Saturday, July 6, 2024

Keep Yourself Spiritually Fit!

I've got this sign on my refrigerator. 

Five simple (but not easy) words. They could be rendered, "Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness" or "Train yourself to be godly." 

The word "train" tells us that this won't be easy or automatic. It requires self-discipline. The verb, furthermore, is an imperative. It's a command, not a suggestion. And the goal? The word eusebeia is found 15 times in the New Testament, 13 of them in Paul's letters to two young men. Godliness is key to everything Paul prays for Timothy and Titus. 

Godliness doesn't just emerge in your life. If you meet a person who is fit and in excellent physical shape you can be sure that he or she wasn't born that way. Likewise, if you encounter a man or a woman whose walk with Christ is consistent and enviable and exemplary, you can be sure of this: they didn't just wake up one day and discover that the qualities of godliness were at work in their lives. It's a matter of consistent discipline. I say "consistent" because of the tense Paul uses here, implying that godliness is something we're engaged in and involved with on a ongoing basis. 

As he often does, here Paul uses a sports analogy. The verb he uses literally refers to exercise or bodily training in general. Today we'd call it a good workout. It carries the idea of sweaty effort. Moreover, that little word "yourself" indicates that if godliness is our goal we must be personally engaged in pursuing it. There's work involved here that we can't abdicate to our personal trainer or to the gym owner. It won't come easily and it doesn't come without a great deal of effort. But it can come. I might summarise Paul's message to us as follows:

"Become a Christian athlete in your pursuit of Christlikeness. Exercise your spiritual muscles  regularly and diligently. Make godliness a priority in your life. Pursue it with all that you have. It will require steady, intense concentration of effort."

Or, in the words of J.B. Phillips, "Take time and trouble to keep yourself spiritually fit." 

That's good instruction for us whether or not we ever go to the gym.