Commentary on "Celebrating Spiritual and Physical Fitness"
Day 1: Sabbath Afternoon, April 10, 2010
Saturday’s lesson introduces readers to the theme of physical fitness as related to spiritual fitness by using runner Roger Bannister as an illustration. He was the first athlete who ran the mile under four minutes, and he did so the day after slipping on a polished floor and limping for the rest of that day. The lesson explicitly explains that this remarkable feat of Bannister’s is less important than the spiritual race of a Christian. The Christian’s spiritual race, the lesson explains, requires preparation for a better and more worthy prize. While the race is spiritual, the readers are told that for optimal success, they need to have not only the “best spiritual fitness” but also the “best physical fitness”.
The lesson proceeds on the basic assumption that true spirituality depends at least partly on physical fitness. Without it, the spiritual race cannot be won. With this view the authors depart from the biblical description of what constitutes progress in sanctification. The author’s opinion, if carried to its logical conclusion, will imply that the aging process and the decay of the physical body at a considerable age ruins anybody’s ability to finish the spiritual race well. No matter how much training a person does in order to be in shape, it is impossible to beat the curse of sin or to prevent the aging of the body and finally, death. No athlete after a certain age will be able to have optimal “physical fitness” as he did in his youth. If physical fitness is a condition for winning the spiritual race, the elderly have their chances diminished with every breath they take.
Fortunately the Bible presents us with the true picture of progress in sanctification despite the aging of the body. In his second epistle to the Corinthians, Apostle Paul explains the reason why God uses us and our bodies, which are fragile and plagued with weaknesses. He wants to make clear that the efficiency and power of the message does not rest in the messenger’s fitness and ability, but in God’s power to sanctify and carry the message:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Cor. 4:7).
And this reality will become progressively clear as time goes by:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. (2 Cor. 4:16)
God renews daily our “spiritual fitness”, but this renewal is not paralleled by physical fitness but rather is contrasted with the progressive lost of physical fitness.
In conclusion, the lesson is built on a false premise which presents the subject of physical fitness as being directly related to the spirituality of the believer. The Bible doesn’t endorse this particular view; it rather makes clear that God’s display of his glory and power is seen when the gap between sanctification and physical fitness grows larger as time goes by.
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