As summer advances, the next season begins to come into view. Football season. It is the best of all seasons for reasons so obvious that they need not be mentioned. But, before the games begin comes something that all football players dread, training camp. They are long, hot, miserable days of practice, study and conditioning. An enormous amount of work has to get done in a short amount of time so that the best players can be identified, learn the system and become physically and mentally prepared to play the game. It is a grind. It is hard. It is necessary.
Training is essential in the spiritual life as well. I recently wrote about how difficult it can be to follow Jesus well. You can read about it here. The key that I highlighted was learning to live by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is God’s strength and ability that bridges the gap between my weakness and the godly life to which I am called. This is a post for balance. Christians are terrible at balance. We tend to seize a point of view and push it to extremes that it was never meant to go, but we’ve got the verse to prove it. Well, we need biblical balance.
If I am going to follow Jesus well, I absolutely must live in dependence upon the Holy Spirit. However, we cannot just rally around the idea of faith and dependence and ignore personal responsibility. You have a role to play too. The same man who called us to “be filled with the Spirit” in Ephesians 5:18 also calls us to “train ourselves to be godly” in 1 Timothy 4:7.
“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.” 1 Timothy 4:7.
There are two parts to this passage, the prohibition against spiritual myths and stories and then the positive command to go to training camp. What is the Apostle Paul getting at? Check out these other passages that Paul spoke to Timothy for help.
“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.” 1 Tim 1:3,4
“Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge“ 1 Tim 6:20
“Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.” 2 Tim 2:16
“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.“ 2 Tim 2:23
Again and again, Timothy is warned to not have anything to do with foolish myths, stories and arguments about the spiritual life. The reasons were simple. One, they produce fights among believers about things that don’t matter. They divide unnecessarily. Christians fall into the same trap today as we divide over minor doctrines and trying to dogmatically determine some fine point of theology that God didn’t see fit to clarify. That does nothing but hurt the Body of Christ. Let that stuff go.
The second reason that Timothy was to avoid that foolishness was that it didn’t produce a godly life. In fact, Paul says that it leads to ungodliness. Winning a debate about non essentials may make you feel good about yourself, but it doesn’t mature you. You need training for that.
And so, we are exhorted to go into training. “Train yourself to be godly.” I think that Paul makes the contrast that he does in 1 Timothy 4:7 because we always want an easier way. Remember, training camp stinks. It would be far better if someone just had some special knowledge or some spiritual principle that would make my walk with Jesus an easy one. Sorry…that doesn’t exist. Even a large donation to your favorite televangelist won’t guarantee an easy path for you. You are going to have to work for it. You are going to have to go into spiritual training.
What are you doing to grow spiritually stronger? What are you doing to develop your spiritual endurance? What will you do? Get training.