Last week in shepherding group, one of the guys brought up this passage and we discussed it for a while. It keeps coming back to my mind, as it has some direct correlation to various things I’m studying in my pursuits of becoming a personal trainer as well as a godly woman.
The Passage: 1 Timothy 4:7-16
“7 Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. 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. 11 Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them. 12 Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 13 Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them. 14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. 15 Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.”
Verse 7: There are so many different opinions and ideas out there about everything. On the physical side, there are various opinions on how to lose weight, get fit fast, what to eat and what not to eat. On top of that, there are old wives’ tales that have been passed down from woman to woman in families. Now, these are good things to know and study out, but they’re not the most important. In fact, it says not to waste your time arguing over opinions, which wives’ tale is right and which one’s just coincidence, etc. So, be educated, and listen to others, but don’t argue about it. It’s often best to keep your opinions to yourself. What works for one person may not work best for another. Then there’s that last phrase “Instead, train yourself to be godly.” Don’t waste your time on opinions; instead, spend your time on pursuing godliness.
Verse 8: This is not an excuse not to train physically. Physical training is still beneficial. But as beneficial as it is, there is a more important training ground out there. Physical training benefits only the present life: a mere 70 or so years, for most of us; for some, even less. Training in godliness promises eternal benefits. It’s kind of like the difference between dieting and choosing a healthy lifestyle. Fad diets fade. Often people lose weight quickly, then gain back more than they lost, and thus begins a vicious cycling of unhealthy living. On the other hand, choosing a healthy lifestyle is adopting a new way of life. Instead of bingeing on God on Sundays and maybe the occasional Wednesday and either fasting or purging the rest of the week, we should choose a lifestyle that’s consistent day in and day out, one that’s sustainable in the Word on a daily basis, always relying on His truth and grace. That brings us to the question, “What is godliness?” What does it mean to be godly. The suffix -li or -ly means like or as. So, the word literally means like God. So, what is God like? Lots of people have ideas of who or what they think God is, but only God can tell us exactly what He thinks and Who He is. Fortunately, He’s given us everything we need to be godly in His Word, the Bible (II Peter 1:3).
Verse 9: This is a universal truth, reliable and worth heeding.
Verse 10: Training in godliness is compared to an exercise regime. It’s not easy and it’s not always our first choice, but it’s worth it. A regular exercise regime is hard work that involves sweat and labor. It’s easier to sit on the couch. We struggle to get up and active. It’s the same thing in our spiritual lives. Becoming like God doesn’t come naturally (that’s why they call it supernatural). It takes time and a concentrated effort to set aside time to exercise our hearts and minds in prayer and Scripture reading. Why do we work hard at training to be like God? Because our hope, our confident expectation, is in the living God. We expect with confidence that He will save us from this life, from our sins, from eternal death, and even from ourselves. And we expect this because we trust His promises to be true.
Verse 11: We are commanded to share these truths about God’s plan and promises to those around us. They’re that valuable!
Verse 12: This letter is written from Paul, a veteran saint, to Timothy, a younger believer and student of Paul. He told Timothy to not let age be a hindering factor in sharing the truth. No matter what age you are, someone is always looking up to you. When you’re in fourth grade, the kindergartners are looking up to you; when you’re in high school, the middle school kids are looking up to you; when you’re in college, the high schoolers are looking up to you; etc., etc., etc. It never ends. We all have someone to look up to. And there’s no reason to look down on someone just because they’re younger than you. Regardless of our age, we can be an example to those around us. Paul gives Timothy several categories to specifically focus on (kind of like specific workout routines): what you say (speech, see James 3), the way you live (character, see I Peter 3:1-2), your love (see I Corinthians 13), what you believe (faith; see Hebrews 11), and your purity (for mental purity, see Philippians 4:8; for physical purity, see I Corinthians 6:9-7:40).
Verses 13-16: Paul gives Timothy a few final words of instruction to focus on until he can see him again: 1. Read the Scriptures to the church (meditation), 2. Encourage the believers (edification), 3. Teach the believers (training: preaching and teaching), 4. Don’t neglect your spiritual gifts (see I Corinthians 12 and Romans 12). In verse 15 and 16, he says basically to do these four things wholeheartedly; throw yourself into your training of yourself and the training of those around you toward godliness. In a way, Timothy was the personal trainer for the believers around him. And he wasn’t in a gym; he was in the training field of life with the end result of gaining glory for God.
Verse 16: Others are watching. So live a life that reflects a good opinion of your Savior Jesus Christ. You never know, “You might be the only gospel some people ever read.” My teachers used to say, “Your talk talks and your walk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.” And it’s true. I can tell you to eat right and exercise till I’m blue in the face, but if I’m an overweight slob, you aren’t going to want to listen to me as your personal trainer.
So, as much time and energy as I put into being physically fit, I need to put all that much more time and energy into being spiritually fit. As careful as I am to watch what I eat and count my calories, I need to be that much more careful about what I put into my mind and heart. And in the end, it will be worth it all.