Who doesn’t want to live a longer, happier life?
So… why did the pastor give a sermon on health at church? Aren’t sermons supposed to be about God’s love and care and other Biblical topics? Yes, they are, and that’s why health was the perfect topic, because not only is it a Biblical topic, but it also has to do with God’s love and care for you. Yes, God cares about your health! “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John Vs. 2, emphasis added). The God who made this universe gave us an instruction manual for how to care for our bodies: His Word. He says, “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you” (Exodus 15:26).
So, what’s the secret to a longer, healthier life? Longevity is influenced only 10% by your genes. The other 90% is your lifestyle.
National Geographic published an article entitled “How to Live Longer” by Dan Buettner. This man has done extensive research of people who live long lives, and has identified “Blue Zones” of the world where people tend to live longer (and we’re talking into their 100’s). You can check out his website here. Interestingly enough, while most of the blue zones were in other parts of the world, one blue zone was in Loma Linda, CA, among the Seventh Day Adventist community. What was it that caused this group of American people to live so long, especially in “Fast Food America,” where obesity and unhealthy eating habits are so prevalent?
Here are the four lifestyle choices that increase longevity the Dan Buettner found to be present in all Blue Zone areas.
1. Exercise. “If you’d don’t use it you will lose it.” But longevity-stimulating-exercise has nothing to do with going to the gym. It’s about moving naturally. In the Blue Zones, the people made physical activity a part of their daily lives. Gardening is a great example of this. Even in Eden, before sin and disease entered the world, God kept our first parents occupied with gardening. “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Jesus walked everywhere he went (excepting the time he rode on a donkey into Jerusalem)! Make physical activity a regular part of your life. Integrate it into every aspect of your life. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If it’s within walking distance, don’t drive. Get outside and play with your children or grand children.
2. Outlook on Life. Buettner found that those who live long lives are those who have answers to life’s questions and a purpose in life. “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Tim. 1:8-9). This is the ultimate purpose in life. Your place on the planet must begin with God. Success is not purpose. Many people are successful, but most of them are also miserable!! Isaiah 43:7 says that you were made to glorify God. Another important aspect is making sure that you take time to downshift. Slow down. Make life simpler. Take a break. All the people in the Blue Zones did this. Research has shown that it is optimal for health for people to take a day off every 7 days. God hard wired into us a Sabbath rest! A person who attends church at least once per week has half the risk for disease that others do. Read Isaiah 58:13-14–the Sabbath is not just for our spiritual regeneration, but also for our physical regeneration!
3. A plant-based diet. Buettner’s research basically came down to this: The more meat you eat, the earlier you’re going to die. Cut out as much meat as possible. No one ate meat before the fall. “And God said, ‘See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food'” (Genesis 1:29). After the flood, God made provision for eating clean meat. But He still was very specific that unclean meats should never be a part of the diet (see Leviticus 11). There seems to be three healthy diets to choose from–good, better, and best. A good diet is one that at least cuts out unclean meat. Even better is a vegetarian diet. The best diet is the vegan diet, one that cuts out all animal products. Buettner also found that portion control to be very important. Some of the centenarians in the Blue Zones recommended stopping food consumption when feeling 80% full. You see, your body takes about 20 minutes after you stop eating to catch your feelings up with how full you really are. Self control is key. 1 Corinthians 7:9 uses the phrase “exercise self control.” Self control is like a muscle, and if you don’t exercise it, it won’t be very strong. 1 Corinthians 9:25 states the importance of being “temperate in all things.”
4. Connecting. With God and with a faith-based community. The Bible says that the Sabbath is a holy convocation–a holy gathering together. Attending church once per week can add 4 to 14 years to your life. But there’s more to it than just getting together once a week (for an hour or two) for church. In Acts it says that the disciples got together daily to break bread and fellowship together. Spend time building lasting relationships. Invest in your family. Reach out to those around you who need assistance. Give back to your community. Also, spend time outside of the Sabbath studying God’s word together. People who study their Bibles are 40% less likely to have high blood pressure. Is that the reason Proverbs 4:20 says that the words of the Bible are “life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh“? (emphasis added).
You know, it pains a parent to see his or her children making poor choices. God feels the same way when we reject the provisions He has made for us to have “life and life more abundantly.” Won’t you cooperate with Him and find ways to integrate exercise into your daily life, live a life of faith, eat healthier, and connect with those around you? Not only will you bring glory and honor to your Creator, but in doing so you will also reap the reward of a longer, higher quality life. You can do it with God’s help!