Physical and Spiritual Fitness
Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:7-8
A couple of weeks ago, I participated in a three-day CrossFit athletic competition. I trained hard for months in preparation for it, going to the gym almost every day – sometimes twice a day. I didn’t get first place but I did well for me, and I was happy with my performance. The week after was a recovery week, so I didn’t do a lot at the gym. I did eat a lot though. Then, I was gone for a week fishing, during which I got almost no exercise and ate even more. So, a couple weeks ago, I was in about the best shape of my adult life and now . . . not so much. It’s been a little disappointing to see how fast I can get out of shape. It’s a sad reality that if I just sit around, my physical condition declines quickly. I wish I could get in shape just once and remain there while doing nothing, but honestly, it takes hard work to remain in shape. If I want to grow and improve, I must put in even more work.
It’s not a perfect metaphor, but our spiritual conditioning is similar to our physical conditioning. In today’s passage, Paul said that we must daily train ourselves for godliness. Just as the athlete must daily train his body, the Christian must daily train his spirit. Often, we mistakenly see faith as a shortcut to spiritual fitness. Grace means I don’t earn my salvation. So, I don’t have to do anything to find recovery, peace, freedom, maturity, patience, love, and joy. I decided once a long time ago to follow Christ and so he will just make those things happen when he’s ready. I don’t have to do anything.
In this mindset, we simply go about our daily lives, maybe spending one hour on Sunday connecting with God. We rarely pray or open our Bible, and then we expect God to work in us. We do nothing and expect greatness. It’s like signing up for a marathon, never training, and then expecting to win. It’s spiritual laziness. According to Paul, our sanctification, transformation, and growth involves hard work on our part. We grow physically when we exercise, and we grow spiritually when we pursue our relationship with God. Daily, if we want to mature and be transformed, we must invest time and effort into our spiritual lives. Faith doesn’t mean we don’t need to do anything. Faith means we daily point our lives at God and go.