Training in godliness…

We all know that physical exercise is part of a good and healthy lifestyle. Recently I have been attending the local gym and getting into a routine that requires commitment, lots of energy, and time. This level of commitment began to have a  strain on other things in my life and as a result I took a 2 week break from the gym.

Unfortunately, that break turned into 4 weeks. The time to ‘go to the gym’ was eventually squeezed out of my ‘life timetable’ – it has lost its place and is replaced by other things instead. Does it matter? Surely physical exercise comes in all different  forms, walking, cycling, football, cricket etc. Do I need to go back to the gym? How  do I get back into a rhythm of doing 30mins on the bike or 20 mins at level 15 on a  cross-trainer? To begin with – it’s going to be hard – but eventually I’ll get back into the habit.  

Paul wrote these verses to his young apprentice Timothy:

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 Tim 4:7-8). 

Paul reminds Timothy about his priorities – training yourself to be godly. It is amazing how physical exercise, Marathons, Football, Rugby, Tennis etc, have  become an idol or ‘mini god’ in people’s lives. They become part of the ‘ timetable of life’ and tend to replace spiritual growth and faith. I want to be  clear, all these are great things and God created all things to be good (as Paul  reminds us earlier in 4:4-5), but when they become a priority over our  commitment to the Lord, we must remember what is more important – getting  a hat-trick on Sunday – or growing and living in hope of eternal life through  faith in Jesus Christ?  

Physical training has value but growing in godliness is vital. Physical training has a limit, our bodies wear out – eventually our bodies will die – but growing  in our spiritual life, growing in our ability to pray, depending more of our lives  by faith in Jesus, reading and shaping our lives by the Bible, God’s Word, we are living our current life in obedience to the Lord, including our physical  exercise; and we are preparing for eternal life promised to those who have  faith in Jesus. When we get out of the ‘habit’ of gathering to worship or when it  is squeezed out of the timetable – it is difficult to get back into a rhythm, our  training in godliness suffers. We get blinded by our sin and the world around  us that we forget about what Jesus has done with our sins on the cross.  

It is so easy to conform to the world, to listen to myths, olds wives tales and get carried along with the crowd to Decathlon and Sports Direct and forget to gather with your brothers and sisters to worship the living God. It is vital to offer our prayers to our Father, to be taught from the Word through Jesus the  Son and go out to witness by the power of the Holy Spirit, to nourish,  encourage and grow each other as the body of Christ, the church. 

Focus on your godly training, get back into godly ‘habits’ and be a real witness to the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ.  

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Loving difficult people…

Conflict is something that I real struggle with and I know that I’m not alone. The other day, I was watched two people arguing about one of them jumping a queue in the local supermarket. The one who committed the crime was taking no responsibility and showing fingers and using abussive language. This is not unique. There are so many people in our society today who have no respect or are nasty for no apparent reason. So how do we cope with these people? How can we grow to love them? Are you someone who has become difficult to love?

I read a great little book called “How to love difficult people” by William Smith. It is part of the CCEF (Christian Counseling and Education Foundation) series. (See picture).

Smith starts his solution by saying:

Learning to love difficult people starts with understanding that you (like me) are hard to love too.

We need to accept that we are not perfect and we can be difficult to love too. We sin like everyone else and to be humbled by that truth is the starting point to loving others who are like us. As Isaiah 53:6 reminds us:

We all like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all (NIV)

God sees us as difficult people, who are sinful, rebellious and selfish, like sheep, but he had a plan to reconcile us back to him. He sent Jesus as the good shepherd to gather us back to himself. God’s goal is to gather these difficult people into his fold. Do you think God gives up after a week, month, year? Why should we? We need to keep praying for the people in our lives who we find difficult- that they encounter his unfailing love. Don’t quit, but pursue. Be encouraging, pursue areas of growth, pursue them for their own sake and love them even if they don’t love you in return. I leave the last words to Paul and use them as a prayer for what you are going through:

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Romans 15:5-6 NIV)

Amen