Paul wrote to Timothy about training for Godliness. 1 Timothy 4: 8 “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” 9 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. 10 This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers. Athletic games were as popular then as they are now. We don’t know if Timothy was athletic, but he would have understood the analogy.
Paul and the Struggle
The word Paul uses for struggle in the verse above has a connotation of wrestling. He knows that prayer, pastoral care, and evangelism are work and encourages Timothy to work hard. Paul has referenced training before.
1 Corinthians 9: 24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.
Paul knows spiritual training is eternal, unlike prizes for winning a foot race. Living the new life Christ won for us is a battle in this life because of sin. Yet, God supplies us with spiritual armor (Ephesians 6) and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Do You Mean I Should Train Spiritually?!
While Paul spoke to Timothy as a leader, his advice is for all believers. Most people are stunned to learn that God wants us to work on our spirituality. It is not easy to train to run a marathon. One must be self-disciplined to work out a training schedule and eat correctly. Physical training takes focus and persistence. It is the same as we grow in our spiritual maturity; it requires effort, perseverance, focus, and commitment. It is work.
I have served several congregations over many years, and unfortunately, not many people desire to train spiritually. Many are satisfied with minimal faith. They will attend Sunday service if they have nothing better to do. Often, a softball league or camping has priority. They assume attending church eight or ten times a year is sufficient. Attending a Bible study or spending time with the Lord during the week may be too much work for them.
These people are missing out on the benefits of a strong faith in this life. Our hope is in Jesus, both now and forever. Physical training results in a strong body, and spiritual training results in a stronger faith and relationship with Jesus. Break into spiritual training gradually. Attend a Bible study, and you will learn and be encouraged. Set a goal of reading Scripture and a devotion three times a week to begin. As you grow spiritually, you will desire more of God and be blessed.
To learn more about training for Godliness, listen here: