Written by Ngozi Maduagwu
What comes to your mind when you hear the word health? For some, it may be brightly colored fruits and vegetables. For others, it may be a picture of a well-toned, physically fit person clad in athletic wear and for yet others, it could be a child radiating the epitome of joy and youthfulness. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines health as follows: “the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit; freedom from physical disease or pain; the general condition of the body; a condition in which someone or something is thriving or doing well.” When talking about health, emphasis is generally placed more on the physical, but I believe the first definition speaks to the truest nature of the meaning of health.
Human beings are tripartite beings and as such, health in fullest sense is that which manifests in every aspect of a person’s being – spirt, soul, and body. Scriptural support for this position is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 – 24
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you through and through [that is, separate you from profane and vulgar things, make you pure and whole and undamaged – consecrated to Him – set apart for His purpose]; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete and [be found] blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful and absolutely trustworthy is He who is calling you [to Himself for your salvation], and He will do it [He will fulfill His call by making you holy, guarding you, watching over you, and protecting you as His own]. (Amplified Version)
Although a person’s health at its best is measured holistically, the way it manifests in each part of our being is different. So, for instance, the fact that a person has ripped abs and can run a four-minute mile does not mean that they are emotionally stable. The same goes for one who maintains a healthy and balanced diet but does not spend time investing in their spiritual growth. Health in any aspect of our being requires intentional investment. Some parameters generally used to gauge one’s level of physical health include eating habits, exercise, regularity of bowel movements, adequate rest, productivity, and relationships. I believe that these same parameters could similarly be used to evaluate spiritual health.
Food and Nutrition –The saying goes that, ‘we are what we eat.’ This is true spiritually as well. In John 6:53 – 58, Jesus made the following statement:
“I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” (New International Version)
We know that Jesus was not talking about His physical flesh because He died and resurrected and is now seated at the right hand of the Father. However, John 1:14 reveals that, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” It is the Word of God that we eat (read and meditate on) that gives us life. A healthy spiritual diet consists of reading and meditating on all parts of the Word of God, and not just the parts we like, or are most familiar with.
Elimination and Excretion – A healthy gut is indicative of a healthy life. Regular bowel movement is usually a natural result of healthy eating habits. If a person eats the right balance of fiber and healthy fats along with all the other daily nutritional requirements, they will automatically excrete whatever the body considers to be waste material. The same is true of our spiritual lives. The more of the pure Word of God we take in, the more those things in our lives that do not line up with the Word of God will come to the surface through the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The prophet Jeremiah explains this as follows:
“The prophet who has a dream may tell his dream; but let he who has My Word, let him speak My word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat [for nourishment]?” says the Lord. “Is not My Word like fire [that consumes all that cannot endure the test]?” says the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks the [most stubborn] rock [in pieces]” – Jeremiah 23:29 (Amplified Version)
Our responsibility is to submit to God’s times of refining and pruning as we study His Word so that we can experience greater levels of spiritual health and prevent the outbreak of spiritual disease due to toxic build-up.
Exercise and Movement – It is recommended that a person do some sort of physical exercise for thirty minutes at least four times a week to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The key is intensity and consistency. To maintain spiritual health, a believer should also be intentional and consistent in engaging in activities that will help build their spiritual muscles. These include bible study and devotion time, prayer, and consistent engagement with and service in the local church, to mention but a few. According to Romans 10:17, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Romans 1:17 also explains that, “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” As such, we should be ever-increasing in our faith. This is achieved when we practice the spiritual exercise of reading and meditating on the Word of God.
Reproduction and Fruitfulness – In John 15:8, Jesus makes the following assertion, “This is to my father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” He had earlier explained how we can bear fruit in verse 4 of the same chapter, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” The closer we get to God, the more we will reflect Him. It is important to note that both healthy and unhealthy people reproduce, but the quality of what is produced is not the same. As believers, we want to continue to grow in spiritual health so that we will reproduce spiritually healthy sons and daughters who will in turn be fruitful. The concept of spiritual fruitfulness also extends to the results we see from using our God-given gifts. When we submit our gifts to God to be used for His glory, He blesses us and causes the gift to prosper far beyond what we could do on our own without Him.
Rest and Relaxation –God used six days to create the heavens and the earth and on the seventh day, He chose to rest. It is evident that God was not tired after six days of creation. I believe Hebrews 4:10 – 12 explains the principle behind this. It states,
“for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fail by following their example of disobedience. For the Word of God is living and active.”
Why did the author of Hebrews jump from talking about rest to talking about the Word of God? The Word of God is alive! When God said the last ‘let there be’ and saw that what He was made was good, He ceased from His labor. Isaiah 55:11 reminds us, “so is my Word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” WOW!!! God trusted in the integrity of His Word to keep on producing as He had sent it forth, so He did not have to keep laboring to make things happen. This is also why He says in Isaiah 30:15b, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” We need to change our way of thinking and learn to rest so that we can be saved. We need to trust that the Word of God can and will accomplish that which we send it to accomplish. We must learn to rest and cease from striving and laboring to make things happen only to become burned out at the end of the day. It is suggested that we get at least eight hours of sleep per day. Eight is a very significant number. It is the number for oxygen in the atomic table and it is also the number for new beginnings. As we seek to achieve spiritual health by learning to rest on God’s Word, we will experience refreshing and newness in our journey of faith.
Community and Accountability – Plants and people thrive in community. This is a witness to God the Creator being a relational God. Encouragement and growth are some positive outcomes from being involved in healthy communities. The author of Hebrews summarized this idea in Hebrews 10:25 as follows, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Active involvement in the local church is important as it provides opportunities for us to receive instruction in God’s Word and forge healthy relationships with people of like faith through fellowship. As equally important as community is accountability. Sometimes people get lost in the crowd, but having trusted intentional relationships such as counseling, discipleship, mentoring, or coaching provides opportunities to get direct feedback on areas that you may not be aware need work in your life. Every Timothy needs a Paul and every Paul needs a Barnabas (son of encouragement)!!!
In summary, a common thread amongst all these parameters is the Word of God. The Word of God is the foundation of our spiritual health. Jesus is the Word of God and our reflection of Him ultimately reflects our level of spiritual health. Living as He did and bearing the fruit of His Spirit brings glory to Him and great good to others.
“Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”