Alex Enabnit – Research Editor
“YAH, PAHMP DAT IRON, AAAAHHNALD”
If you just read that in a Schwarzenegger-like voice, I did my job.
If you go to the right kind of gym at the right time, you might actually hear things like that. And if you do, chances are they’re coming from some seriously big, lumpy dudes throwing a ton of weight around. They shout at each other as they carry logs or squat a Volkswagen Beetle. They mark their territory with a large pile of dumbbells. And they drink weird pink liquid from gallon jugs. Personally, I’m a big fan of lifting weights, but that’s not me. My story is a little different.
I started in the gym about ten years ago, going with my brother. I really liked the idea of getting stronger, but like anybody starting out, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I just picked things up and then put them down. I didn’t really understand the concept of lifting with specific muscles, using carefully thought-out movements, or following a training program. I was kind of under the impression that just by showing up and going through the motions I would get stronger. And for a while, it worked! I got stronger really quickly, and in about 3-6 months I was in a whole different place than where I had started. But then I hit a plateau.
That plateau is a normal thing, and it follows what is called “novice gains.” Novice gains are basically where your brain learns how to connect to your muscles and they work more efficiently, meaning you can lift more weight. But at this stage, no real strength is being added. I was in this stage for years, until I finally realized that gaining real strength takes a LOT of work.
When it comes to following God, I think it’s easy for us to get stuck in the same kind of “novice gains” rut. We accept Jesus, we come to church, we say our prayers, and we put in our time. At first, we think we’re set! But there’s that unmistakable feeling that something is missing. We’re showing up, but nothing seems to be growing spiritually. This is a frustrating place to be, and I think it’s because we’re not training right.
In 1 Timothy 4, Paul is mentoring Timothy in what he should be focusing on in his ministry. There were people spreading godless ideas, so Paul gave Timothy advice on an effective way to not only combat false teaching, but words to live by no matter our situation:
Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:7-8
Here Paul is rejecting heresies by calling them “godless myths” and “old wives’ tales” – pretty strong language. But what I find so interesting is the phrase train yourself to be godly. What this implies is that godliness takes intentional dedication in the right direction. You can’t coast into godliness, you can only train for it. This means that no amount of religious box checking will ever result in godliness.
I’m not saying we have to work for our salvation. Once we ask for forgiveness from Jesus, we are forgiven and we have been saved… period. But as we grow in our walk with Jesus, we should desire to become more like him – we should desire godliness. And that takes effort, regardless of where we’re at in our faith. There is never a point where we can stop training because there will always be something to work on; it’s a lifelong process. Just like professional athletes still have to train daily, we should be training in godliness no matter how spiritually mature we are. And why is this so important? Because it holds promise both now and eternally!
Training in godliness involves passionately pursuing Jesus, talking and listening to his guidance, living in healthy community with other believers, and receiving guidance from the Spirit. Through his guidance, God reveals how he wants us to become more like Him, and through the grace and help of Jesus we slowly get better.
Just like I can’t expect to get in shape by standing on a treadmill, we can’t become godly by just showing up. It takes training and it takes time, but it will always be worth it.Click here for the photo credit on this post