Train Harder than Athletes
As a church we are working through 1st Timothy, and I was given the privilege to give an exhortation on 1 Timothy 4: 7, 8
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
Like many of you here, I have a competitive athletic background and still am physically active, so when I read this passage I get excited. What do you think excites me?
What jumps out is the phrase: "bodily training is of some value". Bodily training is valuable, it's good!
All the years of intense training I put in, all that work, for sports, it's of some value, God says so. Score! So, I should talk about how bodily training is important because the Bible says so. I want to be honest with you guys: for me to think that way is dangerous, because it's conforming scripture me. It puts the emphasis on the wrong syllable.
We are all tempted to read into the Bible what we want to see; to put pressure on God's word rather than let it exert its pressure on us. So, brief warning: be careful. Know what your own blinders are, what you focus on, because they can detract from what God is trying to tell you.
The point in this verse is so much better than simply a call to workout:
“Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths.”
Have nothing to do with false, non-Gospel teaching. Rather train yourself for godliness; train yourself for the godliness that you've already been given through Jesus Christ, train yourself for that — don't train for a prize that perishes.
“…For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
This is the training we are to set our life on. This is the point of this passage, and Paul makes the same point in 1 Corinthians 9:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
This is not written to praise bodily training; it's simply not the point. The point is one of comparison. If athletes will go through intense training for a temporary benefit, how much more should we train for godliness, which promises a better reward both today and for eternity?
There are many benefits to physical training, but its greatest benefit is the intense picture it gives of what our training in godliness should be like.
As important as the athlete's body is to him, let your godliness be even more important to you.
As loud as the sprinter's lungs feel, train your compassion to be even louder in your chest.
As the gymnast daily stretches her muscles to create more flexible joints, daily encourage the stretching of your patience to create a more patient heart.
As the football player memorize his playbook, study the word of God with even more earnestness.
As the gym rat refuses to miss a day of bench press or curls, be even more stubborn in your daily prayers.
As a soccer player knows she needs her teammates to spur her on to harder workouts, seek even more to surround yourself with encouraging fellow Christians.
As the boxer knows he must win the small fights if he ever wants a title shot, we must know that only if we're faithful in the little things will we be faithful in the big things. (How much more wonderful will our reward be?!)
As the wrestler is aware of both his weaknesses and his strengths, be even more intimately aware of yours.
As the fencer diligently studies film of his opponent, be even more shrewd in the schemes of the evil one.
As sensitive as the pitcher is to the slightest decrease in his fastball, train yourself to be even more sensitive to any backsliding.
As the Olympic weightlifter avoids even a single banned substance because of the potential consequences 4 years down the road, avoid even the smallest sin because of the greater consequences.
As the marathoner pants for streams of Gatorade, train your soul to pant for God.
As trusting as the football player is of his coach, trust the Lord even more.
As the bodybuilder endures hunger and thirst for the temporary glory on stage, let us hunger and thirst for "the earth to be filled with the glory of God"
These athletes know that all their efforts and pain will work for their athletic good, let us know more surely that God is working all of our sufferings for our eternal good. God is inviting us to train for godliness because it will benefit us both today and for eternity, for our joy and His glory. But, we don’t always do this, and this reminds us of our need to Confess.
Prayer of Confession
We don't train for godliness as we ought to, none of us do. We thank you that our salvation is by your grace through faith in Christ alone, but this great salvation deserves all we have. We confess that we often seek the glory that comes from other people more than the glory that comes from you. Forgive us for our spiritual lethargy and laziness, for not taking seriously enough your call to godliness for not trusting you when say it has great value in this life and the life to come.
Father, we confess that we often don’t train for godliness because our love for you is too small. And if we in the church regard sin in our own midst, our prayers will be ineffectual, so we confess our individual sins to you now.