There is a population of Christians out there who refuse to go to the gym on spiritual principles. They see it as a place of idolatry of the body and a sickening of the mind. I am not denying that there is some truth to that way of thinking, but if we shunned every place that fell into that category we would 1.) never leave our homes and 2.) do absolutely no earthly good in reaching people for Jesus. So, what to do? How can we follow biblical principles when we face this “ Christians vs The Gym ” mentality?
Before we tackle that issue let’s get a little definition out-of-the-way. Any time I refer to “The Gym” it can mean the actual gym and/or any spirit sapping place to workout (sport team, pool, cycling club, martial arts dojo, etc). Any place you may find to get in a good workout on the lifelong road of working your Fun Fitness and staying healthy.
The Struggle Is Real
The issue that so many Christians take with the gym is the often overwhelming negative and degrading atmosphere focused on looks, who’s who, and personal gain. Sometimes it slams you in the face your first time there and sometimes it slowly seeps into your consciousness like a toxic ooze (mmm, yummy). Either way, if you are walking around with your eyes open and your focus on Christ you can’t miss it.
It’s on the face of the 100 lb soaking wet woman running that treadmill like her life depends on it. It’s in the atmosphere surrounding the group of guys trying to out muscle each other as they rotate machines. It’s the aura surrounding the primped and styled young woman wearing $200 workout attire but not dripping a drop of sweat actually working out.
The atmosphere can drain you of the desire or motivation to workout for the right reasons. It is disheartening to feel like this is the place you have to go to get in the workout you want to do for your body’s good health. Short of buying a lot of expensive equipment to workout at home with, the gym is many people’s best option for getting in a quality workout.
However, constantly swimming in this type of environment puts you in danger of slipping into a wrong mindset. If you are not consciously protecting your heart and mind with the truths of Jesus this is a legitimate concern. Before you know it, you could start comparing yourself to those around you at the gym.
- How come I’m not seeing the results that person is?
- I wish I could afford running shoes like theirs.
- I’m so glad I don’t huff and puff like that person on the treadmill.
- Whew! I’m not working out next to HIM, he never wears deodorant!
- Why can’t that person just hurry up already, I need to use THAT machine before I leave. *not comparing but we’re all guilty of something similar
When we start comparing ourselves like this we take the focus off of Jesus and his will for us and turn it all around to Me, I and Myself. When the focus is on us and what we want the odds of doing his will are slim to none. And what is our motive as Christians for working out? To be a good steward of the body God gave us by keeping it healthy for as long as we are here. Not trying to reach a certain pants size, lift a certain max, or run a certain time for selfish reasons. Read more on this in Is Losing Weight Biblical? Why Christians Should Care About Getting In Shape.
Treat the gym as a ministry opportunity and PREPARE for it as such. Go into it with the mindset that we should go into every day with. That we are ambassadors for Jesus everywhere we go and must shine his love to those around us. How do you do that specifically at the gym?
Pray ahead of each gym visit. Literally put an alarm on your phone 30-60 minutes before you go to the gym to remind yourself to pray. Pray for the individuals you will encounter to have a heart and mind open to Christ. Pray for them by name if you know them. Pray for your and their safety. Pray for a positive and constructive environment. Pray that you would have the wisdom and courage to speak to them whatever God knows they need to hear.
Stay in the word to 1.) better understand who you are in Christ and 2.) have the answers you need when God opens the doors of ministry to you. He will allow you to meed people you can build relationships with that you can pour into as the Spirit leads. You may plant the seed, water it, or praise God harvest it! Just be open to the will of the Spirit in whatever he shows you.
If possible, motivate your workout with the Christian music of your choice to keep the right mindset during your time there. Whether you like contemporary Christian pop, rock, or old school gospel choose something that will keep you motivated and your mind on Christ.
Finally, continually pray throughout the workouts. We are instructed to pray unceasingly in 1 Thessalonians and this is especially vital when in an environment that is a SERIOUS field of ministry opportunity. As you go through whatever specific workout routine you have for the day, try to see those around you that Jesus is drawing to your attention. Pray for them, their situation, their family, or whatever the Spirit guides you to. Just pray.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances;for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18
I don’t particularly approve of the idea of avoiding the gym for spiritual grounds. However, maybe you are the parent of a youngster who you don’t feel is mature enough to not get sucked into the gym atmosphere. Or maybe you feel called to avoid the gym for another legitimate reason. That decision is between you and God and no one else. Particularly me.
So, alternatively I have seen a need that is not being filled in many churches. That is a REAL workout group at your church. One that is based on relationship building, ministry, and attaining real healthy results. Truth is, I have never attended a church that had any ministries that bridged the gap between Christianity and physical fitness beyond the occasional kids sports team.
Some of you may be thinking about the YMCA or similar institutions. The reason I’m not pointing you to them is that in the limited experience I’ve had with them they seem to just say a short prayer before activities and then just leave Christ there. Maybe they aren’t all like that. I honestly haven’t been around them enough to know for sure.
But, if your going to do it… do it right. Go all out! Why not start a group at your own church with the foundation of ministry and relationship building as the core principles with the workout as the vehicle for the whole thing. Break a serious sweat and share Jesus with each other all at the same time. Sounds cool to me!
In closing Christians vs The Gym should be a thing of the past that… just… quite… isn’t. Every time we step out of our doors we should be walking ministers and ambassadors for Jesus. Because, truthfully, wither you like it or not that is EXACTLY WHO YOU ARE if you call yourself a Christian. This includes every time you go to the gym, a sports team practice, the pool, the local cycling club, the martial arts dojo, or anywhere else you choose to workout. It’s who you are called to be and who you should be proud to be. Jesus loves you sooo much. He also loves every single person you go to the gym with. Why not let them know that next time you see them?
Thoughts or comments? There’s a spot for that below! Fire Away!