rebelling against low expectations

How do I exercise to the glory of God?


JOHN WRITES: I care about being attractive, to the point where I bring up my height and how buff (or not buff as is more likely the case) I am in most of my conversations with my friends and have a hard time not comparing myself to other people. I feel like my desire for other people to find me attractive has grown to the point where it is now an idol. This really puts me in a hard spot concerning exercise.

I know I should exercise, and I want to be healthy. But at the same time, I know that the only reason I want to exercise is so I won’t get fat and so I’ll be buff. Trust me when I say, if I could have a six-pack with no effort whatsoever on my part, I wouldn’t work out at all.

How can I have a godly view of exercise, and exercise for exercise’s sake rather than for the sake of my looks? Is it wrong to care how you look?

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  • Hello John!
    Those concerns about exercising are great! I would recommend to exercise regularly, although haven’t been doing it since I got really busy lately, but remember that God wants you to be healthy and strong.
    There will be other people who will exercise for the looks, but if you exercise to keep your body healthy, then you are giving God his honor by keeping your body healthy.
    Here are some verses talking about health:
    Proverbs 3.8
    3 John 1.2
    1 Corinthians 9.27
    1 Corinthians 6.19-20
    1 Timothy 4.8
    Roman 12.1
    1 Corinthians 9.24
    I hope this helps.

  • Hey John! I definitely identify with what you’re talking about. I know that if I waited for 100℅ pure motivations before I started to eat healthily and exercise, I would never start. Instead, I try to offer up my weakness and selfish motives to God each day, and ask him to replace them with a desire to glorify him in everything that I do. There are definitely days when I’m prideful about what I’m doing, but more often it’s the reverse, and being healthy feels too hard. Both of those feelings remind me that exercise and being healthy are devoid of significance unless I relinquish my own strength and rely on God’s, each and every day.

    • Thx! Yeah, no such thing as 100% pure motivations for anything. We’re all sinners.

      I’m just like, should I be able to ask God, “Please help me to be able to do so many pull-ups and please make me strong and tall. . .”

      But if instead we ask, “God, give me your value system. Let me exercise for the right reasons, and not for my own reasons. Let me not value myself on my looks etc.” Good point!

    • I usually run too. And you’re right, it’s hard and keeps you healthy, but won’t get you buff. But it’s a challenge, something you have to work for, and that’s my personal favorite form of exercise. and it does keep you healthy, in shape, and burns fat. 🙂

    • Yep! When I run, I can pray and sing worship songs and stuff rather than just think about “Oh, I’ll look so amazing!”

  • I struggle with wanting to look attractive rather than having pure motives when I exercise too. I agree that listening to worship music or just praying while you work out can help.
    Some people suggested running, because it doesn’t get you ‘buff’, but I don’t think it is wrong to want to be strong. God gave us muscles that can work in amazing ways, and He can use us in situations that need strength and fitness.
    Here are a few thoughts that have helped me:
    1) Don’t make it a goal to look a specific way. Different people have different body shapes and the same amount of exercise can look very different on other people.
    2) Try and find a type of exercise that is at least slightly fun for you. If you hate running, try mountain biking, or swimming, or cross fit. We can glorify God by enjoying activities He has made our bodies capable of and praising Him for them. Find a workout buddy who you like if that helps.
    3) In college, Jim Elliot did wrestling so as to have a more prepared and healthy body/life to give as a living sacrifice to God. Maybe pray while you work out about how God will use you in the future, pray to be pointed in the right direction, prepared, equipped. Learn to surrender your life today.

    Most of all, don’t be afraid to call worries about your appearance what they are – vanity. Admit to the friends closest to you that you struggle with vanity and comparison. Ask for their prayers. Rather than comparing yourself to others and thus judging them only at their face value, as just a body, look into their eyes, listen to what they have to say, learn about them as a person.
    God be with you in this struggle! He is there to help you glorify Him in every area of your life.

    • Thanks for this! Btw. if you didn’t figure this out already, I’m John, so you’re talking right at me 🙂 Thanks for addressing not just the question of godly exercise but also if it’s okay to care about how you look.

      1) That’s a hard one. I’m trying!
      2) I do dance, so that’s fun, but for that, I also need to workout. Like, as I get older (I’ll be 15 in a week) and start doing partnering things, I have to get stronger so that I can lift my partner and I need a stronger core so I can do certain moves etc. I think sometimes though even that can involve comparison. What moves can so and so do that I can’t. . .That guys buffer than me so on and so forth.
      3) That I haven’t thought of.

      Well, so I don’t mean to gossip or anything, but I think most of my friends probably have the same problem. I mean I don’t think we would be talking about our looks so often if they didn’t want to talk about it too. I guess I can still encourage them to take it seriously and talk about vanity, but I don’t know if it would really be helpful if we’re all dealing with the same problem. Don’t know.

        • Dance is awesome! And it’s Christian worship dance which is even better! And back to our last convo, my best friend I was talking about also does dance and that’s how I met him. . .so dance is really, really awesome!!! More guys should dance 🙂 (Just saying) Lol. That’s probably another thing that distinguishes me from other guys.

          • That’s awesome! Its great that you have a good friend through that! It is true that not many guys are into that, but it is sweet when guys do. I know swing dancing is a little different, but one of my brothers is really talented in swing. Have you done any swing dancing?

          • I’ve had some exposure to swing dance, but it’s not my forté. (I’m actually more of a ballerino.)

          • Yeah, I totally get that! Dancing isn’t exactly my forté at all, but I took a year of worship dance when I was younger and that was a lot of fun (even though I grumbled and complained some of the time). And I do enjoy swing dancing occasionally, but definitely wouldn’t say I have a gift in it. 😉
            I always marvel at the skill, talent, and strength of a ballerino. 😉

    • I didn’t really mean that it’s wrong to be buff, but more like if that is something that is tempting you and leading you to wrong thoughts, it’s not good to pursue it. Plus I do enjoy running so I’m always up for suggesting it 🙂

  • Recently, I’ve taken to exercising using two youtube videos I discovered(not too intense ). I want memorise them so I don’t have to go on YouTube each time.My schedule is two, three times a week. This is because I realised that I needed to keep my body healthy because of the fats and sweets that I put into it. I think the Bible verse ” your body is temple ” also applies to how we treat our body and try to keep it in shape!

    • Yeah, I haven’t been eating sweets recently unless it’s like a schedule occasion like someone’s birthday or something, but I think that verse probably does apply to more than just sexual sins/drunkenness.

    • That’s cool, Erica! I have started doing exercises on youtube, but I had not done it in a long time because of school.

  • I tend to make strength an idol too, so I don’t have it figured out, but here are a few ideas. Do a lot of physical work. Try to find a way to serve that keeps you healthy, like lifting stuff for your mom, or playing sports with your sibs, (my brothers and I do parkour/obstacle running). Pray, stay in the Word, and hang on. Sanctification’s a lot of work but God’s killing sin through it. This’ll make you more like Him. Good luck!

    • That’s actually pretty funny because I’ve thought about doing parkour. My best friend, who’s the one who also does dance, does parkour. I definitely agree about serving people by helping them in hard, physical ways. (I often fall into complaining when someone asks for help.)

      • It’s SO fun! But it sounds weird when you’re sore from climbing a brick wall… We probably look like Earnest T. Bass and Romina doing it though, haha.

  • i don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting to get fit the bible says that your body is God’s temple personally I’ve been trying to get fit for 3 years now but the food keeps holding me back i would give anything to be fit but not for vanity’s sake but for health I’m 13 and my body is starting to retain insulin which tells me that if i don’t get my eating habits right i might get diabetes and now i know that the only one who can really help me is God so my opinion is that there is nothing wrong with wanting to be fit but you should start thinking of your body as a temporal home for your soul ultimately what matters to God is what is in your heart and plus our bodies last lets say roughly 90 years but our soul is eternal and i am sure that when your body is buried worms won’t really care if we were fit or not and eventually our earthly appearance will fade into oblivion and what we were on earth won’t be a glimpse of what God has planned for those who love him

    • I like your imagery of the worms. Haha, so true. On a related note, will we have bodies in Heaven?

      Three other things. 1) I love your username. Just had to say that. 2) Are you new to theReb? I see you’ve only posted 14 times, and no one is following you (except me) now. Welcome if you are! 3) It’s not too late to get fit, me. I’m 15 and my body still isn’t at the place I want it to be, so never give up!

  • Hi Mate,

    I feel your struggle. I was a bodybuilder for 3 years and have done crossfit for nearly 1 year. From my experience I’ve found that it’s a matter of the heart. If you’re working out for selfish reasons rather than to glorify God, then maybe you need to stop and think.

    I was working out for purely my own self but God changed my mindset to giving God glory through the gift He placed in my life for fitness. I am now aiming to start coaching others in fitness and sharing the gospel in the process. I don’t think you should stop exercising because it’s good health for everyone. Instead try and find a way to turn what passion God has given you back into glory for Him!.

    God Bless Brother

    • Thx. I guess part of my question is then, “How do you glorify God in say. . .bodybuilding etc.” or “How do you honor God with your looks?”

      • I think by examining your motive for looking good or “being buff”. Is it because you’re being a good steward of your temple or using your gifting? Or is it a prideful motive.

        One question I ask myself is would I still work out if no one but God saw me. Then your not living FOR the approval of others but living FROM the approval of God.

        Sorry I don’t have all the answers but I know that Christ does somewhere, just gotta keep chasing Him.

        • Thanks so much. I guess in that question is also, “What if we didn’t even have to see ourselves? Would we still workout?”

    • Hi, there! I really, really like what you said here… the same goes for everything in life, so it was a very encouraging comment. Thank you,

      Jazzy @

  • One thing that is helping me get in shape is dance class. My church started a worship/modern dance class, and it is a lot of fun! However, it is hard work, and I realized I needed a much stronger core and thigh muscles in order to be able to dance well.

      • I love dance!!! And the ladies I dance with are great. What style of dance do you do?
        Yes, that is my dog, Wiggles. She is my faithful buddy.

        • A variety. It started it out as sword and banner dance, but now it’s mostly like a mix between like ballet and hiphopish stuff and just random moves.

  • God created men to be strong, and that’s great! It’s good to cultivate physical strength for the sake of serving others better and treating your body like a temple of God.
    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with caring about how you look.
    However, it’s a fine line, and if you have prayed and realize that it is
    becoming an idol in your life, then you need to surrender that desire
    to Him, and ask that He will reform your heart’s motives.

  • I think it really depends on your purpose or end goal for exercising. I personally am a huge fan of physical fitness. Since I’m involved with different movement disciplines such as Parkour and the Martial Arts, I usually train towards goals within those areas. I also use exercise as a way to promote health and longevity and as a way to counteract the sedimentary lifestyle of this culture. If your goal is to exercise for the purpose of building muscle and therefore drawing attention to yourself, than is God being glorified? Now, I personally don’t think that there is any problem with working out imbalances to have an even, balanced physique, but there is a fine line between this and becoming completely obsessed over your body. Pride was the original sin, after all.

  • This is something I struggle with a lot! Here’s what has helped me: I remind myself constantly that my body is not my own. If a King gave you a valuable possession and told you to look after it until he returned, you would guard it with your life. I believe that we should try our very best to keep up the bodies that God has temporarily entrusted to us. All for His glory!

rebelling against low expectations

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