My daily scripture reading recently led me to I Timothy 4:7. Five little words leapt off the page and smacked me right in the face: “…train yourself to be godly.” Training is a thing with which I have become very familiar over the last four years. When you learn to run in your late fifties the casual approach does not work. I’ve had to be serious and intentional. What hit me about this scripture was the idea that godliness requires nothing less; I must TRAIN myself to be godly. Why do I seem to think that godliness is something I can catch on the fly, something that will just kind of settle into me or onto me as I move through life and church and through the little bit of scripture I get to read every day? The more I think about this, the more convicted I become, and the conviction is intensified by the next verse, “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.”
When I first read this, I felt guilty. Guilt stinks. It also does us no good if we simply wallow in it. Guilt, like pain, is only good if we recognize it as a signal that something needs to be fixed. It’s only good if it leads us to repentance. In this case, I can repent with some confidence because my running has taught me what training looks like. I’ve been working through the parallels for a few days now.
The first thing I learned about being successful with physical training is that I needed some kind of accountability. For me, at first, the fact that my Fitbit numbers were showing up on line for all the world to see provided the accountability I needed. I also blogged about my progress and the encouragement I received from that kept me going. The problem with godliness is that it doesn’t seem so easily measurable. Miles are easier to record than character changes. I’m still thinking this one through–but I’m taking a baby step with this post.
The second thing I learned from running is that goals motivate me. I need to be signed up for a race or working on a streak. II Corinthians 5:9 says, “So we make it our goal to please him…” The goal is to get to heaven and hear, “Well done…” Running has already helped me to picture life as a race. I need to meditate on this some more. I also need to become more and more familiar with the things that please God. That’s going to require more time in the scripture and a lot more prayer.
Another lesson from running is that training only really works if I am being consistent. Running for 600 days in a row made me a runner. Those days made running a part of who I am. Have I ever, in my whole Christian life spent time in the Word and time in prayer consistently for 600 days? I don’t know, but I think I’d better make sure I do from here on out. This will require the fifth thing I learned is necessary when training for a race: a plan and a record. Each week I plan my training runs. I look ahead at the weather and my schedule and I pencil in the miles and the workouts I need to do for the week. When they are complete, I put them in ink. Sometimes I have to move things around a bit. I might get a cold or have a family emergency of some kind, but because I have a plan, I can always shift my training. Training is a priority. Training in godliness should be, too. I think I’ll add a column to my notebook page.
I learned early that in my running experience that I have a tendency to plan too much. I trained too hard and I ended up with injuries. I made adjustments. I learned that I need compression gear, walk breaks, yoga, and pilates to make my training work. I know that I’ll learn things along the way in this new training as well. Training is a process. Some things work; other things don’t. I’ll be prepared to make adjustments because I’ve learned to do so in my running.
I also expect it to be difficult. I have sweated more in the last four years that in my entire 56 previous trips around the sun. Running is hard work. I expect becoming godly is going to be difficult as well. Because it’s hard, I must remember the last lesson I have learned from running: I can’t do it. My theme song throughout this journey to physical fitness has been the song, Never Once, by Matt Redman. I know that I could not have done any of this without God’s constant help and care. I have run and He has been with me every step of the way. This new training will be the same. I came across this quote from John Calvin. It fits in so well with what God is clearly asking me to do. “It is clear beyond contradiction that we are called to holiness. But the calling and duty of Christians is one thing, and it is another to have the power to make it happen. Therefore, we should beseech the Lord to purge us rather that vainly attempt such a matter in our own strength without his aid.”
So, I’m beseeching, and planning, and being serious and intentional. I’m training right now to run the Myrtle Beach Marathon in March. I’m also training for godliness, which has more value. Let’s do this!