Train Yourself For Godliness
"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."
1 Timothy 4:7-8
Chances are, like most Christians, you have at some point in your life set some goals concerning your spiritual growth. These goals tend to center around reading the Bible more frequently or establishing a daily time of prayer and reflection. Or maybe there is a certain nagging sin that keeps resurfacing and you have set a goal to get it out of your life for good. Whatever the case, and whatever goals you may have set, we usually find ourselves pushing towards them hard at first. But then some time passes. Life happens. Schedules get busy and the phone rings constantly. It seems just to keep up with the pace of life we find ourselves sacrificing spiritual growth to complete other tasks. That nagging sin has even resurfaced again. And before long, our attempt at spiritual growth has turned into something that makes us feel like a failure. We were sure that we would make it this time, so when we don't, the guilt we feel stings our soul.
In our minds, failed efforts at spiritual growth join a long list of prior failed attempts. And this is where it gets dangerous. It becomes tempting to put our spiritual development on hold; to put it into "neutral." We no longer want to deal with the guilt that accompanies failure, so we put effort into other endeavors. The struggle against sin becomes exhausting and we move forward by simply dismissing what we are struggling with as a part of who we are. We may even begin to challenge ourselves and set goals in other areas of life where failure doesn't seem like such a big deal.
Wherever you find yourself regarding your spiritual growth, please consider and be encouraged by the following truths concerning our efforts towards holiness--both failed and successful.
There is a lot at stake. When a follower of Christ refrains from pursuing godliness in their life, they are more easily influenced by what Paul calls "irreverent, silly myths." Giving up on spiritual growth is not an option. We tend to think becoming stagnant in our spiritual growth will not cause much harm; we will simply stay where we are at and keep believing truths that, up until know, have grounded and guided our lives. Sadly, many have believed such errors and now find themselves spiritually confused and broken. If we are not moving towards godliness, we are not staying stationary--we are moving away from it.
Setting goals is a healthy practice. Paul instructs Timothy to train himself for godliness. Christian growth and maturity doesn't just happen. There needs to be effort put towards growing in godliness. If we set realistic and practical spiritual goals, it encourages us to put forth the effort. The end result will impact our daily lives in an extremely beneficial manner. For example, you could set a goal to read your Bible each morning or pray during your commute to work. Before long, the goal you set becomes a normal part of your routine and lifestyle. Now, as you face whatever each day brings, you are better prepared to handle it in a God-glorifying way.
It takes time. When you see a mature Christian, know it took lots of time for them to get to that place in their life. Every Christian starts from a different place based on their life experience before coming to Christ. This means some will struggle more and some less. What is an issue for one believer may not even be a temptation for another. But that doesn't change the fact that Christian maturity is a lifelong process for each individual person. Every mature Christian assuredly failed, stumbled, and was tempted to quit as they trained themselves for godliness. Now they can be viewed as a testimony of how persistent effort and faithfulness in one direction results in growth.
God doesn't base his love on our performance. Our failed attempts at spiritual growth do not cause our Heavenly Father to love us any less. Furthermore, our successful attempts don't cause him to love us any more. God's love for his children is based on the work of Jesus. Jesus performed perfectly; he hit every goal. Our trust in the gospel assures us that God applies Jesus' performance to our lives. This frees us up to joyfully grow in godliness and obey the commands of God.
No training is wasted. We often feel like failed attempts at growth have not been beneficial. Not true. Every step, effort, and attempt we make towards holiness is not wasted. We learn valuable lessons as we struggle with our spiritual growth. Perseverance, trust, and faithfulness are worked into our souls. We learn to depend on God and others during the seasons of life where growth seems to be non-existent. The Word of God is slowly worked into our hearts and we encounter the richness of the grace of God at each step along the way. Even when it feels like our efforts are not making a difference, they are. It may just not be noticed until we arrive at a future season of our lives.
Aim to grow so God is glorified. When you put time and effort towards spiritual growth, you are communicating the worth and value of God. Your family and others around you see someone who considers God to be a treasure. Nothing could be more important for them to observe. As you grow spiritually, your knowledge of God becomes deeper and you are able to see the glory of God in new and exciting ways. Your deepest pleasures and most profound joys will come from pursing the presence of God.
"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."