1 Timothy 4
7Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. 8Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next. 9This is true, and everyone should accept it. 10We work hard and suffer much in order that people will believe the truth, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and particularly of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:7-10, NLT)
The Daily DAVEotional
The letter of 1 Timothy is chock full of godly advice from Paul to his protege, Timothy.
In this passage, Paul exhorts Timothy to avoid wasting time on meaningless debates and issues and instead, focus his energy on training himself for spiritual fitness.
What does it look like to train for spiritual fitness?
In America alone, fitness is a $50 billion a year industry. People spend a lot of time, effort and money in order to make themselves look as good as they possibly can. Certainly, there’s an element of fitness that’s good – we should strive to be healthy. But there’s no doubt that our culture places an unhealthy emphasis on our physical appearance.
Paul agrees that physical exercise has some value but argues that spiritual exercise is even more valuable.
So we’re back to the question of what does spiritual exercise look like?
Well, since we’re comparing spiritual exercise to physical exercise, think about what is involved in physical exercise. If you want to get in shape, there are certain exercises you’ll pursue. Building up your cardiovascular system and trimming down would likely involve eating healthy as well as physically demanding exercises like running, biking or cross-fit.
Spiritual exercise is no different. If you want to develop yourself spiritually, it will require some effort, wise choices and exercises that are designed to build you up spiritually.
This is exactly the purpose of spiritual disciplines.
In his book “The Life You’ve Always Wanted”, author John Ortberg describes spiritual disciplines as activities we engage in to train ourselves for spiritual transformation, which is simply a process whereby your internal life is becoming more aligned with the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23).
Spiritual exercise is not a barometer of our spirituality, but it is a means necessary to achieving an end – real, authentic spiritual transformation.
Ortberg remarks that many people in the church are surprised when they see people who experience real transformation because it often isn’t the norm. Instead, we see what Ortberg calls “boundary marker” spirituality. Ortberg says that boundary-marker spirituality causes Christians to distinguish themselves from others by the things they do. It may be by the way they dress, the way they talk, or the activities in which they engage.
According to Jesus, this was the problem with the Pharisees, who maintained an impeccable outward appearance, following every rule and regulation in the law to the nth degree, but who were rotten on the inside.
We can settle for boundary-marker spirituality, which wouldn’t require much time or effort but might help us to “look the part” of a Christ-follower. Or, we can experience real change – authentic transformation from the inside. This is the option Jesus wants us to pursue because it’s the only one that will enable us to truly conform to His image. But it will require work and effort on our part, a commitment to pursuing Jesus and training ourselves to think rightly about God, ourselves, and the world around us.
This is the purpose of spiritual fitness, and Paul encourages Timothy and us to “Just do it!”
How have you thought about spiritual disciplines in the past? What role have spiritual disciplines played in your own spiritual development?
What is your reaction to the statement that many Christians have developed what Ortberg calls “boundary-marker” spirituality? What examples can you think of that demonstrate our penchant for promoting a spirituality in the church that is outward focused instead of inwardly focused?
How much time, money and effort do you put into physical fitness compared to your spiritual fitness?
What steps can you take to begin exercising spiritually? What resources are available to help you get started? Who are some people you know who could help you and encourage you in your journey?