Training For Hope
“Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. 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. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” 1 Timothy 4:7-10
My husband and I agreed to run a half marathon together when we were dating as sophomores in college. We hated training for it. The most I ever ran at one time was five miles, and the most he ever ran was three. Running for long distances is not just hard to me, it’s boring. Since we were young college whippersnappers, we could jump in the race after a pathetic training spree and run the whole thing on the day of the marathon. Granted, it was the Nashville Rock N’ Roll Marathon so I had a lot of good distractions, but I don’t think I could say the same if I tried to do that again.
Bodily Training Is Of Some Value
Paul says that “bodily training is of some value,” but what kind of training is this? Marathon training? CrossFit Games training? Hot Yoga training? Some commentaries say that Paul is almost certainly talking about gymnastic training, and other connotations suggest ascetic practices. This scripture rings true in both respects. Whether one is training for strength and fitness for physical health or whether one is avoiding meat and sex for spiritual health (as some in Paul’s day were doing), they are both using bodily training for gain. Which Paul says is of some value.
Godly Training Is Of Value In Every Way
The truth is that bodily training and those programs are of some value, because we need to train our bodies in order to have more joy, energy, and strength to serve the Lord and others in this life. As much value as I put on bodily training as a personal trainer and fitness instructor, Paul says that godly training is of value in every way. You cannot lose when you go for godly training. Your labor is never in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58)! Unlike working out, you do not risk injury when you read the Bible, and you don’t have to worry about reading the wrong scripture like you would about doing exercises in the wrong way. All scripture is God-breathed and useful for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).
You only have room to gain. Training in the Lord transforms you from the inside out, heart to body, now and forever. We are promised that when we seek God and his kingdom, all these things will be added to us (Matthew 6:33): no good thing will be withheld from us (Psalm 84:11, Psalm 23:1), we won’t have to worry about clothes or food (Matthew 6:25-33, Isaiah 33:16), we will be comforted when we’re sad (Deuteronomy 33:27; Job 5:19; Psalm 46:1-11; Hebrews 13:5), and he will support us when we get too old to take care of ourselves (Isaiah 46:4; Psalm 23:4; compare Isaiah 43:2;), just to name a few. A Holiday Hot Body workout can’t do all that for me.
Training Requires A Goal
Most people have some kind of goal in mind when they train. Having a goal is not only motivating, it’s wise. The end goal informs the mode and frequency of our training. My husband and I trained for a half marathon, so we ran for exercise. One of my clients wanted to endure her motorcycle ride across a few states, so we did shoulder and core exercises. In the Timothy verses above, Paul says to “train yourself for godliness.” That’s our goal as Christians. If I’m a fitness trainer, are there spiritual trainers that can help us train for godliness? I guess that’s another name for a pastor. Thank God for our leaders and pastors! They are doing good work for us. As Christians, we are to train for godliness, and we focus our “hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:10).
Our goal is this: to set our hope on the living God
We train for godliness and we set our eyes on God, not knowing when we will see him with our own eyes, but persevering in hope. We need to train specifically for this end goal, which surpasses any kind of bodily competition in this world, even the bodybuilding Universe Championships. I’ve always been confused by that title anyways. Did we even invite the other planets to participate? Their inhabitants might be way more ripped than Arnold.
Training is Hard
Now that I’m a personal trainer, I prefer doing high intensity intervals over long distance running. Thirty minutes of weights and cardio and breaks and you’re done! Not to say this is easy, but it works for me. God built every body different. Even so, exercise should always be hard. I’ve had clients get discouraged because they thought that working out would eventually just be easy for them. Certain exercises might become easier, but that just means you can do more of them with more weight. You get stronger and faster with each training session.
If you’re not working, you’re not working out. If training doesn’t stretch your limits past the point of comfortable, it’s not training. Paul says “for to this end we toil and strive” (1 Timothy 4:10). Persevering in hope is harder than it sounds. This goal requires godly training. Godly training is not easy, and we toil and strive for the goal that is hope in the living God. We get up early to read the Word, we steal away to be alone and pray to our heavenly Father, we work hard to serve people in our community, we battle worldly desires within ourselves (Romans 7:23).
Godly Training Delivers
Training for godliness includes having discernment. We can choose to fall for “irreverent, silly myths” like Paul says above, which today could be things like, “This 21 day program will fix you!” and “Give us 6 minutes, and we will give you 6 pack abs!”
God makes promises too. His promises are even more unbelievable, such as, “Just trust that I sent my son to die for all of your past, present, and future sins and you can live with me forever in heaven!” and “Rest for one day a week and I’ll give you rest for your soul!” He gives us a program too: it’s called picking up your cross and walking with it everyday. Who’s ready to sign up for that? (Disclaimer: I get affiliate program treasures in heaven for every person who signs up, or at least that’s how every other marketing program works).
The difference between those weight loss programs and God’s promises are not just that He can actually deliver on his promises, but that His results last more than just 21 days. They last more than your very life. They last more than heaven itself, because He is the one who is behind them and He is eternal. And this hope will not disappoint, because God has given us His own Spirit (Romans 5:5).
Hope For Life To Come
The reason why godly training is of value in every way is because it not only holds promise for this life and the comforts described above, but also for the life to come. We won’t have the same physical bodies we have now in heaven, so we are just training them for the here and now, whereas we are training the same souls we will have in heaven for the here and the future: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26). We don’t neglect our bodies in this life, but rather, we take care of them as a reflection of our faith and to honor our Creator.
If we have our goals in the right place and our eyes set on the hope of God, we can use bodily training to further our godly training. Personally, I think best when I am moving my body. I have some of the best conversations with others when we are both moving on a walk. Our legs move oxygen through our body, including to our brains and hearts, which help us think more clearly and listen better to the other person. When I do hard things with my body like lift weights and push past the pain point of running, it increases my ability to persevere and endure, not unlike love’s ability to “bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). Godly training and bodily training can go hand in hand when our focus is on the Lord.
When you think about New Years Resolutions this year, put your focus into godly training. It will never be fruitless or disappointing. Plus, focusing on godly training is focusing on bodily training, because when we see the worth of the body God made for us, it will lead us to take care of our body as well. Plan to go on daily walks with a neighbor and increase each other’s faith and cardio output. Resolve to lift heavier things to remind you of the weight of God’s glory. Pray for your city or listen to the Bible as you jog. Do hard things because your hope is in the living God. And when our bodies fail us, which they will, our hope will not. Keep hoping in Him!
Do you have a New Year’s Resolution? If so, what is it and how did you choose it?
Which is harder for you, bodily training or godly training?
What does godly training look like for you?