1 Timothy 4:6-11 Godliness is the result of relentless struggles against sin despite numerous failed attempts
1 Timothy 4:6-11
In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. 7 But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; 8 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. 9 It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. 10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. 11 Prescribe and teach these things.
The devil’s goal is not to keep people away from the church, but to bring an appearance of godliness into it. However, the only way for Timothy to awake the church to the tide deception is to first discipline himself on the meditation of the word and in the walk of godliness. Godliness is the endgame of every believer because it is beneficial in every way, and it holds promises for the present life and also for the life to come. In today’s devotion, we learn that godliness is the result of relentless struggles against sin despite numerous failed attempts.
Constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine … discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness
As a measure against the tide of apostasy and hypocrisy of liars in later times, Paul urges Timothy to first establish himself on firm footing. For Timothy’s fight is not against flesh and blood (man) but against deceptive spirits and enticing doctrines (see Ephesians 6:12). How do Timothy fight against spiritual enemies that he cannot see? By teaching the word accurately and by being a model of godliness. But, Timothy must first nourish his spirit by the word, then he must subject his mind and body to the ways of truth. A good servant of Christ Jesus is one who can detect the insidious movements of deceptive spirits and arrest them without being deceived by them. Timothy’s role is to lead and inspire the flock towards godliness by being the model whom they can see and emulate. Therefore, Timothy must first establish a regiment of meditation on God’s word and discipline his body according to the ways of Christ. The two major areas of discipline are:
Constantly nourished on the words of faith – Paul urges Timothy to constantly meditate on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine. The act of meditation facilitates the assimilation of truths that results in sanctification of the soul. The words of faith search the soul and expose attitudes, desires and mindsets that run contrary to God’s holy nature. Then, a spiritual battle within the soul ensues against the sinful inclinations of the flesh. It is also here where the grace of God is present by way of the Holy Spirt to prune and sanctify the soul. Paul teaches the role of the word (the Law) and grace in the process of sanctification,
“The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” Romans 5:20.
Therefore, by meditating on the words of faith (the Law), sinful inclinations and desires are brought to light. As man humbles himself and repents, these sinful inclinations are summarily removed by grace – the cleansing action of the Holy Spirit. The result is a dramatic transformation of the soul towards godliness.
Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness – In describing the rigours of the pursuit of godliness, Paul uses the Greek term gymnazo (discipline) to depict vigorous exercise and conditioning of the mind and body. Gymnazo carries a connotation of competitive training where the sportsman subjects his mind and body to the control of the Spirit. In gymnazo, God tests the constitution of a man’s heart, approving or disapproving it. For one will never know the actual condition of his heart until he is tested and proven through a myriad of circumstances and temptations. Therefore, gymnazo functions in providing man a true and objective picture of his state of heart and mind. Gymnazo also functions in sanctifying the soul through the tribulations of life. Here, the believer resolves to obey God while navigating the unchartered waters of adversity. It is the Father’s will that every one of his children be refined and purified in the crucible of suffering. Even Jesus Himself is perfected this way (see Hebrews 2:10).
But godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
Paul contrasts the benefits of bodily discipline vis-à-vis godliness. Bodily discipline pertains to earthly life and the preparations needed to survive in the world. By subjecting oneself to a strict regiment of work and a healthy diet, he enjoys material abundance and lives long. No doubt bodily discipline is important and must be upheld for practical reasons. For it brings efficiency and makes life more interesting and enjoyable. However, godliness brings a dimension of abundance to the soul that bodily discipline and material possessions cannot. Bodily discipline brings order and physical wellbeing but it does not bring hope, peace and joy to the soul which only godliness can.
What promises and benefits do godliness hold for the present life? The pursuit of godliness grants ordinary people the privilege to live like God. According to a common confession of godliness in 1 Timothy 3:16:
- Godliness emanates the fragrance of the Spirit; the virtues of love, joy and peace and kindness wherever he goes: Was vindicated in the Spirit.
- Godliness is being anointed with authority over angels to do the work of God: Seen by angels.
- Godliness is being ready to share with those in need and to be a blessing to the world: Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world.
- A godly life will on the last day receive a glorious resurrection body: Taken up in glory.
The benefit of pursuing godliness in this present life is the imbuement of divine virtues and authority to do God’s work. Godliness not only gives ordinary men the privilege to live like God, it’s benefits extend beyond this present life to the life to come. Jesus promises his disciples,
“Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.” Luke 18:29-30
Therefore, having understood the multifaceted benefits of godliness, let us fix our hope on the living God while we labor and strive with all our energy to acquire it.
Godliness is the result of relentless struggles against sin despite numerous failed attempts.
While godliness is the measure of a man’s glory, the path that leads to it is laced with countless falls and bruises. In other words, a man’s character is honed by his relentless struggles against sin despite numerous failed attempts at a godly life. Therefore, the believer must not give up in his struggles, for his fight will produce within him greater wisdom and tenacity to engage future battles. Proverbs 24:16 says concerning the gymnazo of a righteous man, “For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again.” As long as believers do not give up in our fight against sin, the resurrection of Christ has insured for us total victory over sin and darkness.
As the goal of the believer’s struggle is to overcome sin. Hence, it is natural for him to feel dejected when he falls. As a result, many believers fall into self-blame and begin doubting their relationship and covenant with God. The right thing to do is to immediately reject all self-blame while asking the question: What is the devil trying to achieve and by what means? What do I have to lose if I give in to the devil’s temptation? By indulging in the mire of self-blame I would be playing into the devil’s ruse. But if I seek to understand the devil’s strategies and deceptive arguments, I turn the devil on his head and fight a more intelligent fight the next time around. Thoughts of self-blame and self-devaluation do not originate from the Spirit, they are devices (of the devil) purposed to weaken us against sin.
Nevertheless, there are three common weaknesses in man that the devil seeks to exploit.
- Pleasures of the flesh – this relates to the sexual perversion and all kinds of fleshly addictions.
- Pride of life – this relates to selfish ambition, to self-righteousness, to ranking one’s importance above others.
- Cares of life – the inability to believe in God’s faithful providence and care over his children.
The believer must first understand his personal weaknesses before he can armour himself appropriately. Pleasures of the flesh has to do with personal discipline of the mind and body. The aim is to wean off the pleasures of the flesh in exchange for the pleasures of the Spirit. To battle the pleasures of the flesh, one has to hold off fulfilling the temptation as long as possible while rebuking the spirit of addiction until it wanes. Pride of life on the other hand, is the most severe of all weaknesses as it concerns the posture of his heart. Pride ranks a man’s desires and importance as higher than God’s. Pride is that original sin that causes the downfall of humanity. Man’s only defence against the pride of life is to immerse himself in the word which is able to sanctify and soften the hardest heart. Cares of life is like a cancer that paralyses a man, continually draining his soul of its vitality. The way to fight this weakness is to live one day at a time, to think less and to be more aware of the good things that each day has to offer.
What are your peculiar weaknesses that the devil has been exploiting? Because of your weaknesses, the devil has stolen much peace, opportunities and resources from you. Your goal is to understand your weaknesses and armour yourself appropriately against the temptations of the devil. Perhaps, you could discuss this with your cell leader or pastor and have them assist you in your pursuit of godliness.
Dear Lord, forgive me for being distracted by the cares of life and the pleasures of the flesh. I am determined to immerse myself in the word and to walk in godliness. I ask for your grace to cleanse me from the pleasures of the flesh. I endeavour to live one day at a time, while enjoying your faithful presence and the people around me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.