Summary: How do we respond to the gift of health? How do we care for these bodies God has given us? Jonathan Duffy illustrates good care and the lack of it, with a special emphasis on sleep.

All this and much more

Stewardship. The mention of the word more often than not evokes the image of money and giving, but stewardship is this and much more. A steward is someone who has been entrusted with something of value on behalf of someone else. As God’s stewards, we are accountable to Him for how we use His valuable gifts (See Matthew 25:14-18).

When I was about seventeen, my father bought me an old Austin A40 motor car. I drove it around for a while and then gave it to my brother for him and a friend to use while their cars were off the road being all "souped up." I think there may have been an offer of some payment for the car, but it was never forthcoming.

They only used the car for a few weeks. It wasn’t until some months later that I saw my little A40 sitting in an empty lot next to the house where my brother’s friend lived. It sat there rusting and deserted, not being used as the gift it was intended to be. I felt a little hurt, as I could still be driving around in that car. But instead, there it was, just sitting and rusting, wasting away.

The gift of health

If we are convinced of the fact that God is the giver of health and indeed life, then how do we respond to His gift? Do we treasure the gift of good health and value it? Do we do everything in our power to maintain it, or do we just take it for granted and let it erode away?

Traditionally as Seventh-day Adventists, when we talk about health we tend to focus on nutrition and exercise, but health is far broader than that. Certainly, modern science has shown the links between exercise and improved cardiovascular health and has demonstrated that plant foods are the most protective for the body. Being good stewards of health requires us to eat a balanced diet and to exercise regularly, but those things, important as they are, are not an end in themselves.

Another important aspect

Sleep is an important part of health, yet for many people, it is sacrificed in order to try and fit more things into our busy schedules. Our sleep comes in one and one-half hour cycles. The first and largest part of the cycle is for physical recuperation. While this is very important, we tend to have less physical exertion in our day than we did in the past.

The second part of the cycle is the dream cycle, where we mentally recuperate from the stresses of the day. In the first one and one-half hour cycle, the dream cycle is very short. The dream cycle increases with each one and one-half hour cycle of sleep. In order to gain the maximum mental recuperation from our sleep, we should sleep a total of nine hours per day. Unfortunately, many of us do not get adequate amounts of sleep, and this leads to other health complications.

Stress takes it toll

Being over stimulated also has health implications. Even good stresses take their toll on the body. Many of us live a hectic life, chasing one event after another with increasing frequency. The body needs time to rest, to recuperate, to rejuvenate, and to spiritually refresh. Periods of busy activity need to be followed by periods of stillness and recovery. Unfortunately for many of us, the struggle to meet the mortgage and pay the bills keeps us busy at work all day. And evenings are taken up by home duties and children.

Stewardship is about seeking balance—a balance between work, rest, and play, with time also given to spiritual recuperation. Christ Himself knew the value of rest, even amid the extremely busy demands around him and his disciples: "Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ?Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest’" (Mk 6:31).

Less guilt, more action

I am not writing this to give us all a "guilt trip." But rather to challenge us to continually question ourselves as to whether we are good stewards of the gift of health that God has given us.

I wish I could go back and reclaim my Austin A40 in its condition, before it was left derelict. It is probably old enough these days to be considered a "cool" car. I hope that when we come toward the end of life, we don’t look back and say, "I wish that I had been a better steward of my health. I wish that I had taken the time for health before I was forced to take the time for disease."

Professor Archibald Hart, a "burnout expert" from Fuller University, challenges our thinking when he states, "God is more interested in you finishing well than what you accomplished along the way."

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January–March, 2005

Health