IF WE were to characterize the ideal Seventh-day Adventist minister, we might use a variety of descriptive adjectives— kind, friendly, cheerful, patient, tolerant, dependable, energetic, enthusiastic, progressive, and efficient—among others. These personal attributes are unquestionable assets for a man who has dedicated his life to the urgent task of proclaiming God's redemptive plan to a confused, dissolute, and troubled world. The witness of words that a minister bears must be accompanied by the testimony of character and the possession of Christian virtues.
The message of health reform that has been an integral part of Adventist teaching almost from the very beginning of the Advent Movement is intimately related to the process of sanctification and character building. The principles of healthful living contained in the Spirit of Prophecy writings, if correctly understood and faithfully practiced, will bear fruit not only in increased physical well-being but also in the development and strengthening of Christian virtue. Let us illustrate.
Although millions in our world are constantly hungry and malnourished, there is a large segment of the population that is overfed. The twin evils of overeating and underactivity have produced in our modern, affluent society a multitude of over weight people. The health hazards of obesity are well documented. Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and a decrease in over-all life expectancy are well-known consequences of overweight. But beyond these known scientific facts, what are the personal effects of obesity on the life pattern of the person affected?
Forty-four Pounds Extra
Picture, if you will, a minister who is twenty kilos (forty-four pounds) heavier than he ought to be for optimum health. Try to imagine him on a mid-morning pastoral call some hot summer day. With obvious difficulty he pries himself from be neath the steering wheel of his little Volkswagen. Wearily he climbs to the third-floor apartment and arrives puffing noisily be cause of shortness of breath. Once inside the living room, he drops heavily into the nearest overstuffed chair, only too happy to sip a tall glass of sweetened drink while he recovers from the exertion of carrying twenty kilos of extra fat up three flights of stairs. What is lacking in the picture we have described? The dynamic qualities— vigor, energy, enthusiasm, and physical efficiency. These vital ingredients of an effective ministry are in short supply be cause of a failure to comply with certain basic principles of healthful living.
Wolfs It Down
Let us next consider another variety of worker. He has no problems from over weight. He is trim, vigorous, and efficient. But his restless, driving disposition presents different, though none the less serious, physical and spiritual hazards. His daily routine of relentless activity is likely to begin at an early hour. No time for breakfast. Perhaps he has to get over to the church early in order to supervise repair work on the roof. He plans to get home at noon for a prepared meal, but something is always turning up—something like a discussion with the printer regarding some changes in his evangelistic handbills. Lunch turns out to be only a sandwich and a piece of fruit taken on the run. His evening meal, prepared by his wife, who is a good cook, is excellent, tasty, and nutritious. But how quickly he wolfs it down! After all, a minister can't be late for his own prayer meeting.
Everyday follows a similar routine—constant activity with a wide variety of programs and projects. Good projects, too. But through it all, there is an almost ruthless disregard for his own personal, physical needs. Sooner or later the price for this type of neglect has to be paid. It may come as a tightness in the neck, or a constricting band-like headache. Trouble may develop in the stomach as a burning, gnawing indigestion which the doctor eventually will diagnose as a peptic ulcer.
Physical discomfort may be only part of the results that can develop from such in temperate living and such misguided zeal. In time these tensions and stresses with their resulting physical distresses make it increasingly more difficult for the sufferer to be charitable and patient with the petty shortcomings of others. When such a person feels really bad (and this has a tendency to be progressively more frequent), he may find it almost impossible to be cheerful or even civil with fellow workers, parishioners, and even with his own family. He may find himself sharp-tongued and critical toward his wife, and unreasonable and harsh in the punishment of his children for minor accidents at the dinner table or for making quite normal childhood noises around the house. Some may even say "the pastor just isn't himself anymore. He's so irritable and short tempered." What a tragedy, and the heart of the tragedy is an unwise course of intemperate living that has caused not only a physical deterioration but a definite spiritual decline as well.
Virtue Elevated or Degraded
Well over fifty years ago God revealed to His special messenger the intimate relationship that exists between physical habits and spiritual health.
Let none who profess godliness regard with indifference the health of the body, and flatter themselves that intemperance is no sin, and will not affect their spirituality. A close sympathy exists between the physical and the moral nature. The standard of virtue is elevated or degraded by the physical habits. Excessive eating of the best of food will produce a morbid condition of the moral feelings. And if the food is not the most healthful, the effects will be still more injurious. Any habit which does not promote healthful action in the human system degrades the higher and nobler faculties. Wrong habits of eating and drinking lead to errors in thought and action." --Counsels on Health, p. 67. (Italics supplied.)
Our bodies must be kept in the best possible condition physically, and under the most spiritual influences, in order that we may make the best use of our talents. Read I Cor. 6:13.
A misuse of the body shortens that period of time which God designs shall be used in His service. By allowing ourselves to form wrong habits, by keeping late hours, by gratifying appetite at the expense of health, we lay the foundation for feebleness. By neglecting to take physical exercise, by overworking mind or body, we unbalance the nervous system. Those who thus shorten their lives by disregarding nature's laws, are guilty of robbery toward God. We have no right to neglect or misuse the body, the mind, or the strength, which should be used to offer God consecrated service.—Ibid., p. 41.
In Romans 12:1 the apostle Paul wrote, "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." That living sacrifice which we offer to God should be as unblemished and undefiled, and as healthy and sound as it is possible for us to make it. Only then can we render the type of service that is truly representative in word and example of a leader in the remnant church of God.
Guidelines to Health
In order for us to have some guidelines to direct our daily lives in a program of progressive health reform, let us consider a few simple but comprehensive rules:
1. Eat sparingly of a simple, balanced, nutritious diet, excluding animal flesh, condiments, and the free use of fats and sugars. Avoid overweight.
2. Eat only at regular mealtimes. Eat slowly and chew thoroughly. Make meal time a relaxed and pleasant occasion.
3. Get daily, active, outdoor exercise. Vigorous walking is a good exercise readily available to everyone.
4. Get adequate sleep at night, and take sufficient time during the week for necessary rest, relaxation, and wholesome recreation.
5. Drink at least six glasses of pure water daily. Avoid the use of all the stimulating drinks—tea, coffee, and the carbonated cola beverages.
6. Keep your body, your clothing, and your home sweet, clean, and full of health through a regular program of personal cleanliness.
7. Have an annual physical examination by a competent physician. Report any potentially dangerous signs or symptoms of ill health to your doctor promptly.
8. Avoid self - treatment. Medicines should not be taken unless specifically prescribed by a competent physician.
9. Make it your business to learn more about your body and the preservation of health. Study the Spirit of Prophecy counsels on health, and supplement this with the modern, scientific health information presented in our denominational health journals and books.
10. Maintain a vital, living connection with the Source of health through prayer and the study of the Word of God.
Remember health is not an accident nor is it an undeserved blessing bestowed by God. Health comes from obedience to the laws of health. Of all people we are blessed by having an abundance of wise counsel on the truth of healthful living. Let us avail ourselves of it fully and put it into daily practice in a progressive program of personal health reform that will bear its intended fruit—a sound body, a clear mind, and a noble character.