I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately: Is my commitment to fitness getting in the way of my relationship with God? Am I committed in a spiritually healthy way, or is fitness an idol? I know that a lot of people find that fitness and spirituality go hand-in-hand, but I think that there’s a fine line that can be crossed into an idolatry-type relationship with fitness.
This all came about back in September. I signed up to run my first half marathon and began training for it soon after. I also wanted to rededicate myself to making my faith a priority, as my relationship with God was not as strong as it had been in the past.
I thought that running would be a great time for prayer (which it is), but I started to notice that I would ONLY pray when I was running. I would ONLY pray that God would be with me on my run and help me get through the workout. That’s not what I had in mind when I wanted to make my relationship with God grow: my half marathon training was my first priority, and my “growing” relationship with God was solely based on running and working out.
One of the Ten Commandments states, “You should have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). He also says, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them” in Exodus 20:4-5. Now, I know that we don’t have an altar built in our home to fitness/healthy living, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an idol.
The definition of idol, according to Merriam-Webster can be “a representation or symbol of an object of worship; a false god”, but it also includes “an object of extreme devotion”. The definition of worship is an integral part of that definition: “extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem”. In other words, an idol is something that we love in place of loving God.
So, examine your own relationship with fitness. Does it come before everything else in your life, including God? Does your commitment to fitness take the place of your commitment to God? Does it prevent you from truly loving God and following His way?
If this is something that you are dealing with, hear some good news from 1 Corinthians 10:13-14:
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.”
You can flee from the idol you are worshiping and turn back to God. I’ve been there, and it took some prayer and time. I’m happy to say that I have a spiritually healthy relationship with fitness now.
What I’ve started doing on runs now is using that time to listen to God. Growing in my relationship with Him requires two-way communication, and I use my running time as a time where I only focus on what He has to say. It’s not the only time I listen for Him, but that’s what I needed to do to put God before running. I also made reading and studying the Bible a daily priority, as well as continual prayer throughout the day.
I was reminded of this topic after completing some of my homework for the Breaking Free Bible study I'm currently doing. This week focused on the obstacles in our way on our journey toward freedom in Christ. One of the obstacles discussed is, in fact, idolatry.
Another Scriptural perspective on this topic is from Isaiah 44:6-23. It talks about the danger of idolatry, but verses 21-22 provide a great reminder for us:
“Remember these things, Jacob,for you, Israel, are my servant.
I have made you, you are my servant;
Israel, I will not forget you.
22 I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me,
for I have redeemed you.”
God is the only thing that can take His place in our life. If we try to fill it with something else, we will still be missing something. Turn to Him and you will be fulfilled!
Funny story about the original guest post: When I was at Erin's wedding this summer, one of the bridesmaids Megan (I knew her during college through Erin) told me that she'd stumbled upon my guest post on Jessica's blog! She told me that she and other women on the Army base she lives on were discussing the topic of idolatry in Bible study, and one of the women found my guest post! She shared it with Megan, and Megan figured out that I was the one who wrote the post! What a small world, but I'm so glad that my little blog post could reach out to a group of people so far away.
So, please share your thoughts on this topic in the comments if you feel led! I hope this was beneficial and that God spoke to you (even just one person who read this) in a new way.