A Definition of Health

We need today to consider what it truly means to be healthy—given all the challenges and realities we face.

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”1 This definition is consistent with the biblical principles of healthful living, which often addresses the issues of physical health alongside the issues of mental or spiritual health. In Jeremiah 33:6 God promises: “ ‘ “I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security” ’ ” (NIV). Health is not simply being free of mental and physical disease; it is a wholeness of mind and body, which lets us live our lives to the fullest.

As Christians, we know God calls us to honor Him with our bodies (1 Cor. 6:20). The health of our physical bodies is tied to our emotional, mental, and spiritual health. We are not simply a collection of parts that operate independently; we are an entire self that is interdependent.

A preacher related the following story in a sermon to demonstrate the importance of church unity: “I broke my wrist once. The rest of me was very concerned. The rest of my body was so concerned that it stayed up all night worrying about my wrist.” What happens to one part of our body affects the rest of our body in the same way that what happens to our spirit affects our body.

Often the effects of emotional or spiritual trauma on our bodies are much more apparent than the effects of physical wear and tear on our spiritual or emotional health. When we are angry, our temperature rises and hands clench. When we are shocked, we feel cold and tremble. But our physical bodies affect our spiritual selves, as well. If we do not eat good food or drink enough water, we are listless and find it hard to concentrate. If we do not exercise, we are more prone to stress and tension. Our bodies and our spirits are parts of the same creature, and to insure the health of one, we must ensure the health of the other.

The Weimar Institute, a Seventh-day Adventist health facility near Sacramento, California, developed the acronym NEWSTART to represent the principles of healthful living: Nutrition, Exercise, Water, Sunlight, Temperance, Air, Rest, and Trust. This acronym provides a good formula for real health; not merely the absence of disease, but optimum wellness of body, mind, and spirit.2


1. W.H.O. Preamble

2. Adapted with permission from the iFollow Discipleship Resource, ©North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.