By: William B. Everett, Retired ARP minister in Mississippi Valley Presbytery
The simple and quite logical fact of physical fitness is this, if one hopes to get in shape, one must exercise. Period!
Exercise can come in any number of ways. However, be it swimming, walking, jogging, or riding a bike, it is necessary to actively involve one’s self in the specific activity. Reading a book about running or buying a bike and putting it in the garage won’t improve one’s physical health. In short, one can join a gym, but unless one actually goes to the gym and works out, it is all just so much talk.
Thus, when Paul admonishes young Timothy (and us) “to train yourself to be godly” (1 Timothy 4:7), he is talking about the very same thing. Namely, to become spiritually stronger, one must “go to the gym.” The words Paul uses here are ‘gymnazo’ and ‘gymnasia’, what we call gymnastics or the gymnasium.
How are we to do this? To what ‘gym’ are we to go? There is but one for the child of God, and that is God’s infallible Word. Not the ‘godless myths and old wives tales’ (vs. 7a) that are devoid of God’s truth, but the very Word of God itself.
John Stott rightly states: How then are we to ‘exercise ourselves unto godliness’? What spiritual gymnastics are we to undertake? Paul does not go into detail. But the context, and in particular the parallel between nourishment and exercise, together suggest that we are to exercise ourselves in the same way that we nourish ourselves, namely in the Word of God. Certainly it has been a long-standing Christian tradition, belonging to the wisdom of the ages, that disciplined meditation in Scripture is indispensable to Christian health, and indeed to growth in godliness. For in contrast to ‘godless myths’, Scripture is the most godly book that has ever been written. It is a book by God about God. It might even be termed the autobiography of God, since in it he talks to us about Himself. Consequently, we cannot become familiar with this godly book without becoming godly ourselves. Nothing evokes the worship of God like the Word of God.
We all have access to the ‘gym’, so to speak, we all have a Bible. We can talk about it. We can carry it to church or put it on the night stand by our beds. But no true growth comes until we ‘work up a sweat’ within its sacred pages.
So, let’s get the bikes out of the garage and start peddling. The ride will be worth far more than we can possibly imagine.
(This article was originally printed in the January ARP Magazine. You can subscribe by clicking here.)