Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
1 Timothy 4:7-8
How are you doing in your physical training? Are you getting in the “steps” you want each day, or perhaps even the “miles”? Are you doing aerobic, strength, and balance training that we are told are important? I, for one, could always be doing better. Yet the words of today’s scripture jump off the page at me as the apostle Paul reminds us that whatever the importance we give to physical training, spiritual training is a whole lot more important. In fact, spiritual training is eternally important as it holds “promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
Early the other morning my wife Rita and I were walking near our home being left in the dust by fit joggers, cyclists, and full-speed-ahead sprinters. In the midst of the huffing, puffing and sweating, I just had to ask myself: “Tim, are you as devoted to your spiritual training as those people are to their physical training?” I was struck by their dedication, determination and grit to be physically fit. I found myself wanting to train, like Paul said, “in godliness.”
Remarkably, Paul does not exhort us to be godly, but rather exhorts that we train to be godly: “Train yourself in godliness.” Paul knows that becoming godly people takes something more than good intentions, determination, and will power. We have to train!
The Greek word Paul uses for “train” is telling; it is gumnzo, meaning to exercise naked or stripped down. In that ancient Greco-Roman world dedicated physical training meant that athletes train free of anything that might hinder or hold them back. We get our word “gymnasium” from gumnazo, which indicates a place of serious physical training. It is helpful to see how various Bible translations render the word gumnazo in today’s scripture:
- “discipline” (New American Standard Bible)
- “work hard” (Contemporary English Version)
- “Spend time and energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit” (Living Bible)
God is calling us in today’s scripture to train for godliness with discipline and hard work. Philosopher and theologian Dallas Willard reminds: “The path of spiritual growth in the riches of Christ is not a passive one. Grace is not opposed to effort. It is opposed to earning. Effort is action. Earning is attitude.”
We “train” for godliness with all the determination and dedication of those early morning runners I saw sweating the other morning. The Bible sets out a training program for us that we call “spiritual disciplines” which include:
- Bible memorization and meditation
- And more….
I once saw a large banner in a gym with the anagram for training to be physically FIT:
Training for godliness and being spiritually fit, will likewise require from us, FREQUENCY in our practice of spiritual disciplines; INTENSITY in our effort; and TIME we devote to it. The good news is that it holds “promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
How about it? Are you ready? How can you do more?
A fellow traveler,
P. S. PLEASE, LET US PRAY FOR ISRAEL AND THE PEACE OF JERUSALEM (Psalm 122:6)!