April 26 I Sunday
2 Samuel 23-24
“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” —1 Timothy 4:7-8
How many of us actually enjoy training and working out in a gym? From the opening verse of this devotion, Paul talks of “training,” which is gymnázoo-ōin Greek and where we derive the word “gymnasium.” Paul is telling Timothy, and subsequently the Church in Ephesus, “Get into God’s gymnasium of training in godliness.”
How do we train ourselves for godliness? The same way we train ourselves to be physically fit, by not only exercising but also eating good food. When we compare spiritual growth to physical training, Paul tells us that spiritual growth takes discipline, hard work and effort on our part. It does not just happen. We need to get into the gymnasium, eat well and exercise well.
Spiritual disciplines are like exercise and good food. We practice spiritual disciplines by simply placing ourselves in a position to listen, learn and grow in our relationship with God and allow Him to feed, nourish and strengthen us. In Richard Foster’s book The Celebration of Discipline, he created three categories from twelve disciplines of ways in which we can position ourselves to hear God and nourish our relationship with Him. These are inward, outward and corporate disciplines. Inward ones are ones that we practice alone, outward ones are practices that impact the world around us and corporate ones are disciplines that include others. Spiritual disciplines bring us to a position where we can grow in our relationship with Jesus. If we do not exercise, we are not going to get in shape. If we do not eat well, we lose strength.
As we head towards God’s gymnasium for training, Paul reminds us, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children” (Ephesians 5:1). This is an important distinction to understand before we get into the gymnasium of godliness. We train in godliness and we imitate God, not from a position of trying to earn His acceptance, but from a position of sonhood and daughterhood that is already secure in Christ because of what He has done on the cross. We are a visible representation, a reflection of who He is.
Once we invite Jesus to be Lord of our life, we are submitting to His purpose. We are inviting His yoke into our life. The beauty and mystery of the Christian life is that it is impossible for us to live the Christian life by our own strength––only Christ can live the Christian life. But, this does not mean we passively sit idly by and mystically ask the Holy Spirit to do everything for us. As Paul tells Timothy, we have to train ourselves to be godly.
Prayer: Beloved Father, thank You for calling me Your child. My training for godliness is not to earn favour from You but to be a reflection of You to the world.