"Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."
- 1 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV
My oldest son and his wife were visiting recently, and they invited my husband and me to go for a walk with them to get some exercise. I was pleased when my husband jumped at the chance to join them, because he doesn't get as much exercise as he should. But since I go for walks on my treadmill almost daily, I decided to stay home and spend some time in God's presence and Word. I was reminded of the apostle Paul's instructions in 1 Timothy 4:7-8 (NLT): "Train yourself to be godly. Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come." Paul is not condemning physical fitness here. What he's doing is trying to get God's people to order their priorities properly. Think about all of the people today who are so serious about the condition of their bodies that they invest large amounts of time, energy, and money in their quest to look good and feel good. Most of these people give little or no thought to their spiritual health, and these are the people that Paul is warning here.
So how do we train ourselves to be godly, as Paul suggests? One way is by devoting ourselves to the Word of God. Paul wrote: "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV) The Bible has the power to equip us with everything we need to live God-pleasing lives. If we will prayerfully read it each day, allowing the Holy Spirit to use it to teach and correct us, we will be able to live the life of victory that Jesus died for us to have. If we fail to train ourselves in this way, we will live in doubt, confusion, and mediocrity. Scripture says: "But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." (Hebrews 5:14 NIV) With good and evil being so relative in today's society, how can we discern right from wrong without using the Word of God as our standard? In many cases, we can't, and that's why our spiritual progress and maturity depend greatly upon our knowing and believing God's Word.
Another way we can train ourselves to be godly is through self-discipline. Paul compared the Christian life to a race, and he told us: "Run your race to win. To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best." (1 Corinthians 9:24-25 TLB) He then adds: "Like an athlete I punish my body, treating it roughly, training it to do what it should, not what it wants to." (1 Corinthians 9:27 TLB) In order to fulfill our God-given purpose and potential, we must deny ourselves things that would hinder us or weigh us down. If we don't rule and reign over our fleshly passions, appetites, and desires, they will rule and reign over us--and they will keep us from experiencing the good plans that God has for our lives. The Bible says that God has given us a Spirit of discipline and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7 AMP) So by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can overcome everything we need to, if we will just yield to His leadership on a constant basis.
We are also trained to be godly through divine discipline. Scripture says: "God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:10-11 NIV) If we will see divine discipline as a sign of God's love for us, then we will respond to it in ways that will profit us most. When we are experiencing trials of any kind, we should go to God and ask Him: "What is it that You want me to learn from this, Lord? Help me to learn my lesson quickly, so that I don't need to suffer one more minute longer than necessary." By submitting ourselves to God in this way, we can partner with Him to reduce the intensity and duration of our trials. And we can come away from them with more wisdom and insight than ever before. It's the Lord's will for us to train ourselves to be godly. Let's cooperate with Him to become all that He created us to be, so that we can accomplish all that He created us to do.
Prayer: Lord, when I'm inclined to focus on my body and my appearance too much, help me to shift my focus to my spiritual health, instead. Give me a growing passion for Your Word that will move me to study it regularly, so that my mind is renewed to Your truth. Thank You that as I turn away from those things that are not Your best for me, and as I turn to You and Your ways with all my heart, I will experience the awesome plans You have for my life.
- J. M. Farro