“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. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 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.” (1 Tim. 4:7b-10, ESV)
I’m not an athlete. I’m not being modest when I say this. I would much rather sleep than get up before dawn and start the day with a 2-mile run. I prefer to spend a fall afternoon curled up with a good book instead of playing football outdoors. But I can still relate to the idea of being in training for something. After all, many things in life prepare us for the next stage of development. Before we walk, we must learn to crawl and then stand. Before we’re ready for a career, we need education and experience.
Our life in Christ is much like this. In many of Paul’s epistles he describes faith in athletic or competitive terms. In the first letter to Timothy, he admonishes the young pastor to “train himself for godliness.” In the Greek and Roman culture of the day, physical fitness was one of the ideals, and Paul recognized the importance of being fit and healthy. But of greater — and eternal — importance is godliness. Just as a runner trains for a marathon, Christians must strive for godliness. It doesn’t come naturally. It requires the disciplines of prayer and Bible study and obedience. But the end result is worth it for our hope is in Christ and our goal is heaven.