When I read Herbert W. Armstrong’s Autobiography, the stories seem to leap from the pages right into my imagination! I can just see it. Mr. Armstrong walking briskly down the street with three or four ad layouts tucked away under his arm. His speech quick, with a staccato rhythm—sure of himself; confident. His mind alert and active, always searching for ways to improve—to work more effectively and efficiently. What a dynamic personality! Before conversion, and after, it seems he did everything with high-spirited energy.
Late in life, he wrote about his zestful, fast-paced living in an article titled, “What Are the Secrets of My Youthful Vitality, Energy, Drive and Long Life?” He wrote, “I doubt if many men of 50 or 55 could stand up under the rigorous ordeal of constant global travel, writing, radio and tv interviews, public speaking, the responsibility of major decisions in worldwide enterprises, and devoting 14 hours a day to vigorous, driving work” (Worldwide News, Nov. 15, 1982).
What a success! And Mr. Armstrong learned more the last 10 years of his life than he did the previous 83. What a testimony to God’s awesome power. At the same time, what a man of healthful strength and vibrance! He did his greatest work in his late 80s and early 90s.
In the October 1954 Good News, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “The knowledge of how to live should be the first interest of every person. That knowledge is divided into two phases—the physical, and the spiritual; how to be in vigorous, clear-minded, perfect health, which depends upon the physical laws of nature, and how to live in proper relationship with God and with neighbor, which depends upon the spiritual law summed in the Ten Commandments.”
We simply will not make it spiritually without a steady diet of proper spiritual food. Likewise, we won’t live a healthy, active, vibrant life physically without proper physical food. Mr. Armstrong draws attention to both phases—physical and spiritual—because they are so closely connected! Our physical health has everything to do with our spiritual health.
Physical Sin and Healing
1 John 3:4 says, “Every one who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness” (Revised Standard Version). This verse is not referring to spiritual laws only. There are spiritual and physical laws. Likewise, there are spiritual and physical sins. “To say there is no such thing as physical sin, as has been said by self-professing intellectuals, is not intellectual,” Mr. Armstrong wrote, “it is rank stupidity, ignorance or willful perversion of plain simple truth” (The Plain Truth About Healing).
God created man out of the dust of the ground—out of matter. He designed us so our physical bodies function according to definite physical laws. The transgression of those laws is sin. And “its penalty is sickness, disease or debility” (ibid).
Hebrews 4:15 says Jesus was tempted in all points as we are, yet He was without sin. Christ observed God’s spiritual law perfectly. But He never broke a physical law either. He was never sick!
But Christ did suffer excruciating physical pain when He was beaten before His crucifixion (Matthew 27:24-26). He was beaten because, as Matthew 8:17 points out, He “took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.” He did it for us! Because He was beaten, we can be forgiven of physical sin—our penalty can be paid.
Most are familiar with how close Christ’s gospel message was connected with healing. In Luke 5, we read of the example of a paralytic trying to make his way into a house to be healed by Christ. His friends, unable to get him inside because of the vast crowds, lowered him in through the ceiling. Notice verse 20: “And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.”
Christ begins to reveal the connection between forgiveness of sin and healing—a connection scholars try to disregard. “And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts? Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?” (verses 21-23). Notice the direct, emphatic connection between forgiveness of sin and healing. Healing is the forgiveness of physical sin. The penalty has already been paid when you are healed because Christ was beaten for you. Just as God forgives you of spiritual sin, He also forgives you of physical sin, by way of healing. God alone heals.
Cause and Effect
“Doctors, medicines, and drugs can no more forgive physical sins than spiritual sins,” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “They cannot heal!” (ibid). God heals. Doctors do not.
The basic problem with medical science is that it deals with the effect and ignores the cause. It attempts to remove the penalty God has imposed for physical sins. And treating the effect instead of the cause only encourages the continual violation of whatever physical laws are being broken. In short, it encourages sin!
Medicine, especially in the United States, is big business. National sickness costs the American public over $3 trillion (almost one fifth of the national debt). There are over 800,000 physicians in the U.S.
At the same time, we are plagued with a wider variety of deadly diseases and sicknesses than ever before. And the United States, no surprise, is leading the way. Twenty percent of our total population suffers from some kind of cardiovascular disease like high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke or rheumatic fever. We lose nearly 1 million Americans each year because of it. That’s like wiping out a city the size of San Francisco—every year. We lose over a half million more to cancer. Add Oklahoma City to the death count.
If technology for healthcare is more advanced than ever before, and yet sickness and disease are increasing, something is terribly wrong. Dealing with the effect instead of the cause is not working.
In 1998, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention monitored 30,000 patient visits to physicians. In their study, they found that less than one fourth of the doctors counseled their patients to alter their lifestyles to reduce the risk of heart disease. In only 19.1 percent of the visits did the doctors advise physical activity; 22.8 percent counseled about diet; and only 10.4 percent advised patients to lose weight. In other words, a startlingly low percentage counsel their patients to consider the cause of sickness. Never mind eating better, losing weight, or exercising more—just take this pill!
Mr. Armstrong said the followers of Christ were to be different. God expects us to deal with the cause of sickness and disease. Mr. Armstrong wrote, “I do not say, don’t go to the doctor of medicine: I do not know whether you will be healed by God—because I cannot know whether you have faith, are conforming to God’s conditions, have really repented and turned from violating God’s laws. I do not leave people without any help—for, if they do not have the faith, have not repented, are not keeping God’s commandments, they probably won’t be healed, and I cannot advise them against the only help they might have—that which the world’s society has set up. Healing by God is not a thing to experiment with!
“But, why not solve this whole question by avoiding the cause of sickness and disease—and keeping healthy in the first place? Then there is no problem, is there?” (Tomorrow’s World, April 1971).
God expects us to do everything possible to choose life and avoid the cause of sickness. Our pastor general wrote, “I believe God is showing us that we need to repent [or change] more deeply in this area [of physical health]” (Philadelphia News, March-April 1998). None of us have been perfect in this area of character development. But we must all improve. Perfection has to be our ultimate goal.
If we’re ever going to steer clear of infectious disease, debilitating aches and pains, or terminal conditions like cancer, we have to stop them before they start. Sure, God heals. And hopefully, if we are ever diagnosed with a terminal illness, we would put it completely in God’s hands. But as Mr. Armstrong said, “Why not solve this whole question by avoiding the cause of sickness and disease—and keeping healthy in the first place?”
The best way to solve a problem is to never get involved in it in the first place! In the remaining space of this article, let’s examine three indispensable ingredients to healthful living: fresh air, pure water and good food.
1. Get Plenty of Fresh Air
God made man out of the dust of the ground—physical matter. To sustain our temporary existence, we need a constant supply of food, water and oxygen. You can live for many weeks without solid food and for many days without water. But without a continuous supply of oxygen through the air we breath, we would die in a matter of minutes. Continuous life depends more on a regular and adequate supply of oxygen than it does any other element.
The air we breath is primarily a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen (not to mention the elements man has added through pollution). Studies show that the prolonged inhalation of air in which the oxygen portion is much greater than normal will eventually lead to death. When refinishing the Earth and its atmosphere, God knew what He was doing when He carefully balanced the elements needed to sustain life.
Inhaling oxygen cleanses the blood. When the body delivers the blood to the lungs, it arrives in a dark purple color due to the carbonic acid—the impurities it contains. But when it leaves the lungs, it has regained its bright red color, having exchanged its poisons for the oxygen. The carbonic acid is released when you exhale. The cycle then repeats itself as the blood travels through the body gathering impurities before returning to the lungs to be cleansed.
That’s why it says in Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood” (see also Genesis 9:4). The purer the bloodstream, the less likely a disease will be able to survive. Remember: cause and effect. In almost every case, disease thrives in an environment well-suited for it. Just like insects, cockroaches, mice and rats are attracted to a run-down shack, so do viruses and diseases look for a home that has not been well-maintained. Elbert Hubbard once said, “Disease comes only to those who have been preparing for it.”
The bloodstream is purified by an abundance of oxygen which assists greatly in eliminating poisons. Whenever possible, step outside and breathe as deeply as you can. Most of us just breathe to get by, rarely expanding our lungs to their fullest point. Breathe deeply and you’ll have more energy, more color and more alertness!
The need for fresh air is what makes exercise so vital to healthful living. Exercise, especially outdoors, significantly increases the amount of fresh air your lungs take in. Just walking will increase oxygen intake threefold; vigorous exercise, even more!
Paul wrote that bodily exercise profits for a little while (1 Timothy 4:8). We need regular exercise and a continuous supply of fresh air for it to profit over the long haul.
In his book Back to Eden, originally written in 1939, Jethro Kloss related a story told to him by an old army surgeon. The surgeon was working in a large army hospital during a war. There was a measles outbreak during the winter season. All the patients were running high fevers. Around this time, the hospital accidentally caught fire and burned to the ground. The patients were rescued and then temporarily housed outside in makeshift tents. Living outside in the fresh air, all but one or two recovered. Back then, according to the surgeon, they would have expected dozens of deaths if the hospital had not burned.
This is just common sense. We need oxygen to keep active and healthy. When it’s cold outside, the oxygen supply is higher than in the summer. That’s why it’s easier to stay awake and be active, mentally and physically. In contrast, put a hundred people in a hot, stuffy room and tell them to listen to a boring lecture, and watch what happens.
Open the windows more. Spend as much time as possible outdoors (especially so for children). Breathe deeply and exercise regularly. Apply these simple maxims and you’ll not only strengthen your resistance to contagious bugs and common ailments, you’ll notice an immediate uplift in vibrance and energy.
2. Drink Plenty of Water
In Genesis 2:5, we read that before every plant of the field could grow, God had to send rain. When He did, the garden of Eden sprang to life. The same is true with our physical bodies.
Next to fresh air, there is no other element of creation more important to sustain life than pure water. Our blood is close to 80 percent water. When you take in a good supply of water, the volume of blood increases and circulation accelerates. As the volume of blood is increased, more water reaches waste matter which is what we need for a good house cleaning!
Then, after the water has served its purpose, it’s discharged through the skin, the kidneys, and the lungs. Through constant refueling, the cleansing cycle repeats. Like oxygen, water cleans the body. And unless we keep our “house” clean, we expose ourselves to all kinds of unwelcome “visitors.”
In addition to the water God provides through rain and streams, we receive water through much of our food. Many fresh foods contain between 15 to 90 percent water. (There’s a reason why that apple is so juicy!)
The problem with many Westerners is we simply do not drink enough fresh water or eat enough fresh foods, like fruits and vegetables (high in water content).
Soft drinks are rapidly becoming the preferred beverage for most Americans. It’s a $75 billion per year industry. The average American drinks 44 gallons per year.
Our blood does not need beverages loaded down with preservatives, sugar, caffeine or other injurious elements. The blood in the body needs pure water to stay healthy!
Notice what Jethro Kloss wrote about the importance of water: “When one drinks an abundance of pure, fresh water the blood and tissues are bathed and purified, thereby being cleansed of all poisons and waste matter. Water is also an essential constituent of the tissue cells and all body fluid, such as digestive juices.
“Water dissolves nutritive material in the course of digestion, so that it can be absorbed into the blood, which carries it to various parts of the body to repair and remove waste.
“Water keeps all mucous membranes of the body soft and prevents friction of their surface.
“Water aids in regulating body temperature, and body processes. Make a special effort to have pure water” (Back to Eden).
Do you make that special effort to have a jug of ice water out at the work site, or a glass of it at the office always within arm’s length? It makes a difference. When the car gets dirty, the clothes become stained, or the body smells, no one thinks twice about using the number one cleaning ingredient for everything—water! No one in his right mind would wash a load of laundry with a scoop of tide and 20 gallons of Pepsi. Yet for too many Americans, that’s our primary “cleansing” agent for bathing the inside of our bodies.
Drink water—and plenty of it. And work to acquire the habit of abstaining from artificial drinks overloaded with sugar and caffeine. If you do, your energy level will shoot up, and your body will be more apt to fend off infectious diseases and steer clear of terminal illnesses.
3. Eat the Right Foods
1 Corinthians 6:20 says we have been bought with a price—Jesus Christ’s shed blood. Our body belongs to God. Therefore, Paul says, “Glorify God in your body.” Concerning this verse, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “Look at that carefully! The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The body does not belong to the individual—we are not our own—Christ bought and paid for us! Therefore glorify God—how? It does not say with ‘your mind’—but ‘in your body’!” (The Missing Dimension in Sex).
Mr. Armstrong went on to write about how God provided our bodies with the five senses which cry out for gratification. This is not in itself wrong. God expects us to use those senses. But too many misuse them, especially when it comes to food. Mr. Armstrong continued, “God created us so that we must eat food to live. He equipped us with the sense of taste. God gave us this sense so that we might enjoy the necessity of eating. We should, therefore, exercise our senses to distinguish true, natural, health-building food from those false foods which destroy health—and then give God thanks, and really enjoy the eating!” (ibid).
Eating, when done within the bounds of God’s physical laws, is good and wholesome. But if we’re not careful, we can easily eat to satiate carnal lusts and wrongful desires. Just because it tastes good doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you.
When the Israelites came out of Egypt, one of their first sins was lusting after food (Numbers 11:4-5). This was considered a sin, and they were lusting for healthy food—fish, cucumbers, melons, onions.
Nearly all sickness and disease is either directly or indirectly related to what we eat! Yet most physicians do not hammer this point home because they refuse to tackle the cause of poor health. It’s not as lucrative. And it doesn’t sound quite as scholarly to keep teaching people, “You are what you eat.” Instead they bring antibiotics, surgery, therapy and other modern practices into the equation. All that does is complicate things!
Keep it simple. Listen to God rather than doctors. He created us. In Genesis 3:19 it says, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
We came from dust—the ground. There are over 100 elements in the ground. Some of the elements are organic which is living matter. (Inorganic elements, like gold, are not living.)
The human body is composed of 16 living elements. Those 16 elements are supplied by foods that grow out of the ground. We grew from a tiny ovum to a full-size adult because of food from the ground. And our material bodies are sustained when those 16 elements are replenished—again, through food from the ground.
Mr. Armstrong wrote, “So it is literally true that you are what you eat—and ‘dust you are.’ Since you are merely food converted into a human body and mind, is it not plain that whatever food you put into your mouth has a very great deal to do with what you are—and with your health, or lack of it?” (Plain Truth, December 1967).
The 16 organic elements that comprise food come in two forms: acid and alkaline. Twelve of the elements are alkaline (like iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium). The other four elements are carbohydrates—the acid-reacting elements (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen).
Your body requires two to three times as much of the alkaline elements. But the average American eats two or three times as much of the acid—the carbohydrates. A careful study into the American diet reveals why.
Wheat is almost a perfect food. A grain of wheat contains all 16 life sustaining elements—each in perfectly balanced proportions. Because wheat is the principle ingredient in bread, it should be clear why, in the Bible, bread is often associated with life (John 6:48, 51).
The problem with bread in this modern “educated” world is that most of it is made from white flour. And white flour is made by stripping all 12 alkaline elements from the wheat grain! White flour is left with only the four acid elements—all carbohydrates. After the stripping, the “flour” is then bleached to give it that pure white, cocaine-like appeal.
White sugar loses its nutritive value in a similar stripping process. William Dufty, author of the classic best seller Sugar Blues, wrote, “Vegetables, fruits, berries, and nuts—these natural sources of what we now call vitamin C—had been sweets until concentrated, refined sugar was marketed. Sugar was an unnatural sweet that had been robbed of its vitamin C in the refining process, which was when 90 percent of the natural cane was removed.”
A few hundred years ago, the average person in Europe would eat three or four pounds of sugar a year. Today, most people eat over 150 pounds of it. Looking at the alarming rise in our sugar intake, it’s not surprising that diabetes and low blood sugar (both sugar diseases) are both 20th-century diseases.
“Sugar taken every day,” writes Dufty, “produces a continuously over-acid condition, and more and more minerals are required from deep in the body in the attempt to rectify the imbalance. Finally, in order to protect the blood, so much calcium is taken from the bones and teeth that decay and general weakening begin.”
Another ingredient that has been most harmful to Westerners is caffeine. Our caffeine intake has skyrocketed in recent years, especially due to the increasing popularity of coffee, tea, and soft drinks (coffee is a $30 billion industry). A small cup of coffee contains about 100 milligrams of caffeine. A soft drink contains between 35 and 50 milligrams. A straight shot of 10,000 milligrams would kill a human being. So when most Americans consume between 200 and 500 milligrams of caffeine each day, “What’s the big deal?” Five hundred milligrams a day may not kill you instantly like 10,000 would, but common sense tells us that the cumulative effect of caffeine over years and years of consumption cannot be good!
Here is what Frances Sheridan Goulart wrote in The Caffeine Book: “Caffeine works by stimulating the brain—both the central cortex, which handles thought processes, and the medulla, which regulates heart rate, respiration and muscular coordination. This nervous assault produces ‘coffee nerves’ and that jumpy, ‘hyper’ feeling associated with overconsumption. Caffeine also raises the body’s metabolic rate slightly, increasing the number of calories the body burns. But it also triggers the release of insulin, causing blood sugar to fall, producing feelings of hunger and letdown.”
Consider this alarming quote from Paul and Patricia Bragg, who wrote Building Powerful Nerve Force: “Alcohol and tobacco and the caffeine drinks—coffee, tea and colas—are actually brutal whips that goad the nerves into action which they do not have the energy to accomplish. The drug caffeine stimulates the central nervous system. The coffee drinker gets a ‘lift’ because the caffeine activates the nervous energy from the reserve reservoirs. In time, of course, this brings on complete nerve depletion and serious troubles of the nervous system.”
Again, lay off the caffeine, drink more water, and in the long run your energy level will not only be more consistent, but generally higher. Sure, you may not get that quick, temporary jolt that coffee gives, but you won’t battle the drowsiness that sets in a couple hours later. More importantly, over time, you won’t dull the nervous system or experience a variety of other caffeine-related ailments.
White flour, sugar, and caffeine are only a few of the problems in the affluent Western diet. Certainly, a steady diet of greasy, fatty foods, or foods full of additives and preservatives, are also very harmful to healthful living. Hundreds of articles and books have been written on a variety of harmful food products. But surely, we could call white flour, sugar, and caffeine the big three. If we could just cut way back on those three ingredients and use them only occasionally, and then in moderation, what a difference that would make! Instead of white flour, use whole wheat. Instead of sugar, use honey and eat fruit for desserts. Instead of caffeine, use oxygen for that lift. What a difference it would make.
Of course, if you make a concerted effort to cut way back on those harmful ingredients, you will temporarily suffer! You’ll feel sluggish, have headaches, won’t be able to concentrate. But if you can weather the storm for a few days, prepare for smooth, enjoyable travel afterward.
Do You Have Time to Live?
You might be surprised to realize how many Americans depend on sugar, caffeine, and nicotine to jump-start their day because they have “no time” to sit down and eat a healthy breakfast. Anymore, it seems Americans have no time to do anything that makes sense and is practical. Living life to the full does take time. It takes time to study what is required for good health. And it takes time to prepare healthy foods.
Mr. Armstrong wrote this in the December 1967 Plain Truth: “Another reason our bodies are being robbed of the alkaline minerals is the way our women cook. The other day I thought of writing an article under the headline: ‘How to Hurry Your Death!’
“Ask a woman why she does not feed her children steel-cut oats and natural brown rice.
“‘Oh, that takes too much time!’ she will probably answer. So she uses the quick-cooking minute-oats or minute rice—the kind that has been robbed of all the real food value and reduced to a starch. She just can’t afford to take time to give her children good health. She must hurry—and build up in their bodies anemia, and diseases that will kill them before their time.
“A murder is merely ending a life before its time. Many of you are doing that on the installment plan—doing it not only to yourselves, but also to your children.”
We owe it to ourselves, our children, and most of all God, to eat to live—not live to eat junk. Make every effort to eat those foods which, if left out, will spoil. (Eat them before they spoil, obviously.) Learn to appreciate the whole foods for their natural God-given flavor, not man-made inventions added to make everything taste really sweet, fatty or spicy.
Look forward to a more active, productive, radiant life in a matter of weeks! You’ll find that you will be more awake in the morning; be able to concentrate more through the day; will sleep better; and will get sick far less!
Mr. Armstrong wrote, “The very first trouble with our deteriorating physical status is that we take sickness for granted! We seem to assume sickness is natural and necessary. … A cold or fever is merely a sudden violent elimination of toxins and poisons you have injected into your body by wrong diet which has broken God’s physical laws!” (ibid).
But man refuses to abide by the God-ordained, physical laws of nature. Jethro Kloss said, “Man’s intelligence has made it possible for him to become grossly perverted in almost everything—food, appetite, bathing, etc. Man does not go astray from nature because he lacks intelligence or instinct, but because he wishes to gratify his own desires” (op. cit.).
Just like the Israelites when they came out of Egypt, Westerners have grown comfortable with the easy life. We can eat whatever we want, whenever we want. But the statistics are thundering right back at us! Generation after generation of unhealthy living is taking its toll.
In describing the World Tomorrow, Mr. Armstrong said, “The combined force of right education about true health, and healing of all sickness, when it is repented of, will mean perfect, utopian health” (Mystery of the Ages).
God does heal. He will heal in the World Tomorrow. And He heals today! But only after we get educated about true health and then repent, or change, from the wrong way of living to the right.
God blesses us for observing the laws of health. Why should we think healthy, vibrant living is impossible? “Health is within our reach,” Elbert Hubbard wrote. “It costs nothing—only the effort which soon grows into a pleasurable habit.”
The warm springtime air will soon settle upon the northern hemisphere. We are reminded at Passover season of the bloody scourging Jesus Christ endured on our behalf because of our physical sins. What’s more, our pastor general has admonished us to repent and make lasting changes in this area of physical health. Let’s resolve now, with firmness of mind, to set ourselves on the right course physically; to acquire the habits that lead to active, robust living.