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So, I just now spent 20 or so minutes on the treadmill. Admittedly it has been some time since I maintained a consistent routine of habitual exercise, something I should once again strive to do; especially armed with the knowledge that the older I become the more difficult it is to recover strength and endurance.

There was a time when it seemed I could quit my routine for weeks at a time and then begin again practically where I left off. My ability to regain any muscle or endurance lost was quite high with the recovery time being slight. This is no longer the case. It now takes weeks to build back what was lost, in some instances even months.

As I was exercising this evening with these thoughts flowing through my mind (which I could barely hear over the gasping for breath) I began to consider what Paul told young Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:7-8

“But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”

I am convinced many people are familiar with at least a portion of verse 8, as I often hear quotes or rather, misquotes of it in the manner something like, “Exercise profits little” intending to communicate- don’t waste your time doing it. A closer examination of the verses reveals that this is not what Paul is telling Timothy at all. In fact, Paul says bodily exercise does profit, but only so much as the physical body is temporary- it is the eternal body that carries the lasting weight, so spend the bulk of your energy exercising yourself unto Godliness.That phrase is what caught my attention this evening, “exercise yourself unto godliness”. So what does the word exercise mean in this context? Well the Greek word seems to be the ancient base for our word gymnasium, so I am led to believe it is safe to approach the definition from a physical exercise point of view.

Merriam Webster defines exercise as,

  • regular or repeated use of a faculty or bodily organ
  • bodily exertion for the sake of developing and maintaining physical fitness
  • something performed or practiced in order to develop, improve, or display a specific capability or skill
  • a maneuver, operation, or drill carried out for training and discipline

Makes perfect sense to me, having spent portions of time during my life so far engaged either in organized sports, the military, or body building, I find the definition to be quite accurate in describing the costs and sacrifices required to develop one’s body with any sort of physical exercise.

Physical exercise requires regular drills of bodily exertion, performed and practiced repeatedly and often, in order to develop and maintain physical fitness. I am certain Paul and Timothy both understood this, probably more so than we do as their lifestyles and cultures were much more physically driven than ours.

What’s the point you ask. The point is, Paul was telling Timothy that he must approach striving for godliness with the same point of view that he would apply to physical exercise.

Exercise is often difficult or else it is not very effective. The routine can be wearying; it takes dedication, discipline and sacrifice. And as I mentioned earlier the older I grow the more difficult it is to maintain, especially if I am not very attentive to adhering to the routine.

If it becomes increasingly more difficult for me to “gain ground” in physically conditioning my body due to the lack of routine, how much more difficult is it to exercise godliness without maintaining the required routine?

I understand if I am to gain anything in my exercise I must be willing to dedicate and devote the time (and suffering) to achieve this goal. I must engage in this exercise routinely and regularly. If I were to just randomly run 2 or 3 miles every month or so, I would probably do more damage than good. And the time would certainly come when I would be unable to run the distance at all lacking the physically ability to do so.

Can the same then not be said for exercising godliness, that exercise routine that is profitable unto all things in this life and the one to come? To be effective it all in any sort of Godliness, I must regularly exercise myself therein. Living off of the time spent studying and praying years ago, can only carry me so far, I must routinely pray and study to continually build my spiritual strength and endurance.

I must engage quite deliberately in a regular exercise program towards growing in godliness. Where the repetitions see prayer being continually lifted up rather than iron weights; where marathons of watchings and fastings are commonly run; where the heavy lifts are comprised of the Word of God being labored over time and time again.

This exercising of Godliness would calls me regularly and often to the local gymnasium- the House of God.

This gymnasium where the lap pool is replaced by pools of weeping over the state of the hopelessly lost; where saunas are replaced with prayer closets, running tracks with kneeling alters. Rather than the clanging of iron there is the clapping of hands in praise and singing. Replaced are grunts of straining with groans of intercession. Gone are the mirrors for gazing upon self, now there is a greater desire towards giving of self. This is the place where the weakest are the strongest, the lowest are the highest, and the last shall be first.

Joy replaces adrenalin, true love overcomes self-love, and endurance becomes eternal.

When is the last time you “worked out”?