The Spiritual Benefit of Exercise and Rest

In my inbox, I received two articles that I highly recommend—one for the pastor and another for the Christian layperson.  As someone who had to make some physical and dietary adjustments.  Looking back, the weight I gained (I went into college 135 and graduated seminary eight years later with my music degree at 165, then six years later with my MDiv at 206) was a combination of burning the midnight oil in studies, gallons of soft drinks (especially Mountain Dew and Vault), and making little time for consistent exercise.  Now, 135 was too bony for me, but 206 numbered me among other Southern Baptist pastors who are struggling with being overweight.

So, I found value in these articles, and wanted to pass them along so other pastors and believers would not fall into the same cycle I did.  Make those

Tim Spivey contributes an article to ChurchLeaders.com on 5 Physical Ways to Prepare for Sundays

When I began preaching, I dramatically underestimated its physical dimension. All of my energy went into the preparation of the soul and the sermon through study and prayer. It’s hard to fault this, at one level. However, my ignoring of the physical part of my being left me feeling irritable, tired, and useless to my family for the rest of Sundays.

On Mondays, I felt as though I had been up all night–I was tired, my throat was hoarse, and I was grumpy. I also began to realize that ignoring my physical being made me a poorer preacher. I had less energy, less mental clarity, and though I’m a major extrovert–less desire to be around people. Why? I was just tired.

Some experts have put the physical toll of preaching a 30-minute sermon at an 8-hour workday (physical labor). Think about that–all of that work jammed into 30 minutes. For those who preach multiple services, the toll can be enormous.

I have friends that take weekly shots of vitamins, experience chronic pain from depleted adrenaline, and a host of other physical problems because of the toll preaching takes on them. Most of them are among the most disciplined people I know–which is why they are seeking ways to solve this unsustainable pace. Nevertheless, preaching just takes a lot of energy.

He is correct.  Preaching takes more energy out of me than a two-mile run, a session of P90X, or most other types of physical exercise.  I, too, underestimated it. 

Later, I received in my inbox Kevin DeYoung’s blog post a quote from D.A. Carson from his book Scandalous.  This was a follow-up from Thursday’s contribution Stop Your Cheatin’ Ways, talking about how your body will catch up on the rest you deprive it of.  If you pull an all-nighter thinking you have extra hours burning the midnight oil, your body will find ways to get that rest in other hours later on. 

Back to Carson:

Doubt may be fostered by sleep deprivation. If you keep burning the candle at both ends, sooner or later you will indulge in more and more mean cynicism—and the line between cynicism and doubt is a very thin one. Of course, different individuals require different numbers of hours of sleep: moreover, some cope with a bit of tiredness better than others. Nevertheless, if you are among those who become nasty, cynical, or even full of doubt when you are missing your sleep, you are morally obligated to try to get the sleep you need. We are whole, complicated beings; our physical existence is tied to our spiritual well-being, to our mental outlook, to our relationships with others, including our relationship with God. Sometimes the godliest thing you can do in the universe is get a good night’s sleep—not pray all night, but sleep. I’m certainly not denying that there may be a place for praying all night; I’m merely insisting that in the normal course of things, spiritual discipline obligates you get the sleep your body need.

As I look back on my Christian walk, the times when I struggled the most were times in school (college or seminary) and when I had small children that required me to stay up at odd hours of the night.  In school, I really did think I was getting some extra hours by being the night owl.  But when I would come home for a break, instead of sleeping 7-8 hours, I would sleep 10-12.  My body was exhausted—and so was my spirit! 

There are plenty of websites to help you count calories, to learn how to exercise from all levels—but without good rest, you will counteract much of the good you have done to your body.

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