“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 4:7b-8
I really enjoy playing golf, but I’m just an average golfer. In my quest to improve my game, I read Tiger Woods’ book How I Play Golf. I learned a lot from it. During a match, I would try to put into practice what I learned in the book. There was just one problem though – I didn’t golf anything like Tiger Woods.
There are many reasons for my inept golf skills, the most obvious being my lack of such dedicated practice. Tiger Woods would put in 13 hours of training a day, including two workouts, two sessions at the driving range, one session of putting, and 18 holes of golf. So when I watch Tiger make those great shots on the course, I am convinced that his extensive practice and training behind the scenes have contributed to his athleticism and success at golf. No matter how hard I tried to golf like Tiger, I wasn’t willing or able to put in as much work as he did.
The apostle Paul showed us that there is something much more valuable than golfing like Tiger, yet, even that still requires dedication – Christlikeness.
Many believers seek to be like Christ without actually devoting themselves to the disciplines that invite them into His presence and character.
When Paul encouraged Timothy to “train yourself to be godly” (1 Tim. 4:7), he gave him some very practical encouragement. The word for train in the original language is gumnaze, from which we get the word “gymnasium.” Paul encouraged Timothy to spend time in the spiritual gymnasium, practicing spiritual disciplines.
One of my college professors defined spiritual disciplines as submitting oneself to the direction of the Holy Spirit for growth of our whole being, body and soul, through submission to the channels that God has given us to know and serve Him. Jesus practiced such discipline in His life and taught His disciples to do the same. Disciplines such as solitude, prayer, fasting, sacrifice, study, worship, service, submission, fellowship, and obedience are clearly instructed throughout the Scriptures.
Is the Spirit leading you to focus on any particular discipline that you may be lacking? As Paul instructed, the value of spending time in God’s “gym” is that it will produce results that hold “promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8b).
Prayer for the week: Jesus, we want to be like You and make a real difference in this world. Help us see that the way to godliness is to participate in the activities that were a central part of Your life. You have promised that Your yoke is easy and Your burden is light (Matt. 11:30). May we experience that reality as we train ourselves to be godly and dedicate our lives to You.
Steve Hoffman is the district superintendent of the Prairie Lakes District Church of the Nazarene (Minnesota, North and South Dakotas).
Written for Coffee Break.