If you want to lose 10 lbs, what are you waiting for? What are you doing about it? It won’t happen by accident! If you really want to live a more godly life, what are you waiting for? What are you doing about it?
An old friend (who is now in heaven) liked to say: “Get with the program kid!” If you brought a problem to her, she would ask, “What are we going to do about it?” The same applies to living a godly life! A short but potent word from God says, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11).
Advice for a young leader:
“Train yourself to be godly” (NIV). “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (NASB). “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come” (I Timothy 4:7-8).
Living a godly life (a life patterned after the character of God) requires training and discipline. What does your workout program look like? We must directly attack the pull of our hearts toward the sin of laziness. It’s too easy to drift without focus. But remember that the benefits of spiritual training are for “this life” and “the life to come” (see: Matthew 6:33; Mark 10:29-30; 1 Peter 3:10-11; 2 Corinthians 5:8-10).
These two spheres of existence (“this life” and ”the life to come”) are repeatedly connected in Scripture (see: Ephesians 6:10-12; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 5:8-10; Romans 8:17; 14:11). And this offers an important insight into a key part of spiritual discipline. You’ll never train yourself to be godly without a wholehearted determination to cultivate deep connections between this life and the life to come (Colossians 3:1-4, 23;I John 2:15-17).
Nothing by accident:
Training is a common part of life. Whether it’s occupational, educational, musical or athletic, you don’t excel at anything without training. And while training usually involves others (teachers, mentors, coaches, etc…), it must always include self-training. We need discipline and focus to excel in anything.
“Train yourself to be godly” (NIV). “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (NASB).
Intensity and devotion:
For training to yield the best results it cannot be half-hearted. We must give ourselves to the goal with intensity and devotion. The one who pursues a godly life is pursuing God himself!
- With his intellect, he explores God’s truth.
- With his will, he yields to God’s authority.
- With his emotions, he cultivates godly affections
But none of this happens by accident! Becoming a godly person requires discipline. It requires intense focus. Laziness must be resisted. Train yourself! Guard against the threat of busyness and the lure of distraction. Fight off the tendency to be spiritual lazy and self-indulgent (cf. 1 Timothy 6:6ff; 1 John 2:15-17; Romans 12:2,11).
Discipline yourself for the purpose of becoming a godly person or you will not leave a godly heritage.
Training in godliness presupposes (and even requires) the continual activity of God in our lives. “God disciplines those He loves so that we might share His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). Yet we are not passive recipients of His activity in our lives. No! God calls on us to be active participants with Him!
“… continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13)
It doesn’t say, “Work out your salvation because God already did His part; now you must do yours.” It says, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you…” (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 and Philippians 1:6).
Don’t let discouragement defeat you:
Most of the important parts of life require commitment and work. But it’s easy to get discouraged. Setbacks will be inevitable. Don’t let the failures and struggles take the wind out of your sails. Remember this wise word:
“The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again” (Proverbs 24:26a).
If you stumble and fall — Get up! Get moving! Refuse to fold under failure! Learn some lessons! Embrace the life God wants for you! Trust in God’s redeeming love for you! Ask God to restore His joy in you!
“After each failure ask for forgiveness, pick yourself up and try again. For however important purity may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven. No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give up” (C.S. Lewis). (See: Proverbs 3:5-6)
“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (I Corinthians 15:58).
Does it take work? Yes! Will you grow weary? Yes! Is it worth the effort? Yes! — in this life and the next!
Do you feel alone in the battle?
“For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).
What does your training program look like?
If I followed your plan, would I increase in godliness? There’s nothing magical or mystical about it. Like most areas of training, it’s an input-output equation of intentional focus and structured repetition.
Daily exercises: A spiritual workout for each day
- Keep short accounts with God (Psalm 32:1-7; 1 John 1:9).
- Meditate deeply on Scripture (Psalm 1:1-3; II Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12; James 1:22-25). Remind yourself of the gospel each day (Titus 3:3-7; the two exclamatory affirmations of Romans 7:24-25 must always be near to our hearts).
- Pour out your heart to God in prayer and praise (Psalm 62:8; 100:4; Colossians 4:12; Hebrews 4:16).
- Keep company with those who are moving in a godly direction (Proverbs 13:20; Hebrews 3:12-3; 13:7, 17).
- Push yourself. Resist complacency and laziness! Avoid distractions (Romans 12:11; Colossians 3:23). Do one more set! Go for one more hour! Let’s get with it!