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. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. 11 Command and teach these things. (1 Timothy 4:7-11)
Godliness is the goal of spiritual training, and it is attained through sound teaching.
There are other kinds of goals, such as physical competition. A few days ago I ran a 5K on a whim to support a friend who had organized it. You need to know I have a regular 7-day regiment which involves an hour and five minutes on an elliptical machine, and some light weight lifting. And for many years I have exercised instead of eating lunch, which saves time, money and calories. And I read on the machine, which is a big plus.
So you would think a 5K race would be a piece of cake, even though I am 54. Right? Well, not exactly. Oh, the race itself wasn’t that big of a deal, but at the halfway point I pulled a muscle in my leg. For a few minutes it hurt so badly I thought I was going to have to stop running, but the pain began to subside and I finished.
What happened? The answer is simple: though I was exercising daily, I was not preparing for a race. My body just wasn’t ready for the challenge.
But more important than this painful reminder was that, outside of a few sore muscles, it really didn’t impact my life one way or another. The only things of eternal significance I encountered were my conversations with people before the race.
Physical training is of “some value” because it keeps us from hurting ourselves when we compete. But training in godliness has great value, because it not only helps us in this life, but prepares us for the life to come.
I know this doesn’t make good sense in our culture. How could grounding ourselves in the Word of God possibly be more valuable than a good cardio workout? I hope you can see from my words earlier that I am all for regular exercise. However, we can have a low heart rate, and a good road race, and still make some really bad decisions. I have known people who allowed the euphoria of a physical exercise program cause them to lose their moral perspectives.
Eventually, the body breaks down, and if we haven’t trained ourselves in the things of God, we are left empty. That’s because our physical selves are wasting away, but the river of life that flows from the throne of God is eternal.
The false teachers in Ephesus had all kinds of “exercises” they were trying to force on believers, full of “myths and tales” that had no substance.
It is important to make sure the things that consume our time are going to lead to something of lasting value. After all, the race we are in is more than a whim.
Dear God, help me train for the long-run. In Jesus’ name, Amen.