“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales, rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for the present life and the life to come.”
1 Timothy 4:7-8, NIV
Fiona and I drove to the top of a Forestry Commission road in Scotland. It was a steep climb on a rock-strewn road, even for the car! Close to the top we parked the car, let our dog out of the back, and thoroughly enjoyed a wonderful walk, taking in the sights and sounds of Scotland at its best on a gloriously warm summer’s day.
As we walked back to the car we were greeted by what, in that particular place, seemed quite a remarkable sight – a young woman in running gear, almost casually striding up the hill as if it was a level road! I shook my head in amazement and was full of admiration for her energy and fitness in making what was, to us, a steep climb, into a light canter in the afternoon sun! She was obviously very fit.
We saw her again on our next walk and found out that she did this run every day and no, she wasn’t training for the next big athletic event, she was doing it ‘for fun’ – just because she wanted to keep fit! I was puffing and panting walking on the almost level ground and was amazed at her determination to just enjoy being fit. Yes, her fitness had some value, as our Scripture for today reminds us. It is important that we look after the bodies God has given us, but there is another form of fitness which not only has value in our earthly walk, but has value for eternity as well.
Paul uses the illustration of training to be physically fit as a picture of the sort of training we should be doing in order to be spiritually fit – training in godliness. It is true that the moment we become believers, receive Jesus as our Saviour and make Him Lord of our lives, we are, “clothed in righteousness divine”, as Charles Wesley expressed it in his wonderful hymn, “And can it be?”. However there is also a reality that it takes time, effort and commitment to translate the clothing that God gives us into a character which is a true reflection of the nature and character of God.
As we drove back down the hill, and realised afresh how fit that young woman must have been to almost effortlessly run up that steep hill, I was challenged afresh in my heart about the calling of God on our lives not just to accept the wonderful gift of salvation – and be clothed in righteousness divine, but to equip ourselves with a knowledge and understanding of the truths in God’s Word and then apply them to the core of our being. Training in godliness requires a determination in us to be overcomers of the problems (the steep hills) we have to face when running the race of life – God doesn’t just want us to look at the hills (the issues and problems) but to be trained in spiritual fitness so that with the Lord by our side we can, indeed, become levellers of the mountains which we sometimes have to face.
Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for the illustration Paul uses to teach us a profound spiritual lesson. Help me, Lord, to day by day be fit and ready for whatever opportunities and difficulties I may encounter on life’s journey. I want to be fit, Lord, both for my earthly spiritual journey and for sharing with you in the blessings of eternity in the life to come. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.