“But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”1 Timothy 4:7-8
After my seventh-grade football season ended, I had a couple of options for my next sport. I could do cross-country or football off-season. Neither of those appealed to me, but there was one more option I could pursue—basketball. The only catch was that I had to tryout. I went through the process, and to no one’s surprise, I didn’t make the team. I had never played basketball. I didn’t even know the positions or how to dribble well. The only thing I had ever done was play H.O.R.S.E. in my front yard. What was I doing thinking I could make the team with little to no preparation?
That year, I was forced to run cross-country. For me, running is cruel and unusual punishment. That summer, I vowed to never run cross-country again. I was going to make the basketball team. So, I practiced—hard! While my friends were riding their bikes and having fun, I was learning how to dribble with both hands. I was practicing shooting and passing. I had a goal, and nothing was going to stand in my way! When tryouts came around the next year, I was ready. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the team. Just kidding…I made it. All my work had paid off. I was so happy…see you never again cross-country!
This was a time in my life where I exhibited great discipline. But that’s not always the case. Paul talked to Timothy about discipline, as well. He told Timothy to “discipline” or “train” himself for godliness. How do we do this? The same way we train our physical bodies! We can’t expect to be in shape physically if we workout once a month. In the same way, we can’t look more like Christ if our spiritual training is just on Sunday mornings. It takes consistent effort daily. In fact, training daily is so vital because in everything we do we are either declining or growing. Here’s what I mean— maintaining muscle mass after an absence from the gym is impossible in the same way as growing in godliness is impossible if we are not training ourselves daily to become more like Christ.
So how do we do this? Very practically, we make time to talk to God through prayer. We read His Word and apply it. James tells us to not just be hearers of the Word but doers (James 2:22). We implement what we read into our busy lives. We listen to the Holy Spirit as He guides us to look like Christ and shows us where we are deficient. We are daily disciplined to do what we ought to be doing as dedicated Christians. The cost of discipline is great. It is going to cost us something to be a like-minded follower of Christ. But great benefit comes from focused discipline. As Paul says, our training in godliness is “profitable”, not just for this life, but also for our eternal life with God to come! So, take heart and go for godliness!