In Orders and Regulations for Field Officers (1891), Chapter 3, Section 1, General William Booth observed: “Health is an important qualification for usefulness…. Cheerful, happy natures, with bright, good-humoured countenances, are very attractive. They draw outsiders; they act like the drum and the cornet … and health is at the bottom of much cheerfulness of disposition and joyousness of life.”
The Founder continued to discuss food and diet, encouraging healthy eating habits that included warnings about over-indulgence. “Moderation is the key,” he counselled. Concerning sleep, Booth advocated, “A certain amount of good, sound sleep is indispensable to vigour, both of mind and body.”
This section concluded with advice on “ventilation and exercise.” Of the former, he wrote, “As a rule, it is perfectly safe for people in good health to sleep with the window open nearly all the year round…. The necessity for ventilation is important.” As for exercise, he noted, “A sufficient amount of exercise is necessary for health…. Bodily labour (and exercise) is favourable to digestion and to the circulation of the blood, and is conducive to health in other ways.”
More than a century has passed since William Booth penned these words and today they may seem out of date. We live in a far different world than he experienced—a fast-paced culture that daily overflows with fresh challenges and complex circumstances. However, as an esteemed surgeon friend of mine said, “Whether he knew it or not, William Booth gave sound medical advice to his officers.”
God’s Word instructs us to care for our bodies. In so doing, we honour him. We must be careful to neither worship nor abuse the body that God gave us. We are to take good care of our bodies, for they are God’s creation.
Nourish Our Bodies
Eating is a prerequisite for life. Graciously, God made eating enjoyable. The taste of food gives us pleasure. Nevertheless, as with any gift, the pleasure of eating can become destructive. The unrestrained intake of food has the potential for immeasurable damage. Food can be a nurturing friend or a destructive enemy.
When we honour our bodies by consuming food that nourishes and satisfies us, the results are good and pleasant. This pleases God. When we share nourishment with others, it pleases him even more (see Matthew 25:34-40).
Rest Our Bodies
Life can become the proverbial rat race. We rush from one place to somewhere else, from one project to the next and from one urgent matter to yet another.
“Health is at the bottom of much cheerfulness of disposition and joyousness of life”–General William Booth
Our bodies require rest. We need good, sound sleep regularly. In addition, we need time in our lives to rest while yet awake. Rest is the result of a change of pace, something special and different from the norm. Henry David Thoreau observed, “I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits unless I spend four hours a day—often more—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.” To this we respond, “Ah, yes. If only….”
While few of us can spend four hours sauntering through the woods, what about setting aside a half-hour each day to “saunter?” The U.S. Surgeon General’s report on physical activity and health maintains that only 22 percent of American adults are physically active for at least 30 minutes five days a week. Raise your hand if you are among that number. (My hand is not raised. I am typing, you understand!)
Honour Our Bodies
The Bible declares that our bodies are “temples of the Holy Spirit” (see 1 Corinthians 6:19). Therefore, we must honour our bodies by keeping ourselves pure in what we see and do.
The world considers purity as naive, simplistic and out-of-date. Yet it is indispensable to lives that reflect the nature of God. As the Apostle Peter explains, “He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:4).
God calls us to live lives that are pure and honour him. We pray with David, “Create in me a pure heart, O God” (Psalm 51:10). May we ever offer our bodies as “a living sacrifice” (see Romans 12:1) so that God, in turn, will honour us as individuals and as an Army of salvation.
Commissioner William W. Francis is the Territorial Commander of The Salvation Army Canada and Bermuda Territory. His wife, Commissioner Marilyn Francis, is the Territorial President for Women’s Ministries. Commissioners Francis have two adult children, Captain William Marshall and Susan Marjorie, plus six grandchildren.