“for while bodily training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” 1Timothy 4:8 The aim of spiritual training or being committed to the spiritual disciplines is to grow in godliness. In other words, to become more and more like Jesus in character, mind, and heart.
Physical training has a lot of amazing benefits. It helps you live a higher quality of life because of your ability to move, work, play, or enjoy recreation. You’ll feel better, have more energy, and you should be sick less often. Yet, spiritual training is MUCH BETTER or WAY MORE IMPORTANT according to 1Timothy 4:8. Spiritual training has benefits in the now but also in the life we live with God for eternity.
How does one train spiritually? Let’s use running as an analogy. In running you have some very basic things you have to do in order to become a better runner. First of all, you have to run. How you run is not the same everyday but nonetheless you have to run. For followers of Christ, we have been given the Word of God (the Holy Bible) to help us grow stronger in our relationship with God. There are different ways to read and spend time in God’s Word but the important thing is to be in it and to live it out. I recommend at least four times a week. In fact, a study was done that said one or two times in God’s Word a week had negligible effect on a person. The third time in God’s Word did a little something in a person’s heart and mind. However, it was the fourth time in God’s Word that had a huge positive affect on a persons life (See http://www.backtothebible.org and the study that was done).
Imagine running only once or twice a week. This wouldn’t really have much affect at all on your overall fitness if you wanted to be a good runner. Yet, if you committed to running most of the days in a week you would see great gains in your running fitness. In Deuteronomy 17:18-19 we have a passage written to the Kings of Israel and Judah long before there were any kings to begin with. It says, “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them” Deuteronomy 17:;18-19. The leader of God’s people was suppose to write out a hand written copy of the first five books of our Bible by hand! Imagine how long that must have taken. Yet, this wasn’t even the end of God’s instruction. The Word of God was to be with the King at all times. In other words, to never leave his side. Lastly, he was suppose to read it EVERY SINGLE DAY for the purpose of God’s word teaching him on how to live his life to honor God. Now that is a challenge for us! Could we be committed to some time spend in God’s Word every single day?
While our bodies are so important to take care of, we have to admit that all of us will slow down as we get older. Age can have a tremendous affect on our bodies as we will not be able to run the same times we did when we were younger. Spiritual training however doesn’t mean we have to slow down in our pursuit of godliness. In fact, spiritual growth and maturity can can continue to grow no matter our age. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2Timothy 3:16-17).
2Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that all of God’s Word is from God. It is reliable and trustworthy because while it was written through men, it’s inspired origin was directly from God Himself. This passage goes on to clearly state that God’s word is for four things. One, our teaching or learning. The Bible has so much to reveal to us about just about every issue in life. For example, how to treat others, how should we parent, what does a good marriage look like, how should we work, what do we do with our wealth and resources and so much more. Second, God’s word is for reproof or to help us know when we are living in the wrong. God’s Word helps us to identify what is sin and what is not. Third, God’s Word helps us correct these attitudes and behaviors. The Bible doesn’t just tell us right from wrong but it instructs us on how we can overcome disobedience to God. Lastly, God’s Word equips us for every good work. The Bible doesn’t just help us with some ideas on how to live our lives but it is a complete guide to our life. This is why it is so important to read it as much as possible and to re-read it.
So running isn’t the only important part of training. Likewise, reading and applying what God’s Word says is only a part of our spiritual training. As a runner you may have a coach, fitness instructor, or a training plan and strategy. This input and data is important for you to think and converse about. Similarly, you have an instructor with knowledge, understanding, and wisdom to give to you in the trinity. Look to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit by spending time in prayer. Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things you have not known”. Going over what is on your mind and heart is healthy for communication and growth. God wants to speak truth into our lives and to help us see things we are unaware of. Reading the Bible in conjunction with prayer is a powerful duo. Especially as the Holy Spirit helps teach you what the Scriptures are saying while helping you with the change in your heart necessary for growth.
While there are other forms of spiritual discipline that are important, I want to go over one final vital piece in your training. In the Bible we see that taking a sabbath is important. In fact, it is the fourth of the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:10) and it instructs God’s people on the importance of rest. This rest meant time away from work for the purpose of worship with God and fellowship with family. Rest and recovery is a vital part of physical training and likewise a big part of spiritual training. Weekly worship and being connected to a Body of Believers is healthy and nourishing to your soul.
I believe if you spend dedicated time each week in God’s Word (at least four times), in prayer (daily), and at church (on Sunday’s and Wednesdays) for worship and fellowship, you will have a solid foundation for spiritual fitness that will lead to godliness. Spiritual training is doable! May you have the mind and heart to see that it is the most important thing you can do in your life. I pray that you are committed to growing in your love and faith in God. You’ll be eternally grateful!