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discipline self-control self-denial Uncategorized

Discipline Yourself For The Purpose Of Godliness

Neal Pollard

Two weeks ago today, Wes Autrey and I decided to hold each other accountable for eating better and losing some pounds. The daily check in that accompanies this requires me to pay attention to how much and what I eat and pushes me to make sure I go work out. The single most difficult element of this challenge is the discipline.

It’s interesting that the word translated “discipline” in 1 Timothy 4:7-8 literally means “to train.” The Greek word is the one from which we get our English word “gymnasium.” The adjective form is translated “naked,” the figurative sense meaning “manifest” or “unconcealed” (Kittel-Bromiley 133). While the Greeks would exercise naked, the verb form came to mean “to concentrate” (ibid.). So when Paul says, “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (4:7), he is calling for utmost concentration and conscious training in order to achieve godliness. Louw-Nida remind us that godliness refers to “appropriate beliefs and devout practice of obligations relating to supernatural persons and powers” (530). It is driven by a profound respect for God because of who He is and what He deserves.

The motivation Paul gives the Christian for exercising godliness is the unsurpassed value it gives us.  He contrasts the value of godliness with bodily exercise. I do not believe Paul is saying it’s a total waste of time to exercise. After all, it does do “a little good.” It helps us function and feel better for a good while in these bodies God gave us. But by comparison, godliness is far superlative. People can look at our lives and see the fruit of it while we live on this earth, but it also leads us to eternal life.

Godliness is the goal, the motivation. Discipline is the means to that end. In context, Paul calls for discipline to be built through proper diet (“being nourished on the words of faith and of…sound doctrine,” 4:6), proper exercise (“labor and strive,” 4:10), proper focus (“we have fixed our hope,” 4:10), and consistency (“show yourself an example,” 4:12; “give attention,” 4:13; etc.).

Wes and I hope that the results of our herculean efforts “will be evident to all” (cf. 4:15). It will require us to “take pains” and to “be absorbed” in our goal (cf. 4:15). Certainly, it means paying close attention to ourselves (4:16). Much more than that, you and I must direct our attention to the proper beliefs and practices that will get us to heaven and influence those who are around us (4:16). Remember that discipline is about training, a process that must be repeated, perfected, and continued. But, the payoffs cannot be matched! How’s your discipline?

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Christian living Christianity

What Does 1 Timothy 4:8 Mean?

Neal Pollard

“The Battle of the Bulge.” It was not just a crucial conflict in a world war. It has come to describe America’s battle with its expanding waistline. Obesity is a national problem. Weight gain often seems inevitable.  “Dunlap’s Disease” is many man’s (and woman’s) problem.  Solomon is rebuking many of us when writes, “Put a knife to your throat if you are a man given to appetite (Prov. 23:2)! A Christian’s body belongs to the Lord and must be properly maintained (cf. 1 Cor. 4:2; 6:19). One’s body can be harmed by overeating and being overweight as it can with alcohol and tobacco.

One tried and true way to prevent disease and bodily harm stemming from being overweight is exercise. Doctors say that no diet is complete without it! Proper exercise aids in the prevention and management of heart problems, diabetes, cancer, and several other serious conditions.

Many times, perhaps defending their own inactivity, well-meaning people cite 1 Timothy 4:8: ” For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” Their basic position seems to be that, since exercise “profiteth little” (KJV), they are justified to live out a couch potato’s life. Let us consider Paul’s statement.

THE VERSE IS SPEAKING COMPARATIVELY. The “little” in the first part of the verse is contrasted with the “all things” in the second part of the verse. Compared to godliness (i.e., God-likeness), which impacts one’s earthly and eternal existence, bodily exercise pales in importance. The same can be said of retirement efforts (Matt. 6:19-21), recreation (1 Tim. 5:6), household chores (Luke 10:41-42) and even work (John 6:27).  Yet, all of these are legitimate, even necessary, pursuits. So it is with bodily exercise.

THE VERSE REVEALS THAT EXERCISE DOES PROFIT. What does it do a “little”? It profits. It benefits. It gives advantage. The healthful benefits of exercise are well-documented. Some would contradict Paul and say it does no good at all.

THE VERSE WARNS AGAINST EXTREMISM.  The fitness craze can become fanaticism. Some seem to have made bodily exercise their god! They are obsessed. The Greco-Roman culture, to which both Paul and Timothy were regularly exposed, were extremists on this point. The Greek Games were the original Olympics. The gymnasiums and other venues showed it to be a constant obsession. Paul says such extreme devotion is ludicrous. So it is today!

THE VERSE WARNS AGAINST POOR PRIORITIZING. Anything put before service to the Lord is in the wrong place. It is possible for exercise (and gluttony, TV, video games, etc.) to come between one and putting God first. To this extent, any activity or pursuit is sinful (Matt. 6:33). If you spend several hours per week exercise and only a few minutes studying the Bible, visiting the sick and needy, praying to God, evangelizing, and doing Christian service, your priorities are wrong! If some gave as much devotion to godliness as they did bodily exercise, our churches would be much stronger!

But let us avoid abusing this–and any–passage! Paul is not denouncing exercise. To the contrary, exercise will improve us physically and mentally. It can improve our attitude and performance as a Christian. It must, however, be kept in its proper place. If we are going to be fanatical about anything, let it be our service to God as Christians (Rom. 12:1-2). That is the key to making everything, well, “work out”!

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Amazon Music endurance example exercise Fleet Foxes Hebrews Jesus perseverance running sin Strava

Laying Aside “Every Weight”

Neal Pollard

I try to write very seldom about my favorite hobby, running, which I picked up when our baby, who Pooh Duke has dubbed “Carlnormous,” was still in the womb (This is Carlnormous).  Running produces so many wonderful benefits, physically, psychologically, and mentally.  Yet, as I have heard said, exercise is only about 20% of weight management.  Therefore, until I have recently begun beefing up my “push back” exercises from the dinner table, I have been running at over 200 pounds for much of those 17 years.  I am 15 pounds lighter than I was this time last month, and Strava does not lie.  Today, I logged a 10K at a pace of 8:19/mile (Strava is cool), while listening to a mellow “Fleet Foxes And More” playlist from Amazon Music (Will Fleet Foxes reunite?)—not exactly heart-pumping exercise music.  This time last month, I was about a full minute slower per mile.  Since today I’m inevitably older than I’ve ever been, the difference has to be the fewer pounds I’m dragging around.  Hopefully, I’ll drop more weight, and if I do I anticipate that my pace may quicken and I’ll feel even better doing it.

New Testament writers use the running analogy on several occasions, but consider what the writer of Hebrews says:  “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (12:1-3). The NASB says “encumbrance” (NKJV, “weight”), and the word means “that which serves to hinder or prevent someone from doing something—‘hindrance, impediment’ (Louw-Nida, 13.149). While the implication is “of an athlete stripping himself of clothing which would impede his performance” (Ellingworth, NIGTC, np), how much more does something like 15 pounds “impede”?

This passage encourages endurance with at least three ideas.

Laying Aside The Weight Is Meaningful. It helps one with endurance as it helps eliminate obstacles to a successful run.  It shows up in a better quality of life. It impacts more than just the run you are on that day.  The effects are enduring and they impact such vital areas as blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, etc.  So it is spiritually.  This is about defeating sin, staying faithful, endurance, and overcoming.  In line with the thrust of the whole letter of Hebrews, it is about not falling away and leaving Christ!  We do not want to hang on to anything that interferes with that eternal prospect.

Laying Aside The Weight Is Measurable. I can tell the difference in myself when I have or have not lost that extra weight.  Certainly, the same is true spiritually.  When something is weighing me down, distracting, depressing, deceiving, or drawing me away, I can tell.  I can see it in my devotional life, it shows up in my speech, my attitude, my ethics, and countless similar ways. Other people can see it, too.  I know that God sees every bit of it!

Laying Aside The Weight Is Motivational.  By laying aside the encumbrances and entanglements, I feel better and improve my physical quality of life. The Hebrews’ writer tells us about a transcendent motivation which follows lightening our spiritual loads of sin problems.  Removing the impediments, I am better able to fix my eyes on Jesus and His example while not growing weary or losing heart.

Past experience tells me that weight can be picked up even easier than it can be laid aside.  This is an ongoing discipline.  But it is so worthwhile!  Oh, that I can remember that as I run the course of earth toward eternity.