Summary: In urging Timothy to train himself in godliness, Paul borrowed a term from the realm of athletics. The verb which is variously translated in different versions of the Bible as “exercise,” “discipline,” or “train” originally referred to the training of yo

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TEXT: 1 Timothy 4:7


The apostle Paul did not take for granted the godliness of his spiritual son Timothy. Though Timothy had been his companion and co-laborer for a number of years, Paul still felt it necessary to write to him, “(exercise) train yourself to be godly.” (NIV) And if Timothy needed this encouragement, then surely we also need it today.

In urging Timothy to train himself in godliness, Paul borrowed a term from the realm of athletics. The verb which is variously translated in different versions of the Bible as “exercise,” “discipline,” or “train” originally referred to the training of young athletes for participation in the competitive games of the day. Then it took on a more general meaning of training or discipline of either the body or the mind in a particular skill.


There are several principles in Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to train himself to be godly that are applicable to us today. The FIRST is personal responsibility. Paul said, “Train yourself.” Timothy was personally responsible for his progress in godliness. He was not to trust the Lord for that progress and then relax, though he certainly understood that any progress he made was only through divine enablement. He would have understood that he was to work out this particular aspect of his salvation in confidence that God was at work in him. He must pursue it.

We Christians may be very disciplined and industrious in our business, our studies, our home, or even our ministry, but we tend to be lazy when it comes to exercise in our own spiritual lives. We would much rather pray, “Lord, make me godly,” and expect Him to “pour” some godliness into our souls in some mysterious way. God does in fact work in a mysterious way to make us godly, but He does not do this apart from the fulfillment of our own personal responsibility. We are to train ourselves to be godly.

The SECOND principle in Paul’s exhortation is that the object of this training was growth in timothy’s personal spiritual life. Even though he was an experienced, well-qualified Christian minister, Timothy still needed to grow in the essential areas of godliness – the fear of God, the comprehension of the love of God, and the desire for the presence and fellowship of God.

The emphasis of our age is on serving God, accomplishing things for God. Enoch was a preacher of righteousness in a day of gross ungodliness, but God saw fit that the brief account of his life emphasized that he walked with God. What are we training ourselves for? Are we training ourselves only in Christian activity, as good as that may be, or are we training ourselves first of all in godliness?

The THIRD principle in Paul’s words of exhortation to Timothy is the importance of minimum characteristics necessary for training. Many of us have watched various Olympic competitions on television, and as the commentators have given us the backgrounds of the various athletes, we become aware of certain irreducible minimums in the training of all Olympic competitors. It is very likely that Paul had these minimum characteristics in mind as he compared physical training with training in godliness.


The first of these irreducible minimums is commitment. No one makes it to the level of Olympic, or even national, competition without a commitment to pay the price of rigorous, daily training. And similarly, no one ever becomes godly without a commitment to pay the price of the daily spiritual training which God has designed for our growth in godliness.

The concept of commitment occurs repeatedly throughout the Bible. In is found in David’s cry to God, “earnestly I seek you” (Psalm 63:1). It is found in God’s promise to the captives in Babylon, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). It lies behind such exhortations as “Make every effort…to be holy” (Hebrews 12:14), and “make every effort to add to you faith…godliness” (2 Peter 1:5-7). None of this seeking, pressing on, or making every effort will occur without commitment on our part.

There is a price to godliness, and godliness is never on sale. It never comes cheaply or easily. The verb train, which Paul deliberately chose, implies persevering, painstaking, diligent effort. He was well aware of the total commitment those young athletes made to win a crown that would not last. And as he thought of the crown that would last – the godliness that has value for all things, both in the present life and the life to come – he urged Timothy, and he urges us today, to make the kind of commitment necessary to train ourselves to be godly.

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