Read 1 Timothy 4:1-10

Paul uses a lot of words throughout 1 Timothy that lend well to an analogy of training for a race or a fight. Have you ever run a long-distance race before? Perhaps you have run a marathon, a half marathon, or a 10 km race. I am much more of a sprinter than a long-distance type. But when I was 13, I ran a 5 km race, which was the one-and-only time I have run that far…and I really cannot dignify it as a run.

The problem is that long-distance running takes immense discipline in training and in pacing yourself. I did neither. The day of the race, I woke up, ate a good breakfast, and showed up—the entire extent of my preparation for it. Unfortunately, this didn’t work out. I was off quickly at the fire of the gun, sprinting toward the lead with the best of them, but after about two kilometers I was walking. You know how the story goes…

Paul advocates for training, because ministry leadership, like running, is a long-game, not a sprint. And it takes a lot of training to build up the right sorts of tools. Sure, you can jump right in and probably do fine for the short-term, but you will burn out. Paul knew this, and wanted Timothy to learn this lesson as well!

Paul, mentoring Timothy, wisely writes, “Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” He knew that Timothy could easily be overcome by many of the temptations he would face toward false doctrines and the popular cultural paradigms of thinking, so he needed continual training in godliness. Paul also points out that physical training is valuable in our bodily form, but that training in godliness will not only help us now, but also in the long run—even eternally.

So, if you are a leader in any way, this one is pretty important! Leadership, just like running a long-distance race, requires training to do well. Otherwise, you might be “off to the races,” but quickly will lose ground. Luckily, you can start training early in life.

Training begins with faith—having faith in God, and learning to live that out. Training comes in many forms: reading scripture, spending time with Jesus in prayer, and growing in your spiritual gifts as you act obediently to God’s word. It’s not about asceticism or following the rules, but more about working toward a continually stronger relationship with God.

Training ultimately requires time. If occasional Sundays at church are the only “training” you are doing spiritually, consider other ways you could spend time with God, growing your relationship with him.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. How can you strike a balance between faithful spiritual discipline and asceticism?
  2. What do you currently practice to “train yourself in godliness?”
  3. What practices might be helpful to start doing?
  4. What lifestyle changes would be required to do this well?
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