Being a strong believer in physical conditioning, I applaud those who commit themselves to working out. In Paul the apostle’s letter to Timothy, he penned these words: “train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things….” (1 Timothy 4:7b, 8a, NIV).
Note that this passage refers to two types of exercise. One is bodily, and the other is pursuant to godliness. And since exercising toward godliness is far better than bodily exercise, we should be more diligent in our pursuit of godliness than we are in physical training.
A dictionary of mine defines godliness as “having great reverence for God.” But really the word, as used in the Bible, goes a step further to denote a lifestyle that pleases God. A more practical definition of godliness is “a piety that pleases God.” In other words, godliness means that we are devout, and we live out our devotion to God in a way that pleases Him.
Consider the Pharisees during Jesus’ day. They were extremely religious. Based on the definition in my dictionary they would be considered godly. But to say that their ways displeased God would be an understatement.
Now that we have defined what godliness is, let’s talk about how to be godly. The Bible says we must train ourselves to become godly. Clearly, godliness is not happenstance. We can attain it only by serious spiritual workout. Just as we can do bodily exercise to build physical strength and cause our bodies to operate more efficiently, we can do the spiritual disciplines to condition ourselves to become more godly.
For instance, if you are not prayerful, you can discipline yourself to be more prayerful by going through the spiritual exercise of praying until that discipline becomes second nature to you. The same thing is true regarding studying and being a doer of the Word of God.
Jesus is our perfect model for godliness. In fact, when we talk about pursuing godliness, we are really talking about how to be like Christ. We know He lived out His public life in a way that pleased God. As He emerged from baptism God said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17, KJV).
Because of our born again experience, we have everything we need to be like Christ! I know that for some Christians, that’s hard to believe when they consider the areas they struggle with in the flesh but it’s true.
Sometimes, we try to justify staying as we are by saying, “That’s just how the Lord made me. I just get things off my chest. I say what’s on my mind.” But we cannot allow our flesh to reign out of control and simply excuse it as being the way we were made.
We must attack those problem areas. We do that by studying Christ, our perfect example, and training ourselves to become like Him in that area of our life. Then others can see Christ in us.
The bottom line is that God has not called us simply to be religious; rather, He has called us to be godly.
Frank King is pastor of the English-speaking congregation at the Hinesville Korean Full Gospel Church, 758 Tupelo Trail, Hinesville, GA, 31313.