The Promise of Exercise and Godliness

With the start of a new year, a lot of people are going to be motivated to start a new exercise program. In I Timothy, chapter four, verse eight, the Apostle Paul talks about bodily exercise: “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

The word that Paul uses here for bodily training is the word from which we get the English words gymnasium or gymnastics. A lot of gyms are going to see increases in activity in the next few days.

But according to Paul, godliness is something that is more beneficial than bodily training. Godliness holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

How different would our world be if people understood things the way that Paul did, if godliness was seen as far more profitable than bodily training?

Paul does not say that bodily exercise profits nothing. There is much evidence that shows the benefits of exercise, not just for our bodies but also for our emotional health.

But no matter how beneficial bodily exercise is, its benefit is small compared to the benefit of godliness. Even the most physically fit people on earth will not be ready for the life to come unless they also have godliness. Godliness is profitable for this life and for the life that is to come.

The word that Paul uses here for godliness means reverence, respect and piety toward God. I like to think of godliness as “God-like-ness.” When people look at you they see what God is like. In many places Scripture says that godliness is profitable for this present life.

In the Fourth Commandment God says, “Honor your father and your mother, that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:1-3)

In the twentieth chapter of Exodus when God gives the Ten Commandments he says that he shows, “steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

In explaining this passage in his Small Catechism Martin Luther says, “God promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments therefore we should love and trust in him and gladly do what he commands.”

Yes, godliness is of great value in this present life. It also holds promise for the life to come.

Job, one of the most godly men of the Bible put it this way:

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. [26] And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, [27] whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25-27)

Jesus told his disciples:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. [2] In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? [3] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

For those who want to get serious about bodily exercise and for those who see the importance of godliness there are some important similarities.

For both bodily training and godliness it is best to consult experts. Your doctor and trainer will help design a program for bodily training. Your pastor or other professional church workers are the best resources for developing a godliness plan.

Goals are important for both bodily training and godliness. Losing weight and increasing strength and endurance are common bodily training goals. The most common godliness goal is reading the entire Bible but many other goals can help increase godliness.

And other people are also key for godliness and bodily training. Christianity is not meant to be practiced in a vacuum. Having a friend along for the ride can make a big difference in both bodily training and godliness.

If you have decided that this is the year you finally get in shape, good for you. It will be even better and more profitable for both this life and the life to come if you make the new year a time to focus on the godliness that flows from faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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