Spirituality and Longevity

Lambert Greer

Living God's way truly does lead to abundant life!

One of the best ways to improve your chances to live longer is to recognize the value of spirituality in your life. "Nurture your spirit, no matter what you call your source of inspiration," advised a Mayo Clinic health letter some time ago. The newsletter was reporting a study that followed 4,000 people for four years, and found that those who attended church weekly had a 28 percent lower mortality rate overall when compared to those who did not belong to a church community.

The researchers also considered income, education, chronic diseases, other illnesses, health habits, exercise, smoking, drinking, body fat, social participation and psychological status. None of these factors explained the results. Church attendance was still an independent predictor—and the strongest predictor—of longevity.

Other research has shown statistically that people who are regularly involved in religious and spiritual activities live longer than those who are not. Various theories have been put forth to explain this spiritual dimension to longevity. Physical explanations include the idea that people who are involved in religious groups benefit from the social networks they form. If they get sick, others look out for them.

Religious beliefs may also lead to less risky behavior. In addition, a well-developed sense of spirituality may help people better cope with life's tough psychological demands. In a landmark study of 1,700 older Americans, researchers at Duke University Medical Center found that those who attend religious services had stronger immune responses. About 60 percent of the men and women surveyed attended religious services at least once a week. Blood tests showed that regular attendees were less likely to have a high level of an immune system protein involved in age-related diseases. This study suggests a direct positive effect. Physical explanations do not account for these findings.

The Bible makes an interesting statement regarding physical longevity. The Apostle Paul wrote: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother,' which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth" (Ephesians 6:1–3).

Scripture also says: "My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands; for length of days and long life and peace they will add to you" (Proverbs 3:1–2). This commandment, when fully understood, is directed not only to youth, but also to all of us as children of God. God is our heavenly Father. He directs us to pray to Him as: "Our Father in heaven" (Matthew 6:9).

When human beings obey their heavenly Father, their lives are blessed. Christians also realize that, while God blesses them with quality of life, they must nevertheless be willing to endure suffering "for righteousness' sake"—which may mean having their lives cut short because of persecution.

Jesus Himself lived on this earth for just 33½ years, but He said He came that mankind could have life more abundantly (John 10:10). What is that abundant life? Is it a lawless existence? Some wrongly believe that Jesus abolished the Ten Commandments. In fact, He magnified them by demonstrating their spiritual aspects, as we see from His dealings with the Pharisees. Christ said: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone" (Matthew 23:23). Christ made the Ten Commandments more vital for Christians—not less—and explained that they would be valid "till heaven and earth pass away" (Matthew 5:18).

God wants you to choose wisely, and to choose His way. As He said: "I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live" (Deuteronomy 30:19).