Our author for this week summarized brilliantly one of the core truths of our personal universes—we are marvelously made by a Wise Creator in such a way that a profound, almost mysterious relation exists between our minds and bodies. Ellen White observed: “It cannot be to the glory of God for His children to have sickly bodies or dwarfed minds.” (Testimonies, vol 3. 486.)
So much is said these days about the benefits of a balanced diet, regular exercise, plenty of water, sunshine, self-control, fresh air, ample rest, and trust in God (NEWSTART™). One does not need to be a rocket scientist to understand all this. About every magazine or news broadcast shouts out these basic principles!
What is missing, however, is the power of motivation. Very few do not know the basics of physical fitness, or even mental fitness. Just take a look around any gathering—what you see is not the lack of information about how to care for one’s body.
But the purpose for keeping in “good shape” mentally and physically seems to be locked into a thundering silence: “Whatever lessens physical strength, enfeebles the mind, and makes it less capable of discriminating between right and wrong. We become less capable of choosing the good, and have less strength of will to do that which we know to be right.” (Christ’s Object Lessons, 346.)
Now some would say that such words were penned by a nineteen-century lady who needs to be brought up to date with modern medical knowledge, practices, etc. But no writer in the nineteenth-century has been more validated by modern medicine! No less a authority than Dr. John H. Kellogg wrote in 1890 that, in the twenty-five years since Ellen White’s synoptic health principles had been introduced:
Nowhere, and by no one, was there presented a systematic and harmonious body of hygienic truths, free from patent errors. . . . Many of the principles taught have come to be so generally adopted and practiced that they are no long recognized as reforms, and may, in fact, be rewarded as prevalent customs among the more intelligent classes. The principles which a quarter of a century ago were either entirely ignored or made the butt of ridicule, have quietly won their way into public confidence and esteem, until the world has quite forgotten that they have not always been thus accepted. (Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, introduction, 1890. See H. E. Douglass, Messenger of the Lord: The Prophetic Ministry of Ellen G. White [Nampa, Idaho : Pacific Press Pub. Association, 1998], 291.)
So, what is the bottom line? The Adventist health message is linked to the Adventist theological mission as close as the “hand is with the body.” (Testimonies, vol. 3, 62.) That is, the health emphasis is organically coupled with the messages of the Three Angels (Rev. 14:6-12). That is remarkable information!
It seems to me that this fundamental linkage is based on three principles:
1. The Humanitarian principle: In many ways through the years, Adventists have done more than their part in lessening suffering in the world. Everywhere! Think of what we once called the “Dorcas Welfare Societies,” now morphed into “Community Service Centers.” Think of the world-wide work of ADRA!
2. The Evangelistic principle: Health reform would be the bridge over which the gospel will meet people where they are—a “great entering wedge . . . the door through which the truth for this time is to find entrance to many homes. . . . [It] will do much toward removing prejudice against our evangelical work.” (Evangelism, 513, 514.)
Think of the wise pastors and evangelists who have yoked up with physicians, nurses, and other trained health workers as they open up timely truths in their public presentations. Think of the remarkable success of the “Five-day Plan to Stop Smoking!” Think of the astounding impact our hospitals, clinics, and sanitariums have made on millions of people worldwide who have been introduced to Adventist health principles—and then found their way into adding to the Adventist chain spreading Bible truth.
3. The Soteriological principle: The end-purpose of the Adventist philosophy of health is to “fit people for the coming of the Lord,” preparing them to live forever. (Testimonies, vol. 3, 161.) Anything less than this misses the whole point of why so much human energy and financial abundance is devoted to Adventist interest in health.
This threefold linkage has not always been understood. Some made the health message an end in itself in developing a worldwide network of hospitals and clinics; others made the health message into a compelling public relations stratagem whereby non-Adventists would become interested enough to sit through an evangelistic sermon. Both were worthy uses of Adventist health principles—but short of their primary purpose that has made the Adventist health emphasis distinctive.
Its primary purpose is to join the spiritual with the physical on the practical, daily level of the average person. The essential items in this joint purpose include the following principles:
- Self-development is our first duty to God and man.
- Preserving physical/mental health is primarily a spiritual challenge.
- A diseased body and/or disordered intellect make sanctification well-nigh impossible.
- Anything that lessens physical and mental health directly affects our capability to distinguish between right and wrong.
- Caring for one’s own health reveals one’s depth of caring for others. How can we help others when we ourselves are debilitated?
- Commitment to health of mind and body directly relates to preparing a people who can be entrusted with God’s last-day responsibilities and then with eternal life.
All in all, the principles of healthful living are not a matter of personal opinion or a philosophical issue. When the clear issues embraced in the Great Controversy theme are seen for all their beauty and common sense, then we shall see in our own lives the great boon we have as a blessed people, not only to be benefited personally but to have plenty of good news for those around us.