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Better health, better choices

Before reading this, would you pause a moment to join me in praying for those impacted by the three major hurricanes that have ravaged parts of the Caribbean and America’s Southeast? Also, for Mexico as they dig out from several major earthquakes that have killed hundreds and left thousands more homeless?

I started regularly videotaping a short message about upcoming events at our church to post online. Feedback was mostly positive except for one friend who suggested I purchase a tripod and film future messages from above so people would not see the sags and wrinkles around my chin and neck.

“What?” I thought. “What sags? What wrinkles?” Then I looked in the mirror. “Oh. Those. I have a lot of them.”

Yep — I’m old and have the body to prove it: wrinkles, sags and all.

God made us each unique — some are athletic, some are not. Some healthy, some not. Some skinny. Some not. But all of us are beautiful, inimitable, creations of God designed with a purpose. God provided our bodies to better serve that purpose.

In a letter to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul wrote: “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” (1 Cor. 19-20)

As Temples, our bodies do not belong to ourselves as much as they belong to God. How well are you honoring God through the Temple you were given? So, this is not as much about our bodies and appearance as it is about our readiness to serve. How active are you in using the gifts God has given you in service of God? How well is the church helping you and others care for your temple, your body? How well is your church actively helping those who struggle with limitations and illness?

As you read this, please don’t think that I have become a super health advocate. I confess to a severe weakness for ice cream and anything that contains chocolate, nuts or caramel. Exercise does not excite me; I work long hours and don’t get enough sleep, so I definitely need to take better care of my temple.

My recent heart problems offered a stark reminder that good health should never be taken for granted. Severe illness encourage selfish behavior. For me, thoughts of serving God were replaced by self-concerns: feed me, heal me, take care of me. Everything was about me.

But I was not called by God to a life focused on me. As I write, Puerto Rico is enduring one of the worst hurricanes ever to strike the island. Electricity is gone. Nearly every structure is damaged and many hundreds and thousands of lives are lost, injured or left homeless. Mexico City is digging out from a devastating earthquake. They found a girl buried in a building but hundreds more are feared dead.

We are called by God to make a difference in the lives of others but if we don’t bother to take better care of the “Temples,” the bodies God provides, we will not be as effective as we should and could be.

For me, something needed to change. Part of that change was a conscious decision to make better choices when it came to taking care of my temple, my body.

Good health is something I no longer assume. I learned to appreciate what God provides and try to make better choices each day. But what about the times when you and I are not blessed with good physical health? So many people struggle with handicaps and illnesses of every kind. However, rather than be defeated by poor health, many people have made and still make courageous choices that inspire us.

The Apostle Paul had a thorn in the flesh he struggled with as he helped others.

Because we have a light shining in our hearts, because our jars contain a great treasure, we may be pressed by troubles but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; hunted down but never abandoned. Hurricanes and earthquakes may damage us but we are never destroyed.

Our suffering allows us to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may be seen.

So, the lesson is more about making better choices with what God has given us and to know there is a power within us far greater than our fragile jars, our bodies, our temples.

Can we embrace our situation as it is and take the opportunity to serve God as we are? Being willing to embrace is not giving up or giving in. It’s more like taking on a new challenge but more suited to our current situation. Learning to embrace is a reminder that you may be pressed by troubles but not crushed, perplexed but not driven to despair, hunted down but never abandoned, knocked down but not destroyed.

Rev. Larry Davies can be reached at larrydavies@sowingseedsoffaith.com.