Devotional Thoughts

Exercise That Lasts

This post by Chris Anderson comes from Gospel Meditations for Men (Day 16).

Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way.(1 Timothy 4:7–8)

It’s not uncommon for the New Testament writers to appeal to the world of sports for vivid illustrations of spiritual truth (1 Corinthians 9:26; Hebrews 12:1–2; 2 Timothy 4:7). Thus, it’s not surprising that Paul draws a parallel between physical exercise and spiritual exercise in 1 Timothy 4:7–8. Paul explains that Christian growth is the result of deliberate and disciplined effort, and he urges us to pump some spiritual iron.

Godliness requires consistent training.

The goal of every Christian should be to grow in godliness, a goal which Paul keeps before us by mentioning godliness nine times in this first letter to Timothy. From the moment we are born again (an immediate, one-time event), we begin to progress in our sanctification (an ongoing process).

God uses means like the Scriptures, prayer, the church, and even trials to change our character from its natural, selfish condition to the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 3:10). The same gospel that saves us from sin also changes us. We’ll not be sinless until we’re with Christ in heaven, but we’ll certainly be sinning less as we grow in godliness.

Christian growth is the result of deliberate and disciplined effort.

What is especially vital for us to understand is this: Godliness is the result of effort—focused effort that turns us away from useless distractions (1 Timothy 4:7a), and consistent effort that follows an ongoing regimen of spiritual exercises. Don’t lose steam after a few early morning “workouts.”

Godliness requires personal responsibility.

First Timothy 4:7 is one of many verses in which Paul tells Timothy to take care of “himself ” (see also 4:13, 15, 16). Paul couldn’t make Timothy godly. His exemplary grandmother and mother couldn’t make him godly. Timothy had to take responsibility for his own spiritual progress.

In his classic book The Practice of Godliness, Jerry Bridges explains: “You and I are responsible to train ourselves. We are dependent upon God for his divine enablement, but we are responsible; we are not passive in this process” (p. 55). Acknowledge your responsibility here.

Godliness isn’t something some people are just born with, or simply “catch” like a spiritual cold. Godliness isn’t an accident; it happens on purpose. Paul commands Timothy to do something—to train himself to be godly.

Godliness is profitable for time and eternity.

Paul concludes his sports analogy in verse 8 by comparing the eternal rewards of spiritual training with the fleeting benefits of physical training. It’s true that bodily exercise is valuable—a lesson which many of us would do well to consider! Watch your weight. Swim, bike, walk, or run to keep your body in shape. Knock yourself out. But your spiritual health is of far greater importance.

Though your outer man is wasting away (despite your best efforts), your inner man can be renewed daily (2 Corinthians 4:16). Just as God commands ladies to beautify their hearts, not just their wardrobes and faces (1 Peter 3:3–4), He commands men to focus on their maturity, not just their muscles (1 Timothy 4:7–8).

Though your outer man is wasting away (despite your best efforts), your inner man can be renewed daily.

So, what are you doing to grow toward Christlikeness? Are you resisting sin? Are you getting daily nourishment from the Scriptures? Are you enjoying God’s presence through consistent prayer? Are you filling your mind with music that reminds you of the gospel throughout the day? Are you an active, teachable member of a good church? Are you making deliberate, grace-enabled efforts to advance in your walk with Christ?

Let the gospel motivate and enable you to grow in godliness.

Explore the whole book!

This collection of 31 daily readings was written to help guide men into a deeper knowledge and appreciation for the Scriptures, leading to gospel-saturated living. With relevant topics such as leadership, grace, fellowship, sexuality, work…and even pizza, these “meaty,” miniature Bible studies are sure to benefit men of all ages in their walk with God, whether married or single.