Summary: Does stewardship of our health reward us with benefits? It certainly does! Here, Dr. Landless shares some of those benefits with us—emphasizing that we are bought with a price and honor God in such practices.

"Doctor, come immediately!"

The operation had gone smoothly and a healthy baby was delivered by Caesarean section. But the distressed tone of the voice on the telephone shattered my peaceful, yet busy pace of seeing patients in the office. "The patient is bleeding. Come immediately."

A variety of causes and case scenarios raced through my mind—almost as rapidly as the speed I was driving to the hospital. Our mission office was situated in a rural setting and there was no blood bank.

As I entered the hospital, I remembered that my blood type and my dying patient’s were the same. After some persuasion, the staff took a unit of my blood, and we infused it into the pale and shocked body. The bleeding subsided and we transferred her to a center where blood was readily available.

A few days later she was back in the office, hale and hearty, with a beautiful baby girl and unending gratitude for the gift of my blood. This presented me with the golden opportunity of sharing the wonderful story of our Savior, who gave His blood to save us all. As I looked into her lovely brown eyes, glistening with tears of gratitude, I understood more clearly than ever before—we are "twice-over" Christ’s possession—made by Him, and purchased back with His blood.

Stewards of health

Paul exhorts us to do all to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:30). On at least three occasions he refers to the human body as the temple of God and tells us that God’s Spirit dwells in that temple (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16). This resonates with Jesus’ reference to His own body when He said, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days! ? But the temple He had spoken of was His body" (Jn 2:19, 21).

All our behaviors and attitudes should pay homage to God, because we are bought with a price. When an article is paid for, it belongs to the one who has paid the purchase price. We understand this when we get something for which we have planned, saved, and budgeted. We usually take care of our purchase with the same care and effort as the value we place on it.

God has given us wonderful instruction to enhance our stewardship of health. This concept does not fit with postmodern thinking which, on the one hand, proposes that if it tastes good, eat it; if it feels good, touch and experience it, regardless of the consequences. Yet early in the Old Testament, God gave His people instructions for healthful living, including diet, cleansing, and sexual behavior. These instructions were to be preventive and distinctive. While Jesus was here on Earth, He healed physical and mental diseases, linking forgiveness of sin with well-being and abundant life, and with a definite emphasis on emotional and mental health as well.

Wasted heartbeats?

Are there proven benefits to the stewardship of health? After all, life has only so many heartbeats—why "waste" some on exercise? Shouldn’t we eat, drink, and be merry, for who knows what will happen tomorrow? God has given amplified instruction through the counsel of Ellen White. Throughout her life, she was the channel of information which fashioned the church’s philosophy of health and spirituality. She spoke on many issues with prophetic insight, and science continues to confirm the revelations given her. She spoke out on the dangers of smoking and alcohol, discouraged the use of stimulants and flesh foods. She promoted a lacto-ova vegetarian diet. Does following these principles in the stewardship of health make any difference?

The "Adventist advantage"

In October 1966, Time Magazine reported the positive outcome of the first Adventist Health Study, and described the results as the "Adventist Advantage." There was a reduction in most cancers and cirrhosis of the liver. Subsequent studies have shown a significant increase in longevity in those living the Adventist lifestyle. The results of follow-up studies and statistical analyses have been so compelling that the United States National Institutes of Health has allocated almost $20 million for the conducting of Adventist Health Study II.

The scientific literature is replete with the benefits that accrue from a healthy lifestyle. We often talk about diet, but do we emphasize the benefits of exercise? Exercise has been proven to be a preventive measure in 1) high blood pressure, 2) coronary artery disease, 3) stroke, 4) type 2 diabetes, 5) osteoporosis, 6) controlling blood fats, 7) delaying the time to onset of Alzheimer’s, 8) diminishing the recurrence rate of some cancers, and 9) depression.

Exercise is not only preventive, but also beneficially influences the outcomes of hypertension, coronary artery disease, stroke, diabetes (types 1 and 2), Alzheimer’s disease, emotional stress, and depression. These outcomes are compelling as we see the benefits of being good stewards of our health. But that is not where it ends!

"Housesitting"

In his book, It’s Not About Me, Max Lucado uses a striking illustration to describe two nightmare scenarios of house-sitters who might take care of your home in your absence. The first sitter redecorates your home—totally different to your tastes—and uses the reason that the house needs to express his tastes accurately! Your immediate response? "It’s not yours!" The second situation depicts neglect. No dishes are ever washed, no trash removed, and the beds are never made. The house-sitter’s reason? It is a temporary arrangement! Both house-sitters make the same mistake: they act as if the dwelling is their own to do with as they please. How could they? How can we? We are bought with a price, and yet so often we act as if we belong to ourselves.

Does stewardship of our health give benefits? Of course it does. How do you do as far as rest is concerned? Do you take time to recover, to "sharpen the axe," as the saying goes? If we lived with a greater consciousness of the stewardship of health, we would be more effective tools in the Master’s hands. Peterson’s Message Bible summarizes the point so well: "Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever" (1 Tim 4:8).

Wholeness in brokenness

We can also enjoy wholeness in our brokenness, as we practice a conscious stewardship of health. Many people are subject to disabling and debilitating disease processes. By taking adequate rest, eating healthfully, exercising to whatever capacity possible, quality of life can be improved. The story is told of a water carrier who had two pots—but one had a crack in it. The cracked pot delivered only half the amount of water as the undamaged pot. But when the damaged pot felt downhearted about being inadequate, the water carrier tenderly pointed out the beautiful flowers watered by the cracked pot on its daily journeys to collect water. The carrier purposely scattered seeds on that side of the road, knowing the benefits the leaking pot would bring to the seedlings. And then he explained even further that, because of the dysfunction of the cracked pot, beautiful flowers decorated the master’s table!

God owns the temple of our bodies. As "house-sitters," we need to be faithful and caring stewards. Our opportunities will hold us accountable as to how we use them.

"Have faith in the Lord your God, and you will be upheld; have faith in His prophets, and you will be successful" (2 Chr 20:20).

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January–March, 2005

Health