“But have nothing to do with irreverent or silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness, for the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
1 Timothy 4:7-8
The older I get, the more I treasure the words of Scripture. They hold life. They hold purpose. More than that, though, they are the spoken breath of God directly to me. God’s Word is truly alive and active. I feel it come alive each morning as I flip open its pages and my spirit stirs with anticipation at what the Father has come to say to me. I crave it, I thirst for it. At times, I am overwhelmed because it is vast and I want to remember every word I have read and desire for it to take root in my heart and affect how I live my daily life. Other times, I am frustrated because, as much as I long to live out what it says, I am baffled by how to do so and even feel like it is impossible because I don’t even fully understand it. Perhaps it’s just me who feels that way on occasion. Oh that I can absorb the words of Scripture into the marrow of my bones. In my quiet time this morning, it was no different. I found myself asking God to speak to me as I opened the pages of His book with reverence. Without realizing it, I had prayed these words to Him, “open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things in Your Law.” And then proceeded to dive into studying it. I encountered the verses from 1 Timothy listed above. And they have fixated in my mind and on my heart all day long–thus this post being the by-product of the meditation. I kept saying to myself, “train yourself in godliness. Train yourself in godliness.” Then I felt this tension come alongside it. “But how? How am I supposed to train myself in godliness? What does that even mean?” Of course, intellectually and even spiritually, I can answer that question. But my question goes deeper than rote answers. I can give those “spiritual” responses in my sleep. I was raised in the church and attended a Christian school so I know the “right” response. I don’t want the right response. I want the path that leads me to action that produces lasting and sustaining change and transformation by the Holy Spirit. So how, then, do I train myself in godliness?
Thankfully, as I have matured in my walk with Christ, I have learned to take those questions directly to the author of both my faith and the words about which I am confused. I asked God, “what does it look like for me to train myself in godliness? How do I prevent myself from settling into the routine or getting stuck in a rut?” And God, oh how He is faithful, for He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). He faithfully responded to my question. He reminded me that I was practicing it already. I was in training. Even as I opened His Word, I had asked Him to open my eyes to behold wonderful things in His Law. At the time I petitioned Him for that, I was not even consciously aware that I was praying His own words back to Him, for those words are actually the words of the psalmist who penned Psalm 119:18. The words flowed from a heart and a mind that practiced meditating on God’s Word and memorizing it. By then, my wheels were turning.
If there is one thing I understand, it is training–at least in the physical sense. I applied the same approach to training in godliness. When I train for races, usually half-marathons, I begin with the end goal in full view. Run 13.1 miles in less than two hours. From there, I develop a training plan to make it happen. I research various training methods then decide on the one that best suits me. Then I make a commitment to follow the plan. Even when I don’t feel like it or even when it is 20 degrees outside and my bed beckons me to stay in it and stay warm. Hence, when I am training for godliness, the question is what is my goal? As a follower of Jesus, my ultimate goal is to love Him with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to be transformed into His image day-by-day. Be like Jesus! That’s the goal. In life. In love. In relationships. In secret. In public. In joyful times. In challenges and difficulties. When it is easy and when it feels impossible. Be like Jesus! That’s the goal–love Him and surrender to His transforming work in my life to become more and more like Him until that is perfected the day I meet Him in His kingdom. Since I know my goal, then I can develop the training steps to attain it. In order to love Him, I must know Him. I must communicate with Him. I must spend time with Him. And how do I do this? By being in His Word. And this is accomplished in many different settings. I am in His Word alone. I pray in private, in quiet, in the secret places. I sit under Biblical teaching in Bible study and under the spiritual authority of my pastors. I pray in community with other believers. I attend church. We discuss it in our home and seek to put God at the center. I study the Word and Bible commentaries to deepen my understanding and study words in the original languages to further inform my time in God’s Word.
Armed with the goal and the preparation, I must then commit to practice what God is teaching me during those private and corporate times of study and instruction. Implementation is usually the most challenging because, like with running, I don’t always feel like doing what I know I should. To activate the Word in my life, heart, and choices is the beauty of surrender and the strength of the Holy Spirit within me. Often, it won’t be the natural response or the easy path to take, but it is the right one and it is always worth it. Other times, like this morning, the words will flow in a heart attitude of prayer because I put in the work ahead of time. I knew what God said in His Word because I spent the time studying it and reading it.
There are moments when even the strongest believers face doubts and wonder, “is this all worth it? It seems like life around me is rapidly circling the drain and the faithless and godless are living their best lives.” God does not back down from those questions. His answer remains a resounding, “Yes.” The final part of the verse from 1 Timothy says, “but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and for the life to come.” Take heart if you find yourself in this frame of mind today. Because godliness is beneficial right now and in eternity. The benefits may not seem immediate, but the promise is that they are coming. Following Jesus will always be worth the investment. The more I know Jesus, the more I love Him. The more I love Him, the more I love His Word. Fall in love with Jesus, friend. Fall in love with His Words. They are a salve to our souls. They hold instruction for life. They are our hope. Treasure them. Hide them in your heart. Then share them with others. People are hungry for God’s Word, for God’s truth, and they do not even realize it. Offer God’s light to those who are desperate for truth in this world. And continue to train in godliness–the results will be far too great to tally.