While celebrating our oldest son's 25th birthday, we wound up in the school playground in Red Deer where his wife played during grade one. We slid down the slides, bounced each other up and down on the teeter‑totter, gave one another under‑ducks on the swings and did gymnastics on the playground equipment. At one point I decided to see if I could still do chin‑ups and discovered to my dismay that my arms are no longer strong enough to pull myself up to the bar.
Later on, my husband (the only one in the group that comes close to sharing such symptoms of growing old) and I discussed how we felt about such discoveries. It would be nice to be young and strong forever, but unfortunately, if I ever want to do chin‑ups again, it will not happen all by itself. Not that chin‑ups are all that important to me, but any reader over 40 will understand what it feels like to suddenly realize that the body is not what it used to be ‑ and never be that again, unless of course we go for an extensive program of exercise, weight lifting, and so on.
Is it worth it? The Word of God says, "Bodily exercise profits for a little while..." (1 Timothy 1:8). How long? Maybe a lifetime of vigor and good health? That would be profit, yet the clock is never turned back and eventually this temporary dwelling place gets worn out, wrinkled, and quits. The only people who say they look forward to it have not yet felt the stiffness and heard the creaks that herald its oncoming!
Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the universal reality of aging. He had preached the gospel and was persecuted to the point of extreme distress and even loss of life (2 Corinthians 4:8). But he said he was not distressed or in despair. He realized that death was not avoidable, that our "outward man" will indeed perish, but he saw beyond this life.
Paul's message was not a gloomy one. He had a hope that erased the fears and concerns of life ending too soon and of life withering with age. He knew that as his feeble human life faded, the inner life that he had through faith in Jesus Christ was being renewed day by day. In fact, that inner life would never grow old and die ‑ because it is eternal.
He proclaimed, "We also believe, and therefore we speak; we know that He which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise us up also by Jesus.." Paul was confident that death is not the end. Jesus' resurrection proved it.
He went on, "Therefore we do not lose heart; though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen (including the wrinkles and feebleness), but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." With that, Paul encouraged an eternal perspective.
No one escapes the aging process (unless they die young) but faith in Jesus Christ brings assurance of knowing there is more. "Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house not built by human hands..." Paul, with all believers, looked forward with indescribable yearning to an eternal dwelling place.
Bodily exercise may "profit for a little time" so I am going to continue long walks, swimming and cycling, but I agree with Paul; "Godliness has value for all things, holding promise both for the present life and the life to come..." Therefore, the priority is direct towards the eternal ‑ with enough moderate exercise to produce the strength and energy needed to do other things, things that, by His grace, will last forever.