Recently I abandoned my belief in the secret rapture, instead taking the view that the church will be present for the seven years of great tribulation. My belief is that such will be a very difficult time of the church similar to that of Israel (or more specifically Judah) during the time of Jeremiah. Christians will be in constant physical danger, often having to relocate or flee, and providing for even the bare necessities of life (food, clothing, shelter) will be difficult. We will have to rely totally on God to supply all our needs instead of any country, government, economic system etc. Instead, the nations, governments, militaries, political and economic systems etc. will be united against us. It will be completely the opposite of the easy, decadent living that western Christians have known and enjoyed for hundreds of years … the very same which many Christians are apparently willing to torture and kill other people in order to preserve.
And I regret to say that if these horrible difficult times for the church were to occur any time soon, I have no idea how I would stand a chance! I would be one of the very first to be captured trying to run away! Why? Because like a heavily disproportionate number of evangelical or fundamentalist Christians from the deep south, my health is in terrible shape. Now a few short years ago God miraculously preserved my health by instantly healing my worsening asthma as well as damage to my kidneys caused by my longtime overuse of over the counter asthma medicine. But this is the thing: the need to manage my asthma was my primary motivation for at least trying to keep my weight down. With that sole restraint out of the way, I have now ballooned to about 75 pounds more than I was when I was unloading trucks for a living!
For the longest, I have been deluding myself as to the true seriousness of my physical condition, brought on by the sins of gluttony and sloth (as well as my love for red meat, eggs, cheese, and soft drinks!) but now my eyes are opened. It happened just recently, as my frustration with the messages in my children’s television shows reached the tipping point (specifically the homosexual pagan lemur character in “Penguins of Madagascar” … the person who originally did the voice for this character in the movie versions was Jesus Christ hating Sacha Baron Cohen of the movie “Bruno” … need I say more?) and I decided that the entertainment for my children was going to (as much as possible) be “the great outdoors” as opposed to Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Disney. Hiking, fishing, exploring … I was even considering challenging my long-held aversion to (fear of!) camping and swimming. And no, I am not ashamed to acknowledge that the idea that Christians JUST MAY NEED SURVIVAL SKILLS motivated me just a little.
Then I was confronted with cold, hard reality. My very first trip to a local park with this nice little mountain trail, made very easy and accessible for THE ELDERLY left me huffing, puffing and sweating (but thank God no wheezing or any other asthma symptoms whatsoever … again the asthma is gone praise be to Jesus Christ, and no I didn’t “grow out of it” but it was the worst that it had ever been right up to the home prayer session that me and my family had!) after 20 minutes. My kids and I had gone MAYBE a quarter of a mile. They were having a great time looking at birds, trees, and the mountain (which is actually a hill, but don’t tell the locals that!) but they had to leave because their old man couldn’t keep up with them! Now I continued lying to myself, thinking “this is nothing that a few trips on the treadmill won’t fix” while driving myself to yet another fast food restaurant. But the very next trip, to a park with a small waterfall, their excellent time was cut short by my physical limitations. So, three thoughts popped into my head.
A) I was actually in much better shape when I had asthma. Even if I did have to take a few puffs of my inhaler from time to time, I was actually capable of walking all day. Now, I can barely walk for 30 minutes! For my to practically reject God’s gracious and merciful healing of my body by allowing myself to get in such poor physical condition that I cannot realize the benefits of the blessing is a terrible commentary on my spiritual (not physical but spiritual!) condition. I recall the man that Jesus Christ healed to whom Christ said “stop sinning or else something worse will come upon you.” Well, anyone needing evidence that gluttony (both eating too much and eating the wrong things) and sloth are sins only need to look at my person, for again I am actually in worse condition than I was when I had asthma. Paul Washer regularly mentions how so many Christians are killing themselves with our eating and exercise habits, and it appears that he was talking directly to me!
B) I was thinking “wow, if U.N. secretary general/global leader were to give the ’round up all Bible believing Christians’ order, I wouldn’t even be able to grab my kids and make it to the car, let alone run up the side of some mountain!” Begging the indulgence of all amillennialists and preterists, remember Matthew 24 when Jesus Christ said “escape to the mountains!” when the time of sorrows comes? I am too fat and out of shape to comply with that commandment!
C) Also, without even needing some endtimes scenario, I realized that it would have merely taken our being pursued by some desperate criminal or some rabid raccoon (or any emergency which would have required my grabbing my children and carrying them while outrunning something or someone somewhere) to expose how reckless and irresponsible I have been with my health and in this way would not be able to fulfill the physical requirements of being the steward, the head of my family as the Bible requires.
And yes, I also recall having read this book on evangelism whose author stated that overweight evangelists, missionaries, pastors etc. are often not taken seriously, especially in areas of the country and world where physical fitness, by the people that they are attempting to minister to. So, I am immediately going to start incorporating diet and exercise as part of my personal approach to Christian living. If nothing else, it would exhibit wisdom and self-control, and against such things there is no law!
P.S. No, this is not an endorsement of the “health” portion of the prosperity doctrine. Nor do I endorse the increasingly common practice of churches calling themselves “family life” or “whole person” centers and building fitness centers and doing things like offering dance aerobics (to gospel music of course!). Just as 1 Corinthians 11:34 says “if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation” then it follows that we should do our EXERCISING at home (or at least at someplace other than church!) also. After all, if going to go to church to lose weight, who is going to evangelize the overweight people that go to the gyms?