Training for godliness is much better
1 Timothy 4:8 Putting less emphasis on the gym membership and more on studying God’s Word pays eternal dividends
Photo credit Nejron, via The American Heart Association
“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”
1 Timothy 4:8 NLT
Before digging into today’s verse, I want to welcome and thank the new subscribers who have joined us to study God’s Word during the past month! You’re definitely “training for godliness”, and the benefits last longer than what you’ll get from that gym membership you may have signed up for.
Yes, it’s that time of year again. Now, Barb and I have been attending a mind-body fitness class for the past five years like clockwork, and we see the same thing every January. The parking lot at our recreation center is jammed with more cars than usual for a few weeks, most belonging to people who got new fitness wear for Christmas and are now “resolving” to lose weight, get into shape, and all-in-all “be a better me” in the new year.
Most of those resolutions will fade away in the next week or two, if they haven’t already been discarded at this point! Paul’s first epistle to Timothy was primarily written to offer moral and spiritual support to his young colleague on mission in Ephesus, and at this point near the end of the letter, he’s really trying to instill in Timothy the need to keep his priorities straight.
Now, the Greeks and Romans — like our society today — valued physical exercise and fitness. Paul tells Timothy to look at the commitment others are putting into physical pursuits, and to put that same amount of commitment into pursuing godliness.
What is godliness? The Greek word εὐσέβεια (eusebeia) is used here, with the definition of “piety towards God”. In Enduring Word, David Guzik says that
The word godliness comes from the old English word Godlikeness; it means to have the character and attitude of God. This was a worthy goal, much more worthy that the potential attainments of physical exercise.
Our goal as Christians should always be to reflect as much as possible “the character and attitude” of Jesus in our lives. You’ll notice that Paul doesn’t dismiss physical exercise outright, that he actually says it’s “good”. Perhaps he’s trying to make a parallel here — it’s only possible to grow physically and spiritually when one exercises and nourishes oneself properly.
Next Paul tells Timothy that training for godliness has benefits now and in the future, and today’s Christian should think of this as well. Godliness makes our present lives better, providing the opportunity to not only believe and experience that ourselves, but to share this knowledge with others. My favorite preacher of all time, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, said of this verse:
“I assure you, and there are thousands of my brethren who can affirm the same, that after having tried the ways of sin, we infinitely prefer the ways of righteousness for their own pleasure’s sake even here, and we would not change with ungodly men even if we had to die like dogs. With all the sorrow and care which Christian life is supposed to bring, we would prefer it to any other form of life beneath the stars.”1
Our physical bodies eventually wither away and disappear, but pursuing godliness offers the only path to eternal life and happiness. If your New Year’s resolution for better physical fitness has already been broken, take heart in that you’re studying God’s Word right now and your resolution to “train for godliness” is still intact!
Heaven On Wheels Daily Prayer:
For today’s prayer, we go to Knowing Jesus:
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word and the wisdom it contains. Help me to remember that physical discipline is only of little benefit, but that godliness is profitable for all things. Help me to walk in spirit and truth, grow in grace, mature in the faith, and seek after godliness, knowing that it is not only beneficial in this present life but provides eternal benefit in the life to come. I pray that You would give me the strength and courage to live a life of godliness and to trust in You for all things. In Jesus' name, AMEN.
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Spurgeon, Charles Haddon "The New Park Street Pulpit" Volumes 1-6 and "The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit" Volumes 7-63 (Pasadena, Texas: Pilgrim Publications, 1990)