We1 had recently conducted a vegetarian cooking class in our church. Many people enjoyed the samples, information, and fellowship. Several months later, my wife and I were shopping at a new supermarket that had just opened in town. We had come to see what products they carried and survey their prices.
Apparently, one of the cooking class attendees was shopping there also. She followed us afar off, observing what we placed in our cart. As we were standing in line at the checkout, she tapped my wife on the shoulder and made her presence known. They chatted for a few moments before she remarked, m am so glad to see that you practice what you taught us in class!” We were both relieved and pleased with this observation.
This is a poignant reminder to all of us who teach or preach that our choices are being observed and watched by others, sometimes when least expected.
According to the Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure, all patients with hypertension should be treated with lifestyle change, whether or not they need medications. However, this lifestyle counseling is not always provided or as effective as possible. Sometimes health-care providers are skeptical about patient compliance. What more can be done to help patients make lifestyle changes that will benefit them physically as well as mentally and spiritually? Research suggests that the answer may be related to the health habits of the physician.
One thousand primary care physicians completed a voluntary, Web-based survey called DocStyles 2010. This survey was designed to provide insight into physicians’attitudes and behaviors regarding a variety of health issues. The average age was 45.3 years, and 68 percent were male. Four percent smoked at least once a week, only 38.6 percent ate five or more cups of fruits or vegetables per day, and 27.4 percent exercised five or more days per week.2
Not surprisingly, those who exercised and did not smoke were significantly more likely to recommend the five lifestyle behaviors that are especially helpful in treating hypertension: eating a healthy diet, reducing salt intake, reaching a healthy weight, physical activity, and reducing alcohol intake.
Physicians and health-care professionals who practice a healthy lifestyle are more likely to promote this lifestyle to others. This applies not just to health-care professionals, for every person who lives the principles of healthful living will be more effective at sharing them with others.
Let us imagine that a similar survey of 100 preachers called PreacherStyles 2014 were to be conducted. What would this survey reveal? What kind of evidence would it bear to our own consistency in life? Do pastors live up to their own teachings? Perhaps the results would suggest a percentage of pastors are dishonest in relationships, spend time on pornography, or maybe spend untold hours watching sports and entertainment rather than participating in wholesome physical activity. You can guess what this kind of survey would reveal by filling in your own blanks.
Beyond our physical health, those of us who seek to teach and live the broader principles of biblical living (spiritual health) must be genuine in how we live. Even if no one were to observe our most secret behaviors or even survey us, we know we are being observed by heaven. The only way we can live truly transparent and consistent lives is through a genuine and rich relationship with Jesus. Then we can share Him effectively with others.
Paul, writing to the Hebrews, said, “Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:22, 23, NASB). God calls us to be sincere—genuine and real—to live what we profess both physically and spiritually. After all, God only asks us to do what is in our best interest and will give us the most abundant, fulfilling life possible. He will do this in us as we allow Him.
1 Dr. Hardinge and his wife.
2 O. Hung, N. Keenan, and J. Fang, Mysicians®ealth Habits Are Associated With Lifestyle Counseling for Hypertensive Patients,” American Journal of Hypertension 26, no. 2 (Feb. 2013):201–208.