If you were running a marathon, I would be a fool at best and a saboteur at worst if I told you not to prepare unless you really, really felt like running that day. Because marathons are hard. To think you could simply wake up one day and go run a marathon would be foolish. It takes dedication and consistent training.
And Paul wrote to Timothy that the life in godliness was no different.
Train yourself in 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 Timothy 4: 7-8 RSVCE
Training for godliness, for righteousness, is not something that is often emphasized in our culture. Our spiritual lives are seen as something passive, something that just happens, but the Bible paints a different image.
Over and over again, we see the image of training like an athlete trains. We see the importance of consistency, of dedication, of pushing ourselves when we simply don’t feel like it.
We toil and strive not to earn hope, but as a response to the hope we already have in Christ.
For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. – 1 Timothy 4:10 RSVCE
For the Christian, training in righteousness needs to be a regular part of our lives.
We shouldn’t passively go through our days, hoping that our self-focused lives will somehow lead us to live more loving, God-centered lives. No, we need to prepare, to make a plan, to train for lives around the race God has called us to run.
As we look at the high call of holiness, we need to remember that we’re not left on our own. God has given us through His word clear instructions for the types of things that cultivate a life of holiness. These spiritual disciplines need to be a regular part of our routine.
Just as we plan to care for our bodies by exercising, eating well, and taking time for rest, so too we need to care for our souls!
Looking at the Spiritual Disciplines and planning, actually planning in your calendar, to incorporate them into your life is a starting point.
Rely on the Holy Spirit to help guide and strengthen you each day as you follow the instructions in the Bible to train yourself in godliness.
Just like anything, the disciplines of my faith are easiest when lived out in community. Open up your Bible with a friend. Ask someone to keep you accountable to daily prayer. Use the community God has given you to help encourage and spur you along in the faith!
While there are some things, like fasting, that are done in private, there is also a case for making them a community event, as in the book of Esther, and sharing time in prayer with each other. When we live out these disciplines in community, we are stronger.
Nothing happens overnight. We don’t go from light walks to running a marathon the next day. We train and grow and improve. Our spiritual lives are no different. We can’t expect these things to go from 0 to 60 immediately but need to start making progress in the tools God has given us to help strengthen us spiritually.
So let’s keep pressing on, trusting in the Holy Spirit to equip us, each day, to prioritize our faith and live the life Christ is calling us to more fully and grow into the godly and righteous people God has called us to be.