“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your STRENGTH…” Luke 10:27
Most of us are familiar with setting fitness goals. We tend to revisit these with gusto every January 1, but fall short of our goal within a few weeks and tend to quit altogether. Sometimes in our pursuit of health, physique, those ever-elusive abs, we forget that physical strength is secondary to spiritual strength. 1 Timothy 4:7-8 says, “Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” In this section of scripture, Paul links the necessity of not only training our body but also training our so-called spiritual muscles to produce godliness. Three times from verses 6-8, Paul uses the word “train.” There is something about training that produces within each of us the ability to reshape our lives (and our life to come) for the better. But what does training entail?
1. Training involves discipline.
Everyone at one time or another has vowed to get back in shape, but creating time to hit the gym and remain consistent can be a struggle. In reality, we all have other things vying for our attention—work, school, family. In a sense, discipline involves making a commitment to move forward on a task or goal before the opportunity to choose something else comes along.
In 1 Timothy 4:7 Paul says, “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths.” In this context, he is saying be confident in the word of faith they have heard concerning Jesus Christ. Don’t be led astray, stay disciplined to the true faith. In the same way, any training, whether for godliness or fitness, involves laser like attention and focus on the task at hand. In order to be disciplined physically, we have to commit time and energy to training. In the same way, we must create a time to prioritize growing in strength in God’s Word, time with His people, and time talking to Him to grow our spiritual muscles.
2. Training involves constant practice.
The writer of Hebrews states that for us to have characteristics of someone trained in godliness we ourselves must be training constantly (Heb. 5:14). Just as our physical fitness can only be strengthened by successive and consistent work, so the Lord sanctifies us over time to be more like Christ the more we are disciplined to prioritize our relationship with Him. Unfortunately, in godliness as well as in fitness we are either being strengthened or weakened. No one stays the same. In other words, we are either becoming more like Christ each day or as it relates to bodily training, weaker when our muscles go unused.
3. Training involves a right perspective.
If our only goal in physical training is to achieve a six-pack, we have missed out on the command to treat our bodies as temples, which means we steward our bodies in a healthy manner because they belong to the Lord. Our training in godliness and fitness should always be done from the perspective of wanting to honor the Lord. Wrong motivation leads to wrong perspective. Likewise in our spiritual lives, too many people think they alone can produce godliness without God. In 1 Timothy 4:9, Paul says that we “toil and strive” because our hope is on God only. He is our focus. We can only love the Lord with all our strength – both physically and spiritually – when we acknowledge that pleasing Him and glorifying Him is the end goal.
Physical training just like spiritual training involves focused small steps. You are not going to be able to run 26 miles on your first day, just as you’ll never reach Christ’s perfection in this life. This is why small steps toward godliness and attainable fitness goals are necessary. Keep going. The Lord gives strength, but we also have to make an effort.
If you are interested in training physically and training in godliness, sign up for the Easter Run on April 15. It is the perfect option for all fitness levels and an excellent opportunity to invite friends who don’t know Christ or who might be interested in First Dallas to join you. We will have a runner’s breakfast, great t-shirt, and awards for winners. Click here to register today.
Written by First Dallas Staff