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It is heart-breaking to know that hundreds of pastors and Christian workers have passed away during the second wave of the coronavirus, while some pastors have suffered immeasurably and barely escaped from the jaws of death. These tragic deaths have left their wives widows, their children fatherless, and their churches shepherdless. How these bereaved must struggle with many confounding and painful emotions!
This frightening and saddening news must awake existing pastors to learn some significant lessons. Despite the fact that God is sovereign and in control, man is responsible for his choices and actions. Is God awakening pastors through Covid to pay attention to their physical health, which they have been neglecting for a long time?
The Cost Of Neglecting Health
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the majority of those hospitalized due to COVID-19 have preexisting conditions—about 90% of patients had one or more underlying conditions. The most common include hypertension, obesity, chronic lung disease, diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease.1
Sadly, pastors are known to be some of the most undisciplined men when it comes to taking care of one’s health. There is very little control over what they eat and how much they eat. Overconsumption of food is a major problem. How much fried foods, sweet, salt, carbohydrates, and non-veg are incautiously consumed!
And what shall we say about physical exercise and adequate sleep? Aren’t such disciplines insignificant and neglected by pastors? These are important because it is reported that physical inactivity kills as many people as smoking.2 Also, lack of sufficient sleep has major health risk factors.3
Due to overeating, lack of physical exercise, and inadequate sleep—many pastors are overweight and unhealthy. They suffer from obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and other comorbidities. These get worse as they age. Imagine how their metabolism and immune systems are being affected! These diseases played a vital role in cutting the life span of Covid-victim pastors, although this is not necessarily be the case for all the pastors who either suffered or succumbed to Covid.
The Scottish preacher Robert Murray McCheyne once stated, “If Satan makes a covetous minister out of a lover of praise, pleasure, and good eating, he has ruined your ministry.”4 Who has been paying attention to such warnings? Perhaps now is the time to heed to McCheyne’s caution.
Moreover, during this pandemic, some pastors have ignored precautions like avoiding public gatherings, maintaining social distancing, wearing masks, and thoroughly washing hands, all in the name of presumptuous faith. They believed in God’s protection and declared certain Scriptures by behaving irresponsibly and ignoring warnings.
One brother I know shared that a pastor sent him a quote from Psalm 91 as God’s absolute promise of protection. A few days later, that pastor passed away due to Covid. Isn’t it foolish to trust God’s protection and ignore the messages bombarded to us every day to follow precautions and stay safe? The Scripture indicates, “The prudent (wise) sees danger and hides himself, but the simple (foolish) go on and suffer for it” (Prov. 22:3).
Take Care Of Your Physical Body
It appears that the influence of the pagan belief that the soul is all that matters and the body is insignificant may have led Christians to pay careful attention to the soul while disregarding their bodies.
What we forget is that it is God who created the physical body with amazing features (Ps. 139:14). Sin has an effect on the body, but the body is not sinful per se. God Himself came in the form of the human body, physically died for our sins, physically rose from the dead, and currently exists in heaven in the bodily form (Jn. 1:1, 14; Acts 10:39-41; Col. 2:9). And in glorification, we receive a glorified body like His (Phil. 3:20-21).
Nowhere does Scripture claim that the body is evil. We must not view the word “flesh” in some translations as always referring to the body. It also refers to sinful nature (Gal. 5:19-21, 24; Rom. 8:5-9; 13:14). In fact, after we are born-again, our body is said to be the temple of the Holy Spirit and we ought to glorify God in our body (1 Cor. 6:19-20). We are commanded to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God and as an act of our worship unto Him (Rom. 12:1-2).
In light of what is said above, dear pastors, our bodies are God-given gifts to us. We must not disregard our bodies. How our bodies support spiritual disciplines! We all know by experience how the weakness of our bodies impacts our spiritual disciplines and ministerial activities. Remember that we love and serve our Lord with our bodies. How can we serve Him with all our strength if we do not properly take care of our bodies?
So pastors, discipline yourself by eating what is good and avoid overeating or undereating. Keep your weight under control. Pay careful attention to the intake of fried foods, sweet, salt, carbohydrates, and non-veg. Put a knife to your throat if you are given to unhealthy eating. And if you have some existing diseases and must avoid certain food, do not foolishly claim to have faith in God and recklessly eat, thereby facing dire consequences. Lovingly deny people’s offer who want to serve either forbidden food or overfeed you.
Also, physical exercise is a God-given medicine to keep ourselves physically fit. Observe the Scripture says that bodily training has some value, particularly in our earthly life (1 Tim. 4:7). So as you take time to study God’s Word and pray, also take time for physical activity. Consider cycling or brisk walking or jogging or playing sports like tennis for at least 30 minutes five days a week. There are also good fat burning home workouts on YouTube.
Finally, adequate sleep is essential for a highly productive and healthy life. Six to eight hours of sleep is a healthy habit. Only God neither sleeps nor slumbers. We are humans and require sleep. Let us cast our ministerial burdens on the Lord and sleep well at night. Let the experience of David be ours too, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Ps. 4:8).
Beloved pastors, in our endeavour to keep ourselves healthy, I am not suggesting to idolize our bodies and become health freaks. Know that our security is in God alone and not in ourselves. Taking health precautions will not make us entirely immune to illnesses. But we must be faithful in our human responsibility and trust in God’s absolute sovereignty.
The reason we have to eat well, exercise well, and sleep well is so that we can, by God’s gracious help, keep ourselves healthy and serve the Lord well. Suffering is inevitable but let us not unnecessarily put ourselves, our families and churches in trouble by neglecting to care for our physical bodies. And when the time comes for us to leave this perishing world, may we confess like Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).
1 Amber Brenza, “Nearly 90% of People Hospitalized for COVID-19 Have Underlying Conditions, Says CDC”, https://www.health.com/condition/infectious-diseases/coronavirus/covid-19-hospitalization