1 Timothy 4:7-10. 7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 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. 9 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
Have you ever had to train for something? A race or other athletic event maybe. Or studying for an exam. Or practicing a musical instrument in order to master it. Or simply training to be able to do your job. Or maybe you’ve been in the military or police force. Life is full of training isn’t it?
And why do we train? We train so that we don’t have to try.
This is the Christian life – training not trying.
This is a crucial distinction. Paul is not telling young Timothy to try to be godly. There is no self-effort here. There is no “do your best.” No “let’s give it a go.” Rather, Paul is telling Timothy to take what he has already been given in the Lord – hope set on the living God – and train himself up in that same hope, that same gospel.
Imagine you’re on a plane taking off over the Hudson River in New York, and the plane hits some birds and begins to crash. In that moment do you want a pilot who will “try his best” to land the plane, or do you want a pilot like Captain “Sully” Sullenberger whose hundreds of hours of training will kick in and he will land the plane safely on the water, not by “trying,” but by doing what he has been trained to do.
You see many Christians go through their life with Christ talking about how they are “trying” to be a good Christian. Or trying to overcome sin. Or Trying to get it right. Or “doing my best” to honor God. Or “working hard” at maintaining their relationship with Christ.
But trying leaves us constantly wondering how well we’re actually doing. Are we getting it right or not? Is my relationship to Christ getting better? What about now? What about now? Trying leaves us tempted to constantly compare ourselves to other Christians or to ourselves – “I used to be such a good Christian back in my college days. I don’t know what happened.” And trying without any training? Oh my, that’s a disaster just waiting to happen, isn’t it?
But the Spirit in us is not asking us to try. He’s asking us to train. To train for (unto, towards the goal of) godliness.
The beauty of training is that it actually replaces living by trying with living by the ever developing instincts of faith. Trusting more and more each day in God’s salvation alone, through Christ alone, as the source of all our meaning, purpose, and love allows us to then live instinctually from what we know about God and his grace. Now we no longer have to try hard to love. Love naturally and instinctually flows out of us as we trust God’s love for us. The same is true for peace, joy, forgiveness, kindness – i.e., the life of Jesus. Or, in the words of Yoda to Luke Skywalker, “There is no try, only do.”
But how? How do I train for godliness?
First, negatively, we stop placing our faith in irreverent and silly myths. In other words, we must train ourselves in the pure and simple gospel of grace. Feasting on it, and meditating on it day and night. We must train ourselves to reject all add-ons to Jesus and his finished work on the cross. We no longer need anything beyond the good news of Jesus. No more blending the gospel with anything else. Not legalism. Not licentiousness. Not super-spirituality. Not prosperity theology. Not chasing after “signs of the times.” Not placing our hope in prophecy fulfillment or in our knowledge of “deeper” truths, or conspiracy theories, or Q-Anon, or anything that would replace the hope of the resurrection with hope in this world.
And then, positively, we look to our future – training for godliness…holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
We train for godliness by believing in the promises of our future hope in the living God, and then by making our present life look like our life to come. This means we practice seeing our life today as the first day of our eternal life. And what does eternal life with God look like? Complete peace in his presence. Perfect love flowing into our hearts. Irremovable and immeasurable joy. And what will this eternal life look like today in this fallen world? Might it look like unconditional love and mercy for others? Maybe courage in difficult times? Patience in suffering? Burden bearing? The melting away of bitterness and anger? Might it look like “to live is Christ?”
Is your Christianity “trying” or “training?”
You in Christ
How might you train for godliness by trusting in the God your savior more and more?
Christ in you
How might your present life in Christ look more like your future life with Christ?
Playlist: Training For Godliness.