If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.
But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.
This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. These things command and teach.
1 Timothy 4:6-11
History and Context:
1 Timothy belongs to what scholars have labeled as the Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus). They are named the Pastoral Epistles because they deal directly with issues of leadership in the church. Timothy was probably a convert from Paul's first missionary journey, when he travelled to Lystra. After that Timothy begun travelling with Paul and taking various assignments. In other letters we can see that it was often Timothy that would carry Paul's letters to the various churches. At the time in which Paul wrote 1 and 2 Timothy, Timothy was in Ephesus and had been sent there in order to lead the church and to train and build leaders for the church. 1 Timothy is written as general instructions towards the Timothy as a leader.
Paul often uses an analogy of physical exercise and competition in order to explain spiritual principles. This was because the physical competition was a very real thing to his audience. Paul was speaking to the area which hosted the original Olympic games, it was a large part of their culture and society. For us exercise often means a 15-20 min jog in the morning, but for them they probably thought immediately of the preparation for those games. In fact the Greek word used in this passage, Gymnazo, means "to train with one's full effort, with complete physical or emotional force." Paul told Timothy to train himself in Godliness with his full effort, with everything he had in him. He was supposed to train in Godliness as an Olympic runner trains for the race.
What is Godliness then? When we think of Godliness we think of acting like God. We think of purity and righteousness, but according to the Greek it is more about how we think and feel than how we act. The Greek definition is "the inner response to the things of God, which expresses itself in reverence of God and for the things He holds sacred." In other words, Paul told Timothy to put full effort into training his response to, and his reverence of, God.
Of course today's challenge for us is the same that Paul presented to Timothy; "exercise yourself towards Godliness". You can't train your response to the things of God unless you place yourself in opportunities to experience the things of God. Take time to revere God today; take time in worship, recognizing how great He is. Get into His presence and ask Him to speak to you. Create opportunties for God to act towards you and you can then exercise your response to Him.
Lord, speak to me today, bring me into your presence, help me to exercise Godliness today. Your are a great God and I am in awe of you! In Jesus' name, Amen!