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Training for Godliness: Its Purpose

We read in 1 Timothy 4:7, “Rather train yourself for godliness.”

Paul, writing to the young pastor Timothy, offers helpful advice throughout this letter. This particular encouragement comes at the heels of a warning against “irreverent, silly myths.” We could say much about this, but for now let’s simply view it as useless issues.[1]

Compared to that, Paul encourages Timothy to train himself for godliness. The word train is a fascinating word which has connection to physical training. But Paul uses the analogy of physical training for spiritual purposes, namely, godliness.

We need to ask ourselves two questions. First, what is godliness? When we answer this question, we are afforded with insights into a clear command of Scripture. And second, how do I train for it? Answering this question provides the means to obtain godliness through training.

We must first answer the question, “What is godliness?” The simple answer is that when one is godly they are like God. Thus, when one is godly they think, speak, and act like God. An outsider observing a godly person would conclude that they are like Jesus. And we learn who Jesus is from the Scriptures. We could answer the question, “What is godliness?” in another way. A godly person is a biblical person. This will become more apparent as we study the spiritual disciplines. But for now, I want to consider what our present situation is.

Donald Whitney, author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, writes, “So many professing Christians are so spiritually undisciplined that they seem to have little fruit and power in their lives…. Spiritually they are a mile wide and an inch deep.”[2] Sadly, this is the state of much of the church. Many people watching Christians do not see godliness. But what does this say about us? How many of us have grown up in church, but could not be properly called godly? How many of us could recite theological truths, but when asked about our lives, would fain to answer that we were like Jesus?

And it is that point that brings us to the purpose for godliness. We train for the purpose of godliness. We want to be like Jesus. When I was first beginning to lift weights, I wanted to be like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I tried to eat like him, lift like him, etc. That was my goal. In a greater way, our goals as followers of Jesus Christ should be to look like Jesus. But, like so many others, we become distracted with the lesser things of life. We focus on careers and family rather than on Christ. We center on preparing for retirement (or, enjoying it, as the case may be), instead of being intentional with our time.

We are to train for godliness. We are to put in the hard work and consistent determination to grow in godliness. It does not happen by osmosis or laziness. Godliness is developed through intentionally striving to be like Jesus as we read about Him in the Scripture.

As we learn about the spiritual disciplines (i.e., the methods God has provided for growth in godliness), I hope we all keep our purpose in the front of our minds: for godliness. May it be said of us, “they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”[3] How? Because they thought, spoke, and acted like Jesus. Let us train for godliness.


[1] Ralph Earle describes it as “Jewish legends.” See Ralph Earle, “1 Timothy,” in Kenneth L. Barker & John R. Kohlenberger III, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary Volume 2: New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 902.

[2] Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 21.

[3] Acts 4:13, ESV.

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