The apostle Paul aptly likens the Christian's race to the athletic contests of his day, drawing a parallel between the self-discipline, rigorous training, and temperance of the athlete who is sufficiently in earnest to strive for victory, and the necessity of a similar determination on the part of the Christian who seeks to win the incorruptible crown,
"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly ; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air : but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." 1 Cor. 9 :24-27.
We are well acquainted with the fact that the successful athletes of today undergo a period of training prior to the contest, for they recognize the absolute necessity of living fully in harmony with the laws of nature in order to better themselves and secure physical superiority. "Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown."
The incentive to live healthfully for health's sake is a worthy one. The Christian, however, has a higher and holier motive. Hygienic living repays in dividends of happiness, increased efficiency, physical and mental superiority, and a minimum of "dis-ease." The advantages of such living are universally recognized and unquestioned. Perhaps the most striking results of accurately controlled living and scientific feeding are to be seen in experiments on animals. Benefits and achievements in many cases have been little short of phenomenal. But mankind is usually unwilling to live so unreservedly in compliance with nature's laws.
The modern successful dairyman gives diligent thought and study to the proper feeding and care of his herd. Likewise, poultrymen and those engaged in lines of animal husbandry recognize that the difference between success and failure lies largely in the attention they give to nutrition, cleanliness, and favorable physical factors. This is biologic living.
The Christian is admonished, "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." 1 Cor. 6:19, 20.
The Christian's higher and holier incentive to live for health and physical fitness is that he may glorify God. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." Rom. 12 :1.
"The knowledge that man is to be a temple for God, a habitation for the revealing of His glory, should be the highest incentive to the care and development of our physical powers. Fearfully and wonderfully has the Creator wrought in the human frame, and He bids us make it our study, understand its needs, and act our part in preserving it from harm and defilement."—"Ministry of Healing," p. 271.
Influences Spiritual Experience
Living in harmony with the laws that make for health therefore embraces our desire to present our bodies to God in the best physical condition possible, a living sacrifice acceptable unto God. Furthermore, we are clearly taught that hygienic living influences spiritual experience and our expectation of the life to come.
"In teaching health principles, keep before the mind the great object of reform,--that its purpose is to secure the highest development of body and mind and soul. Show that the laws of nature, being the laws of God, are designed for our good ; that obedience to them promotes happiness in this life, and aids in the preparation for the life to come."— Id., p. 146.
The following statement is a very striking one emphasizing the far-reaching effect of physical habits upon perfection of character : "The body is the only medium through which the mind and the soul are developed for the upbuilding of character. Hence it is that the adversary of souls directs his temptations to the enfeebling and degrading of the physical powers. His success here means the surrender to evil of the whole being. The tendencies of our physical nature, unless under the dominion of a higher power, will surely work ruin and death."—Id., p. 130.
Observance of the laws of healthful living is much more than a matter of biologic living, for it involves spiritual experience and sanctification. "God desires us to reach the standard of perfection made possible for us by the gift of Christ. He calls upon us to make our choice on the right side, to connect with heavenly agencies. to adopt principles that will restore in us the divine image. In His written word and in the great book of nature He has revealed the principles of life. It is our work to obtain a knowledge of these principles, and by obedience to cooperate with Him in restoring health to the body as well as to the soul."—Id., pp. 114, 115.
From the foregoing it is clearly evident that the health reform message means much to the Christian. It enters into the habits of daily life and becomes a factor in character formation. Its influence goes far beyond the field of hygiene or health propaganda. The high purpose of our health message, therefore, is to secure the highest possible development of body, mind, and soul in order to promote our happiness and to aid in a preparation for the life to come.
H. M. W.