February 23, 2020

Faithful and Fit for Mission

The most powerful argument in favor of any religion is how it improves the quality of life of those who practice it. Church, after all, is not just a collection of doctrines and teachings. Church teachings should practically and positively impact the believer’s health and spirituality. 

As Seventh-day Adventists, we hold a fundamental belief that “we are to engage in whatever brings our thoughts and bodies into the discipline of Christ, who desires our wholesomeness, joy, and goodness” (Seventh-day Adventist Fundamental Belief #22). The Lord desires for His people “to walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8, NKJV) and thus “prosper … and be in health, just as [their] soul prospers” (3 John 2, NKJV).

Health Blessings

When healthier, we possess clearer minds and sweeter personalities. It makes loving our neighbors and serving God better when our bodies can support us in our ministries on top of our main job.

Raised a secular Jew, Clifford Goldstein writes effusively about how he thanks “God for Seventh-day Adventists and what they have taught me about health.” Now the editor of the Sabbath school Adult Bible Study Guide, Goldstein learned about the health message at the Wildwood Lifestyle Center (Adventist Review, Nov. 2019, p. 49). He became an Adventist in 1980.

Rapid Mission Growth

If the growth and development of Adventism have been consistently rapid, we owe it to our better witnesses and healthy missionaries. Collectively, the Adventist ways of life,
such as tithing and sacrificial giving, forward the church’s mission in spreading its doctrinal message.

Our emphasis on Christian education also “facilitates the development of both individual church members and gospel preachers” (George Knight, Lest We Forget, p. 192). We thus understand how the religious faith and lifestyle package that the Lord has guided our leaders to follow have connections to healthy believers and even corporate growth of
the church.

The World Takes Notice

Health experts, too, have noticed the Adventist advantage. They cite lower risk for lifestyle diseases, even cancer, and a longer life expectancy among our people. As of this writing, print and social media brim with such health articles. They always cite vegetarianism, among other key factors, including these “religious” reasons: the Saturday Sabbath as our “weekly date with God,” and love in action through volunteering, humanitarian, and mission work.

“If they can do it, so can you,” says Dan Buettner, who researched the topic and published his findings in National Geographic. Teaching health on our behalf, they are almost saying, “Here is the [Adventist] way, walk ye in it” (Isa. 30:21).

Fit to Reach the World for Christ

In 2020 the world church initiative is Reach the World: Faithfulness in Christian Lifestyle. The goal is for church members to commit to the calling of being “a godly people who think, feel, and act in harmony with biblical principles in all aspects of personal and social life” (Seventh-day Adventist Fundamental Belief #22). But having a Bible-based doctrine and a healthy lifestyle are not the most important issues. The purpose is to point others to Jesus Christ, the Savior. Salvation is only in Him; the solution to the problem of sin, sickness, and death is in Christ alone, who is the "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6).

Live Like Him

Our prayer is for the Spirit to guide us to pattern our lives after Him, to possess the discipline of Christ. Jesus is our ultimate role model, even in diet and exercise (He walked always!). He kept the Sabbath rest and went about doing good. His lifestyle was characterized by love, compassion, service, prayer, sacrifice, holiness, and complete obedience to the Father. His joy was “in the uplifting and redemption of fallen men” (Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 77).

To live and love like Christ is to “Reach the World” for Him. As Christians, this is our ultimate reason for being.

It won’t be easy, but His commands always have a promise: He will “not forsake His faithful ones” (Ps. 37:28, NIV); He will “prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity” (Prov. 3:2, NIV); He will be with us “even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20, NKJV).

The original version of this commentary was posted on the Southern Asia-Pacific Division news site.

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