Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Train yourself!

Today could not be a prettier day here in north Texas. The storms of yesterday have given way to a radiant blue sky with a dusting of high cirrus providing the canopy for a green seldom seen in these parts. Everything that has ever dreamt of flowering has ruptured into bloom. Really, a glorious spring that God has provided these parts.

That has nothing to do with my pending musing.  Just thought I'd share.

Some of you are gym rats. You hunger for the weights like Lady Gaga hungers for the paparazzi. Some of you obsess more than that. Some just like to tone. Some like to run. Others opt for the remote and a box of Twinkies. Regardless of your current calisthenic fanaticism, I suspect you can look at a time in your life where you have rigorously trained for something.

Some of you fly jets. Others practice law (love that phrase, like practicing medicine. Will they ever let you do more than practice?). Some shoot scratch golf. One friend was a Navy SEAL (I haven't yet seen him balance a ball on his nose). Regardless of what drove you to that goal, you understand the requirements for discipline, focus, intention, effort, and pain to attain the things of value. In the middle of Paul's first letter to his dear friend, Timothy, a man he considered so dear he referred to him as his "child in the faith," Paul exhorted him with,
"...train yourself for godliness." (1 Timothy 4:7b)
Paul knows men. He speaks about how men are wont to focus on fitness (v. 8), and he notes that while there is benefit to physical training, training ourselves in things spiritual has far greater benefit. Might I suggest an implication here? Then why don't we do it?

This wasn't a suggestion Tim was receiving from his mentor; it was a command.

So, husband, train yourself for godliness. Do. It.

Where do I start? I know how that feels. If you haven't been to a fitness center, that place that used to be called a gym, you might feel like you just walked into NASA or a farm supply warehouse depending on the facility you've chosen. "Where to begin?" you wonder. Paul does not leave his friend in the fog.
"Set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity...devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching." (1 Timothy 4:12-13)
It took you two seconds to read that sentence. Consider this one:
"Knock out three sets on bench, squats, curls, military press, with a weight that will max you out at ten reps on the first set, then increase the weight and decrease the reps with each subsequent set."
It took you maybe three seconds. Do you feel the burn from reading it? Are you stronger after reading it? Need a rub down, now? Of course not. Reading is not doing. It would take you time in the gym (not reading this drivel) to accomplish what was demanded.

As Paul encouraged the young pastor to "set the believers an example," so too must you, husband, set an example in your home, before your wife and before your children. This is not a hypocritical "do as I say and not as I do" but rather a biblical "follow me as I follow Christ." To be able to proclaim that, you must, of course, first be following Christ.

So in this spiritual gym, what's on the workout plan?
  1. Your speech
  2. Your conduct
  3. Your love toward God and others
  4. Your faith and trust in God
  5. Your purity
  6. Your exposing your family to the word
  7. Your ability to exhort, motivate and encourage them
  8. Your teaching them
Notice that with one through five, you can work on these without a spotter. You, the word, and the Holy Spirit, as you focus on the Master, your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, can knock these out in the solitude of your soul. The results will be manifest before others. In six through eight you become the mentor and coach as you plow into your family.

Now consider the scope of training that each bullet requires! What must happen for you to be an example in your speech? How many verses in Scripture focus on the tongue, its misuse and abuse, and how it should be used for God's glory and for the building up of his creatures? What is entailed in your training toward becoming a man of purity? Paul just told you to run a spiritual marathon. Not suggested, mind you, he demanded it. How you going to train? What's your plan?

If you are a man of God, a follower of God, a son of God, a disciple and lover of our Lord Jesus Christ, then these things must matter to you. I'll not sit here and explain what you must do with each bullet; I'd be writing until June. This is for you, brother. God commands you to train toward godliness. You're Sylverster Stallone. He's Burgess Meredith. You gonna listen to Mick? Submit yourself to his plan.
"Practice these things, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on your teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers." (1 Timothy 4:15-16)
So let us not be cut in physique alone. Do not be a master of Call of Duty III and a casualty in your spiritual duty. Grab your Bible, submit your heart to God, and get to work. 
  • Practice
  • Devote
  • Keep watch
  • Persist 
You can and must do no less.


  1. Amen Dad! I have been convicted as of late regarding the time I plow into things like school and my physical workout, yet lack in my spiritual workout. Thanks for the reminder that it isn't an option, we must learn and act upon God's Word with the same tenacity that we would anything else. God bless you and thanks again for your ever present encouragement.

  2. Gents, a friend of mine tried to comment, but being in SW Asia, he was unable. I post his comment in its entirety, below.
    Brothers in Christ,

    I know none of you. I worked with Keith in the 90's and have followed his Blog since God led him to start it. I can't agree more with the Spiritual command to get in Shape. I offer a lesson from my "Spiritual Gym" experience.

    Our lives are filled. Relative to my life, our Lord showed me that to do what He Commanded, I needed to get rid of some things. A passage that made this so clear to me was 2 Cor 13:5.
    "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test."

    For me, the reality check of Paul's statement is not to "examine" whether we are Believers; but rather, we are to daily "examine" that our walk, actions, motivations are aligned with His purposes. As a friend of mine once said to me, "Accomplish a brutal moral inventory everyday."

    blessings, Jim Hedges


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