Benefits of Christian Living

There are many reasons to believe the Bible is true – including its scientific, historic and prophetic accuracy.

But today we'll consider a completely different reason to believe the Bible.

It’s a reason I hadn’t thought much about until recently – and one that you might not have heard of.

The different reason to believe the Bible is this:

Following the Bible’s instructions for living
gives measurable benefits during this life.

If the Bible is written by our Designer and Creator – and tells us the best way to live – then we’d expect that there’d be some measurable benefit from following its instructions.

And that’s exactly what we find!


We know the Bible instructs Christians to meet together:

… consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, …  (Hebrews 10:24)

The early Christians also came together regularly on the first day of the week to remember the Lord Jesus in the bread and wine at His table because the Lord had asked them to (Luke 22:19-20).

Today followers of the Lord Jesus still meet regularly to remember and worship Him – and for mutual encouragement and friendship. 

We have a living faith that affects many aspects of our lifestyle.

 

But are there any measurable benefits from belonging to a fellowship of believers?

 Yes, there are.  In recent years there has been extensive research comparing church-going people and non-church-going people.  This has shown that those who attend church regularly – and act consistently with their faith – are better off physically, socially, spiritually, educationally, and mentally than they would be otherwise.

Although most of the research was done in the USA, I think the conclusions are valid in other Western countries including New Zealand.

Let’s look at 4 major university studies showing how churchgoing benefits people’s health.

Study 1

This was a major joint study of the relationship between churchgoing and longevity.  It was conducted in 1999 by the Universities of Colorado Boulder, Texas at Austin and Florida State.

It was based on a 1987 National Health Interview Survey of more than 28,000 people.

It was found that regular churchgoers live significantly longer than people who seldom or never attend church services.

For the first time, that extra lifespan was quantified. 

While there were differences due to gender and race, in general, those who went to church each week lived about 7 years longer than those who never attended.

For those who never attended church, life expectancy beyond age 20 averaged another 55.3 years, to age 75.

For those who attended church weekly, life expectancy beyond age 20 averaged another 62.9 years, to age 83.

Churchgoers generally, were less likely to engage in high-risk health behaviours such as smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages. 

Churchgoers were also more likely to take part in social activities and to enjoy a good supporting network of family and friends who helped them cope better in times of stress or difficulty.

Researchers also found that those who never attended services were about twice as likely to die from respiratory diseases, diabetes or infectious diseases.

Study 2

A major 2008 study by researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of the Yeshiva University in New York strongly suggests that regular attendance at services reduces women’s risk of death by approximately 20 percent. 

The researchers evaluated the religious practices of 92,395 post-menopausal women

The study participants, aged 50 to 79, were recruited on a voluntary basis from a variety of sources from all over the USA.

The women answered questions about baseline health conditions and religiosity, and were monitored by researchers for an average of 7.7 years with potential study outcomes of cardiovascular events and mortality adjudicated by trained physicians.

Participants answered 3 key questions at registration:

  • Religious affiliation (yes or no).
  • How often services were attended (never, less than once per week, once per week, more than once per week).
  • If religion provided strength and comfort (none, a little, a great deal).

Those attending religious services at least once per week showed a 20 percent mortality risk reduction mark compared with those not attending services at all.

These findings corroborate previous studies that have shown up to a 25 percent reduction in such risk.

Study 3

A 2016 study by Harvard University’s Harvard Chan School of Public Health evaluated 74,534 female nurses who participated in a Nurses' Health Study.

The study found that women who attended church services more than once per week, were more than 30 percent less likely to die during a 16-year follow-up period than women who never attended. 

Frequent attenders also had a 27% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality and a 21% lower risk of cancer-related mortality.

Tyler VanderWeele, Professor of Epidemiology, and the senior author of the study, said that part of the benefit seems to be that attending church services increases social support, discourages smoking, decreases depression, and helps people develop a more optimistic outlook on life.

The researchers adjusted for a variety of factors, including diet, physical activity, alcohol consumption, smoking status, body mass index, social integration, depression, race and ethnicity.

Study 4

Following the Bible’s teaching isn’t just good for your health – it has other benefits as well.

A 2012 study of more than 8,379 teens from across the USA was carried out by sociologists from Brigham Young University and Rice University.

It was found that church-affiliated youth are:

  • 40 percent more likely to graduate from high school than their unaffiliated peers
  • 70 percent more likely to enrol in tertiary education.

For many American teens, the road to university goes through their church.

The researchers note that the teens fellow church-goers are an important factor, serving as mentors who help the teens to avoid distractions and to set their sights high.

Impact on adolescents and marriage

Other research shows that spirituality has positive impact on adolescents and on marriages.

The American Psychological Association reported in 2014 that adolescents who attend church services with one or both of their parents are more likely to feel greater well-being.

Christian beliefs or behaviours also appear to strengthen generally happy marriages.  Partners who pray for each other experience greater relationship commitment.

Married couples can draw on their Christian beliefs and behaviours to strengthen their unions and to help them cope with adversity.

Impact on society

According to other studies cited by Charles Colson in his book How Now Shall We Live? those who regularly attend church:

  • Are less likely to commit suicide, take drugs or alcohol,
  • Are less likely to have out of wedlock births
  • Are happier and healthier,
  • Have a lower rate of stress and depression,
  • Enjoy higher self-esteem,
  • And have longer and happier marriages and a better sex life.

He says that more than 300 studies found that people with a strong religious faith were much healthier than non-believers.  Additionally, they were much less likely to die prematurely from any cause.

Having a vital faith can speed recovery from physical and mental illness, surgery and even addictions.

In a study conducted by a university medical centre of seriously depressed men and women, it was found that those who put their faith at the centre of their lives recovered 70% faster than those who didn’t.

Living according to the biblical moral order is not only better for the individual, but also for society as a whole:

  • Would you rather be part of a group where lying, cheating, stealing, bribery and corruption are common - or not? 
  • Would you rather be part of a group where serious addictions such as drugs and alcohol are present – or part of a group that enjoys healthier lifestyles?
  • Would you rather be part of a group where sexual addiction and prostitution is rampant - or not?
  • Would you rather be part of a group where wife and child abuse is prevalent - or not?
  • Would you rather be part of a group that believes in the sanctity of life and protects those most vulnerable in our society, the very young and the very old - or not?
  • Would you rather be part of a group where people gamble money needed to feed their children - or not?
  • Would you rather be a part of a group where children are disrespectful and disobedient to their parents - or not?

Of course, a vital faith reduces the temptation for health-damaging habits like smoking and drinking alcohol.  It also reduces stress, anxiety and depression.

A vital faith makes a huge difference to the health of society – as well as that of individuals.

As a friend said to me, churchgoing has so many health benefits that our government here in New Zealand should probably be giving some of our 16 billion dollar annual health budget to churches!

What does it take to have a blessed and meaningful life?

The fact is, that God’s word, the Bible, teaches a way of living that’s much better than anything we humans can devise. 

We’re instructed in the book of Proverbs to:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;

In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

God not only knows what’s best for us, but He also wants us to have what’s best for us.

What each of us needs to ask is, “Am I willing to have God’s best for my life?” 

When we sin, we miss God’s best for our lives.  God’s will isn’t just good; it’s the very best option available to us!

What do we need to do to have God’s best? 

As well as our eternal salvation, which the Lord Jesus says is the result of trusting in Him and being “born again,” we need a firm sense of right and wrong – and a determination to do the right thing – even when it’s difficult or painful.

Not out of a grim sense of duty, but out of a desire to please God in response to His love and grace.  We're to “lay up treasure in Heaven.”

Only when we live in accordance with the handbook that God has given us are we able to act in our real best interests!

The happiness and blessing that God wants us to experience is the result of living a virtuous life, one that shows Christ-like character and conduct.

Happiness is synonymous with pursuing a life of virtue, that is, a life seeking to please and glorify God; and that is the only way to true happiness.

Virtue as taught in the Bible not only leads to happiness, but also to meaning and purpose in life – which is something we all need.

Moral laws have consequences just as surely as physical laws do. 

We’re free to make the moral decisions we think best, but once those decisions are made and acted on, we’re not free from their consequences – either good or bad.

If we want to lead healthy and well-balanced lives, we need to discover and follow the wise and loving principles that we’re taught in God’s Word.

That’s what the Bible calls wisdom

Wisdom is making good decisions based on a clear understanding of God’s word.

God is the supreme realist, and we’re realistic only as we see things from His point of view.

By any measure, committed Christians live happier, more fulfilled, more meaningful and purposeful lives.

Some of the most important determinants of human happiness and well-being are our spiritual beliefs and moral choices. 

A vital faith in the Lord Jesus makes people happier and more fulfilled – because they live better and have a greater purpose in life.

As the Bible was written for us by our Designer and Creator, we’d expect that there’d be a measurable benefit during this life when we live the way it says we should.

And that’s exactly what the researchers have confirmed.

Additionally, we know from Scripture that there are special benefits in Heaven for believers who serve the Lord Jesus during this life.

The challenge to us is to frequently thank God for His great love and goodness to us and live in a way that honours Him.

If God gives us extra years on earth due to our Bible-based lifestyle,
then we’ll have even more time to make our lives truly count for Him!

Lindsay Smith, July 2017