Several years ago I was sitting with my sister at my father’s bedside. He had experienced 96 wonderfully productive years of life, had suffered a serious stroke a few days earlier, and was not expected to live. A longtime family friend kindly called and shared some encouraging thoughts. Just as the conversation was ending, however, he suggested that the stroke occurred because my father had included a moderate amount of certain items in his diet that the caller didn’t think were healthful.
This experience reflects a serious flaw in our thinking and attitude toward making healthful choices. We often entertain the belief that if we could live a near-perfect lifestyle, we would never die. The Adventist Health Study demonstrates that the most conforming lifestyles still result in death from the same causes—it just occurs on average approximately 10 years later.1
Scientific evidence clearly indicates that the choices we make in lifestyle significantly affect both the quantity and quality of our years—but they don’t guarantee life forever on this earth.
Here are three qualities that should characterize all Christians who desire to exemplify balanced healthful living:
1. Recognize that healing comes only through Christ. Too often we think we can make healthful choices on our own. Our healthful living must be centered in Jesus Christ: He gives the desire, He empowers our choices, He makes us loving and lovable health reformers, and He grants us the longevity He sees we need.
The psalmist had the right perspective when he wrote: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases” (Ps. 103:2, 3, NKJV).2 The people in Peter’s day also forgot this. God used His apostle as a channel of healing, but He was still the healer. Sometimes we forget that even the most important health habits are incapable of healing us.
2. Possess a nonjudgmental attitude. When Christ is central in our lives, He gives us empathy and understanding for those who are walking the same pathway. This teaches us that we have to grow each day through His strength. Therefore, we can’t be critical of others who choose to live differently from us. Rather, Jesus compels us to help them in a loving and compassionate way. “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” is how the apostle Paul put it (Gal. 6:14).
3. Practice and teach only evidence-based principles. Pseudoscience causes us to loose our grip on the anchor of evidence, often resulting in a dangerous drift toward antiscience and conspiracy theories. There is far more than our own choices on the line. Ellen White wrote, “If [people] see that we are intelligent with regard to health, they will be more ready to believe that we are sound in Bible doctrines.”3
When we gratefully accept the health God has given us, focus our lifestyle choices on the wholesome, and cheerfully yield our desires and appetites to Christ, we can rejoice in the blessings of a balanced, joy-filled life.
Wrote the apostle Paul: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).