1 Timothy 4:6-10
6 If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished by the words of the faith and the good teaching that you have followed. 7 But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness, 8 for the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance. 10 In fact, we labor and strive for this, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of everyone, especially of those who believe.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Many of us are familiar with 1 Timothy 4:12, which is the verse where Paul encourages Timothy to be a godly example for others, despite his youth. But the verses for today’s devotional come right before Paul spoke those popular words—and they help us understand what he actually meant when he referred to godliness, and becoming a godly example. They also explain what a pursuit of godliness required of Timothy, and what it still requires of us today.
The first thing we notice is that Timothy was a young man already in the practice of reading Scripture and surrounding himself with ‘sound doctrine,’ or good teaching (verse 6). This already had given Timothy a platform to be able to teach and point out spiritual truths to others (verse 4). The spiritual disciplines of reading God’s Word and surrounding ourselves with good community are the beginning of our transformation to godliness—and we see this clearly in Timothy’s example.
Next, Paul begins warning Timothy of the danger of settling for half-truths, or giving any attention to worldly wisdom (verse 7). Instead, to be an example of godliness to others, Timothy must begin disciplining himself and training towards that purpose above all else—even above bodily discipline, which we all understand is very important for our health.
The point Paul was making here is not that we shouldn’t take care of our physical bodies—but that taking care of our spiritual bodies is even more important! For example: If a doctor were to tell you this afternoon that your physical health was at risk due to some bad habits you’d developed, wouldn’t you consider changing those habits for the sake of your health? Most of us would say, absolutely YES!
How much more important then is our spiritual health, which allows us to be healthy and receptive to God’s work and transformation of our lives? Yet so often people tend to not recognize the need for keeping their spiritual lives healthy, fit, and ready to be used by God. This is the point Paul is making.
When we became Christians, our souls were made right with God and made clean of sin. But Paul says in verse 10 that God is the Savior of all men—especially believers! This implies that even though we have received the salvation of Christ, it was only the beginning of our transformation! Even as Christians, we still must be actively training for godliness. We can’t become lazy, allowing our spiritual habits to atrophy and our spiritual health to deteriorate.
I’ll be honest. I’m not one of those people who adores exercise. I love the results of being healthy and feeling good—but It’s difficult to stay motivated, especially if that trip to the gym or that 30 min jog is competing with other pursuits I enjoy more. And it’s sometimes the same way with my spiritual fitness. Pursuing godliness takes time and energy that I’m sometimes tempted to put toward something else. Reading the Bible takes time. Serving in a ministry at church takes time.
Paul understood this too—but he also understood that when the proper source of motivation is in place, there is no training or discipline that will seem like too much. So he appeals to Timothy’s heart and what it is fixed on… the hope of the living God, the Savior of all men. He reminds Timothy that godliness holds both a present and eternal promise for believers—and as believers, we should labor and strive to pursue it (verse 10). It’s our hope, our promise, and our source of motivation—to be transformed to godliness, for the glory of the One who saved us. There is nothing more important.
- Think about the time each week you spend focused on some aspect of your physical health. Now compare that with the amount of time you spend focused on your spiritual health. Which is more of a priority?
- This next week, I would encourage you to pray about ways you can pursue godliness in your life. It’s okay to start small! But ask the Lord to show you how He might like you to get involved in some ‘training’ for your spiritual health.