“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8 NLT)
Ancient Greek and Roman culture put a high value on physical exercise. A good citizen was to be “virtuous in mind and in body”. The Olympic games currently happening in Tokyo stem back to this time and culture.
Paul acknowledges the benefits of physical exercise and uses that picture of an athlete to suggest that the Christian should be exercising toward godliness which has greater value.
Just like physical exercise has temporal value; spiritual exercise and discipline benefit now and into eternity.
Just like physical exercise is a discipline of the body and mind; spiritual exercise takes discipline and a mindset of being intentional.
Stock says, “There is no such thing as drifting into godliness; the ‘stream of tendency’ is against us.”
A similar tone is expressed by other NT letters:
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith… - 2Pe 1:5
But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. - Heb 5:14
But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection…- 1Co 9:27
This all becomes more important as the times of deception come upon us. The context of this chapter is Paul’s warning in verse 1:
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons. (1 Timothy 4:1 NKJV)
This threat to the church becomes more aggressive and damaging the closer we come to the end times. And so, the church needs to be aware and to wake up to the dangers.
And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.
The night is far spent, the day is at hand.
Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Romans 13:11-12 NKJV
Jon Courson says:
It’s good to jog and to do deep knee bends, presses, and curls. But I wish people would put the same emphasis on jogging their memory of Scripture, bending their knees in prayer, pressing on in the faith, and curling up with a good Book—the Word of God.
As we watch the athletes at the Olympics this week, and observe the discipline they have invested into their sport, and observe their remarkable achievements, let’s have a think about how invested we are in our own spiritual lives. Are we ready to fight the good fight of faith?