Train for Godliness

For centuries, Christians have cultivated their relationship with God through the regular practice of several simple habits, sometimes called “spiritual disciplines.” Most of us know the main ones: Bible reading, prayer, and scripture memory. These practices are called “disciplines” for the obvious reason that it takes effort and determination to do them regularly. So what motivations does the Bible offer to help us sustain these habits of the heart?

First, spiritual disciplines set us free. It’s a paradox, but it’s true. Only musicians who spend disciplined hours practicing scales and chords will have the freedom to fly over the notes of a song and delight their hearers. Only athletes who condition and train will be free to excel at crunch time. Only students who undergo the strenuous discipline of late-night studying and missed parties are free to accept scholarship offers and job opportunities. And it’s also true spiritually. Only those who have spent time memorizing Scripture are free to recall it on the spot. Only those faithful in reading the scriptures are free to think God’s thoughts after Him. Only those who pray are free to know God personally.

Second, the Christian life is war. Unfortunately, most of us don’t really believe this in our heart. We show by our priorities and our casual approach to spiritual things that we believe we are living in peacetime, not wartime. We are tempted to love the same distractions the world loves. We long to fit in. We start to think of earth as home. Before you know it, we are calling luxuries “needs,” using money just the way unbelievers do, and thinking more about fashion and entertainment than about Jesus dying or people perishing or heaven approaching. But when we remember that we are at war, discipline is only natural.

Third, spiritual discipline promises a better future than spiritual neglect. Paul writes, “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 Tim 4:7-8) Ask yourself what your body would look like if it reflected your level of spiritual fitness!

My advice? Make a plan, devote it to God, ask for His help, and get a partner to encourage you along the way. Let’s get spiritually fit in 2021.