I Timothy 4:7-8
“On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. “
On July 26, 2008 one of my dreams came true! I competed in my first sprint triathlon! It was amazing to cross the finish line not only alive but actually feeling good. I had trained well, and my training paid off. Triathlons consist of swimming, biking and running, thus competing in one requires a great deal of training and discipline. Each training week consisted of eight workouts spread out over five days. I trained before and after work three days a week and extra long on the weekends. My main motivation to complete my training was not to be able to finish the race, but to finish the race with excellence and make my brother proud. My brother is my hero and an amazing tri-athlete. Knowing he was competing with me that day got me up at 5 a.m. and motivated me to give my all when my legs and lungs were exhausted.
As I disciplined myself thru that training, God taught me about what His desires were for me. He reminded me of Paul’s words in I Timothy 4:7-8, “On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
As I let these words marinate in my heart, God increased the value I placed on disciplining my heart and my mind. God used the discipline I developed during my triathlon training to teach me about the discipline He desires in my pursuit of godliness. Paul says “Godliness is profitable for ALL THINGS!” In His book The Pursuit of Godliness Jerry Bridges defines godliness as “devotion to God which results in a life that is pleasing to Him.” Throughout my physical training I realized that bodily discipline and the pursuit of godliness are similar.
In my triathlon training, completing my workout to check it off my list would have prepared me to finish the race, but would not have led me to finish with excellence. Instead, my desire to make my brother proud motivated me to train with diligence and to push through when my muscles and mind were screaming to quit. The days I lost sight of my goal, my training suffered. I wouldn’t give my all or maybe not even finish the entire workout. Sometimes I would let my mind talk me into cutting corners or believe lies that I wasn’t good enough to be competing. Knowing my brother had a chance to win the race often moved me to excel, but other times the comparison between his abilities and mine made me feel inadequate. Only when I kept my focus on my goal were my workouts completed with excellence.
Similarly our motivation to pursue godliness can’t be to check something off our godly to do list. Our pursuit must be motivated only by our devotion to God and our desire to live a life that is pleasing to Him. This desire to please Him will develop the strength and disciple we need to make wise decisions day in and day out. It will keep us from straying when life gets tough. Not only this but pursuing godliness will allow others to see Jesus in us more clearly. Isn’t that a fun thought. However, just like a taking my focus off my goal got my training off track, when our motivation shifts from pleasing God to pleasing men or ourselves, our walk with the Lord suffers. We lose intimacy with our Maker, we may make poor decisions or lose sight of what matters. Maybe we begin to compare ourselves to other people, thinking “I’m better than her,” or “she is way more godly than me.” But as the girls in my small group always hear me say, “Comparison does one of two things, make us prideful or depressed.” God doesn’t compare our desires to please Him with anyone elses. He doesn’t compare our outward acts with anyone else. He looks at the motivation of our hearts. We must be motivated out of our love for the Lord and our desire to please Him…not our desire to impress others or to please ourselves. God loves us, and out of our love for Him we can keep our focus on Him.
As you spend time talking with Jesus today, let’s ask Him for a pure heart that is devoted to Him and disciplined for the purpose of godliness.