there are ways to incorporate Him at the gym or doing other daily activities. Pray out loud or talk to God while you’re commuting to and from work, folding laundry, or gardening. Listen to praise music or sermons or pray to God while you’re walking on the treadmill.
Lately, I’ve been listening to sermons while I’m working out. Cardio with Christ. This completely changed the dynamic of my workouts. I become so focused on the sermon that I don’t even realize I’ve been on the elliptical for 30 minutes. I love when that happens!
I’m refreshed knowing I didn’t spend 5 minutes rushing through my daily devotion so I had time to get my workout in. Time with God isn’t a task that you check off your to-do list each day; it is about building a relationship with Him. My gym time, although still important to me, feels less obligatory now. Some mornings, I totally skip my work out because I’m so involved with my scripture reading. Some days, I’m 35 minutes into a Francis Chan sermon while on the treadmill and completely focused on the message.
Physical health and spiritual health are both important, but I believe being spiritually healthy trumps the other. Spend time with God on a regular basis. If you’re a regular gym-goer like me, incorporate some Jesus in your workout! Find whatever works for you and stick to it!