Jeremiah 33:23-34:22; 1 Timothy 4:7-16; Psalms 89:1-6; Proverbs 20:26-27
NT: “But have nothing to do with pointless and silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness. For the training of the body has limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance. For this reason we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone despise your youth, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity. Until I come, give your attention to public reading, exhortation, and teaching. Don’t neglect the gift that is in you; it was given to you through prophecy, with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. Practice these things; be committed to them, so that your progress may be evident to all. Pay close attention to your life and your teaching; persevere in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:7-16 CSB)
For the past few weeks, the world has been engrossed in the 2020 Summer Olympic Games (delayed a year because of the COVID19 pandemic). Watching men and women, who have risen to the highest calibers of athleticism, compete on the world stage is incredibly inspiring. As inspiring as the performances are the back stories of the athletes. Many of the competitors have trained for years to reach the olympics, overcoming any number of setbacks and personal challenges, to eventually be named among the world’s best. The training, discipline and rigor benefit the athletes, but the result also benefits all those who watch and are inspired by their success.
Games, like the olympics, were a part of first-century Roman culture as well, and Paul used the analogy of training the body as an encouragement to Timothy (and to us) to put the same level of discipline and dedication to training in godliness. Exercising the body to good health is beneficial and should be done, but exercising our lives to godliness is much more beneficial. Good physical health and athletic prowess only lasts as long as your physical body is able to last. Godliness not only benefits you in this life, it benefits you for eternity in the life-to-come. Therefore, while laboring and striving for good health is a worthy activity, we should more so be willing to labor (expend effort) and strive (contend with adversaries to obtain a prize) by grace to live a godly life. We no longer live merely for this life because we have been given a great and sure hope by God through our Savior Jesus Christ.
How do we train ourselves in godliness? Paul answered that question throughout this passage. First of all, we are to have nothing to do with pointless and silly beliefs that distract and can even lead us away from faith in Christ. When I was younger, I used to be a long-distance runner. There were a couple of times when I even trained for and ran in a marathon. Whenever I was training, I rid myself of any foods that would hinder me from performing my best, and my life became very simple: eat, sleep, go to work and train. If I did all that to receive a participation medal at the end of the race, how much more should I rid myself and stay away from any unhealthy and dangerous beliefs and focus myself intently on what will mature me in Christ?
Paul also charged Timothy (and us) to pay close attention to his life and the things that he had been taught… and persevere in them. In paying close attention to his life, what things did that entail? Our lives in Christ involve these things: our speech (what we say), our conduct (what we do and how we live), our love (what motivates our speech and behavior), our faith (what we believe and hold on to), and our purity (remaining holy and set apart from the ways and beliefs of the world). Just as olympic athletes are examples to the whole world of physical health and ability, we are to be examples to the world of godliness – to the point that our godliness inspires others to godliness.
Finally, we need to steward the gifts that we have been given and practice the things we preach, so that we aren’t merely opinionated commentators on godliness, but are actually growing and progressing in godliness as the world watches on. And in the midst of our growing and progressing, we publicly read the word of truth, exhort and encourage others, and teach the things we have been taught and are learning. If we do that, not only will we succeed in godliness, but we will bring many others along with us.
Proverbs: “The Lord’s lamp sheds light on a person’s life, searching the innermost parts.” (Proverbs 20:27 CSB)
People are bad judges of themselves. Rarely do they see everything in their lives that needs correcting, and often when they do see it, they ignore it. It is for that reason that high-caliber athletes have coaches – to point out minor flaws in their form and performance and exhort them on to excellence. For us to truly pay attention to our lives, we can’t trust our own feedback. Only God, who can see even into the deepest and innermost parts of our lives, is able to give us the feedback and correction we need to live lives of godliness. In Christ, He does that through the Holy Spirit – either as the Holy Spirit convicts us, or leads other godly, trusted and Holy Spirit-filled people to speak to us. To grow in godliness, we need to be open to the Lord’s light.
Prayer: Lord, I thank You, that through faith in You, You have given me everything I need to live a life of godliness. However, You won’t live my life of godliness for me – I actually have to do the living part. That requires effort on my part by grace that I receive through faith as I exercise myself to godliness. Help me, through grace and the leading of the Holy Spirit, to train myself to godliness and to be an example of godliness to others. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.