Health is a Gift from God

Years ago as I sat in my office at Muscle & Fitness magazine, I was editing an article that needed to get out the door ASAP, when I heard a noise from across the indoor atrium. It was Joe Weider - the founder of bodybuilding and fitness - leaving his office for the night.

At the time, Joe was in need of a walker as well as a nurse to get around. As he walked out of his office, I watched him as he made his way down the hall and directly in front of a bronze statue of himself from his younger prime - arms folded, chest puffed, chin high. Captured in time, a bronzed Joe Weider, now merely a backdrop of a struggling reality.

In one rare moment, I was an eyewitness to two bookends of the same man. The sight caused me to sit back in my chair. Right then the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart, "Life is not about the body."

I thought to myself, What's a Christian fitness expert to do with such a realization? I wanted to make an impact on people's lives, and I was hungry to create a lasting legacy that would honor the Lord in my area of expertise. That very second, PrayFit was born in my heart. It's a moment I will never forget.

A couple years later, after a massive layoff due to economic times, I walked out of M&F headquarters never to return. That was on a Friday. Come Monday, my wife and I started writing fitness devotions at and never looked back. I knew that somewhere between vanity and gluttony lies abundant health. And that’s where I wanted to take people. Loretta and I have been writing fitness devotions every night for six years. We stress that it’s not about the mirror, but about the one we’re trying to mirror.

A few years ago, I was hit with two debilitating, unforeseen infirmities of the colon and spine. Three surgeries and 50 lbs. later, I am a shadow of what I used to be. But it doesn’t remove the fact that whatever health I have left is my means of praise; of service to the community, the church, family, neighbors. And while I can’t train or run ever again, I can walk and swim. And when the disease says that I can’t do those, I’ll crawl.

Health is Never Earned

You've likely seen someone boast that health is "Always earned, never given." Sounds reasonable, right? You put in the work, you get the reward. Sounds reasonable, but it's not true. Health is not earned. Granted, some people appropriately celebrate their health (and hopefully more and more of us each day), but even the byproducts of that discipline - toned muscle, greater endurance, increased strength - gift ... gift.

Oh we don't like to admit it. We like to think we've earned the right to raise that banner and boast, "I earned this!" But in truth, it's when we realize we have undeserved and unearned health that we can make the greatest impact with it.

You might also consider the flip-side. There are those among us who are statistically apparently healthy, but who choose a sedentary lifestyle over an active one. Those who opt for poor food choices over balanced, sensible meals. Despite great genetics, honorable stewardship is the furthest thing from their minds. If you're like me, you may have people close to you who have absolutely no health issues, but have no issue with abusing it; alive but not living. Healthy vital signs? Sure. Earned? No. A gift. Unopened, but a gift nonetheless.

Whether they're opened or still neatly wrapped, the Bible says that every single gift comes from above and that includes the body. That means even our potential is a gift. So that’s why I like to remind believers that as you wake up with grace and mercy, check and see if your limbs work and if your heart's beating. If all systems are go, then celebrate! Treat life like a Christmas morning kind of present. Open it up! It's when you see what's inside that you can really see what's inside you. And you can't give God the glory and claim it at the same time. Christians have to choose. So choose to walk, train, run, swim, strive, push, claw, climb, and reach with every single, grateful, thankful, humble, undeserved, unearned gift of health you got.

Jimmy Peña is an Exercise Physiologist, New York Times Bestselling Author, and Founder of PrayFit. He has served as a personal fitness trainer to Tyler Perry, LL Cool J, and Mario Lopez. You can connect with him on twitter and facebook.