Every Body Matters
This book completely blew me away. It was an amazing read. I think it should be in every church library and on every pastor's desk. It is a wakeup call to all Christians that we are body, mind and spirit and that in order to love and serve God to the best of our abilities we need to be nurturing and looking after all three areas of our life. Back when I was a student involved with Campus Ministries, I heard a talk that stated the human body is a like a car with three gas tanks - one physical, one spiritual and one intellectual and if any of the three run out of gas then the engine will have problems and not run well. This book brings to light the fact that Christianity often focuses only on the two and it is something that is costing us - it costs us in our witness, in our effectiveness and in our possible length of service to Jesus Christ.
This book is a series of examples from Gary's life and from a number of case studies. Another great strength of the book is the variety of examples and sources Gary uses to make his point. However this book is not a diet book, it is not a fitness guide, it is not a 'How to' this book is the theological argument for why we should look after and even work at improving or strengthening the body that God has given us.
Gary Thomas in quoting Elton Trueblood states: "Angels .?.?. are pure spirits without bodily needs, but men are not pure spirits. Men are combinations of body and mind and spirit, uniting in a working partnership both hand and brain. They thus have a variety of temptations and any valid religion will be frankly concerned with all of these." Thomas draws heavily from Christian traditions, from the saints of the church, from monastic movements and even almost a whole chapter focused around a movement called Muscular Christianity. Thomas states: "Socrates himself was a hardy figure, a physically fit former infantry soldier in the Athenian army. He recognized that all exercise and no study creates only half a man, just as all study and no exercise also creates half a man - in this case an effeminate, soft, overly sensitive man who isn't tough enough to address real life." That is what we need today, men and women who are fit physically so that they can be of greater service spiritually. Thomas has even paraphrased one of the Proverbs as a commentary on the form Christianity currently has slid into for the most part.
"Proverbs talks about fields, but you could apply this to just about any aspect of human existence:
I went past the field of a sluggard, past the vineyard of someone who has no sense; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins. I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest - and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man." Proverbs 24:30 - 34
Today's version might read as follows: I went past the body of a sluggard, past the body of someone who has no sense. His cholesterol was killing him from within; his high blood pressure was a tinderbox waiting to explode. His breath was labored, and he could barely move without breaking into a sweat. He said he had no time to exercise or to prepare healthier meals, but he lost hours going to the doctor and much money buying medicines to treat the symptoms rather than attack the disease. I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little softness, a life of overindulgence - and ill health will come on you like a thief and frailty like an armed man.
Over time, laziness, like excessive eating, has a way of outing itself."
Gary Thomas draws for a number of modern sources to reinforce his points and arguments. He says:
"What so many in the church don't see is that this physical battle has spiritual roots. Dr. Ed Young writes:
'Satan not only wants to suffocate your spiritual heart, he will do whatever he can to take away your physical heart. Jesus labeled the devil a "murderer"
(John 8:44). Satan is out to cause your physical death if he possibly can. Why does Satan want you physically dead? Because it would bring an abrupt end to your loving care for others, and the whole purpose to which God has called you. With you out of the way, he has eliminated a key person God wants to use to touch your family members, your neighbors, your friends, and others in your circle of influence'.
Dr. Young goes on: 'How can [Satan] get rid of you? Well, he knows you're too smart to fall for the temptation to jump off a bridge, throw yourself in front of a speeding train, or drink a bottle of cyanide.?.?.?. Remember: he's a con artist. He wants to trick you into doing his bidding, to cause you to think it's not too bad.
So he just might suggest more acceptable behaviors that could eventually gain him the same result, behaviors that will negatively affect your health.
If this is true - and it makes sense - Satan may attempt to ruin one man's ministry by luring him into a financial trap that will ultimately become a crime and thus wreck his business and his reputation; he may attempt to ruin a woman by gradually filling her mind with thoughts of fantasy toward a coworker and thoughts of malice toward her husband so that she is weakened and enters into an immoral affair. And he may get others to eat one too many bacon cheeseburgers without any corresponding exercise, and take them out that way. He doesn't care what brings our ministry to an end; he just wants it to end'."
All the while, Thomas writes the book around a series of case studies or examples, different people who have made changes to their lifestyle and fitness levels and have noticed a greater relationship with God and with those in their life. It has lead to a greater testimony. He drives home the point that we have been bought at a price and we are not our own. "Do today's Christians have any sense that our bodies don't belong to us? That caring for our bodies - eating appropriately, getting sufficient exercise - isn't a matter of what we're willing to live with but is rather a matter of discipleship and obedience?" Are we willing to head his warning and learn to become obedient in all areas of our lives, not just the spiritual ones? In quoting Dr. Cooper, Thomas declares: "Even more, I saw the spiritual side of this very physical issue. Dr. Cooper writes: 'The food you eat and the liquids you drink are a proper subject for prayer. After all, they can play a major role in your spiritual and emotional life and may be decisive in determining how well and energetic you feel - and how effectively you are able to accomplish your daily tasks.' All of us are like the aging athlete whose skills are slightly diminishing with every passing year. In our youth, we can get away with sloppy habits, but that day ends more quickly than most of us realize. And the longer it takes us to realize it, the bigger the health and illness hole we dig ourselves into. Eating habits aren't easy to break. It is far easier not to fall into such patterns in the first place. Younger readers, please take note: anyone over thirty will tell you it is far, far easier
to keep weight off than to lose it." This book was an incredible read. It was a challenge to me to find greater balance between body, mind and spirit. I have recommended it to over a dozen people. Give it a try and maybe you too will find greater physical health and vitality and through that, even greater spiritual discipline. You have nothing to lose except maybe a few pounds and bad habits, and you have lots to gain!
Books by Gary Thomas:
Every Body Matters
The Glorious Pursuit
Sacred Marriage Gift Edition
Devotions for a Sacred Marriage
Devotions for Sacred Parenting
Thirsting for God
Author Profile and Interview with Gary L Thomas.