1 Timothy 4
…discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness… – Vs 7
We are a hard-working society. Most people put in more hours per week on their jobs than any other generation before them. We even work hard at our leisure and recreation. Not content to have one hobby or fitness passion, many of us pursue a wide assortment of exercise options, putting in countless hours at the gym or working out at home. We bike, run, lift weights, do aerobics, Pilates, Yoga, and a range of other popular fitness fads. None of which are bad. But how many of us put the same level of energy and effort we put into work and recreation into our spiritual development?
Paul had to have been an exercise nut, because he refers to the topic quite a bit in his letters. Or it could be that he was writing within the context of a culture heavily influenced by Greek thought, that was obsessed with the human body. Exercise was a huge deal in his day. A well-formed, fit human body was considered a thing of beauty. And it was worth working for. So Paul took that same mentality and applied it to his reader's pursuit of godliness. He says, "discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness" (Vs 7). The word there for "discipline" is the Greek word gymnazo, which literally means, "to exercise vigorously, in any way, either the body or the mind." It's the same Greek word from which we get our words gym and gymnasium. It was a popular word with the apostle Paul.
Godliness is profitable for all things
Paul tells Timothy, and us, to discipline himself for godliness. He is to exercise vigorously both his body and his mind so that he might become increasingly more godly. Why? Because godliness is profitable. It is advantageous. Not just for the life to come (heaven), but for the present life. So it is worth laboring and striving for (Vs 10). It should become a high priority in our lives because it gives us an advantage in this life. Godliness is what allows us to navigate the rough seas and storms of this life. It is what gives us the stamina to take the next step, when we think we can't go on. It is what provides us with the energy we need when we are feeling tired and ready to give up. Godliness is not just about more Scripture knowledge and religious platitudes. It is the key to survival in a very inhospitable place.
So if it is so important, why don't more of us as believers spend more time disciplining ourselves in the pursuit of godliness? Because the world is screaming at us that it is NOT important. It is a waste of time. There are more pressing things to be concerned with. Like working more hours so you can make more money. Or increasing your weekly mileage so you can run a faster 5K. Or getting in better shape so you can look better in your bathing suit this summer. There's nothing inherently wrong with any of those things, but when they become more important than our own spiritual growth, we have lost perspective. We have gotten our priorities mixed up. Paul says bodily exercise is only of little profit. It may make you look better, allow you to live a little longer, give you a bit more stamina, and improve your self-esteem, but time spent pursuing godliness has both short- and long-term implications. It is profitable and advantageous. It has lasting results that won't diminish with age or time.
Father, forgive me for not spending more time exercising spiritually and for allowing myself to get out of spiritual shape. It leaves me spiritually lethargic and lacking in the energy I need to live the life you've called me to live. I get tired too easily. I run out of spiritual breath too quickly. I find myself lacking the stamina I need to run the race to win. Help me see spiritual exercise and the pursuit of godliness as a non-negotiable in my life. May I make it a priority each and every day of my life. Because it holds promise for this life and also for the life to come! Amen