It's no secret that we are becoming a nation full of unhealthy people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, more than a third (35.7%) of Americans are obese. Carrying an unhealthy weight leads to all kinds of related conditions like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer -- in other words, most of the leading causes of death. In 2008, the medical costs related to obesity in the United States were estimated at $147 billion, or $1,492 more per obese person than a person of normal weight.
And yet, despite the constant warnings in the media and the pleading of doctors, obesity rates continue to rise. In 2000, no state had an obesity prevalence over 30 percent, while in 2010, 12 states exceeded that threshold. It's fairly clear that people aren't generally good at doing what's best for their own health regardless of all the debate about healthcare and insurance in the recent election.
Some health insurance companies have decided to take another approach, however. Rather than merely continuing to pay the mounting costs, these companies in partnership with doctors and nurses are attempting to help people manage their health, not only through massive doses of information but also through the personal attention of a "health coach." (NOTE: How does this work? See Animating Illustrations.)
The truth is, of course, that it's hard for us to make changes in our lives strictly by our own will power. The spirit may be willing, after all, but the flesh is weak. Twinkies taste better than tofu, and sometimes we need a partner to figuratively (or even literally) slap that golden sugar bomb out of our hands.
Health coaches aren't exactly like football coaches with all the screaming, whistles and pushups, but their technique can be no less effective. All we need is someone to remind us that we don't have to live this way and that better and healthier lives are ahead if we're willing to put in the hard work of taking charge of our own health.
That someone is God.
Having a partner on the way is always better, since, as the writer of Ecclesiastes puts it, "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help" (4:9-10).
The presence of a health coach, even if he or she is only on the other end of a phone line, can make a huge difference in the life of someone who's struggling physically. One recent study by The New England Journal of Medicine revealed that patients with health coaches were able to lose five times more weight than those who tried to lose it on their own. You want to make changes in your health? Get a coach!
What's true for our bodies also seems to hold true for our spiritual lives, which makes sense because, as the Bible teaches us, the two are inexorably linked. Health coaching for the soul is as helpful and necessary as the coaching one might get from an insurance company, except in the case of spiritual coaching we're not trying to cut down, but rather trying to fill up on God's spirit and provision for our lives.
For more on how this relates to Sunday's OT lesson, see Homiletics Online at www.homileticsonline.com.