Torch, Winter 1987

God's Training Rules for Godliness by Dr. Richard D. Durham The summer Olympics! The parade of athletes! The excitement of competition! The thrill of the winners as the gold medals are presented! The agony of defeat! Who hasn't enjoyed watching such a spectacle? But do the participants just happen to be good athletes? The answer is an emphatic "No!" They train, they work hard, they agonize, they discipline them– selves, and they practice, practice, practice! We are told that athletes who participated in the Isthmian and Olympian games of the Apostle Paul's day had to spend a full ten months in daily, rigorous training in order to qualify for the competition. Paul charged Timothy to " ...follow after (pursue, strive for) ... godliness..." (I Tim. 6:11 ). Pursuit demands effort. But before a Christian can pursue godliness, he needs to know what he is pursuing. The word "godliness" is made up of two Greek words: one that speaks of worship; the other of doing it well. Thus, to be godly is to "worship well." It describes a healthy spiritual life and speaks of a Christian who has made God the very center of his life by presenting his body a living sacrifice to God, and who is continually seeking to glorify God in all he does. Godliness is defined as piety which, characterized by a God-ward attitude, does that which is well-pleasing to Him. To put it succinctly, godliness is the life-long pursuit of Christ-likeness. How is this godliness - this lifestyle that is God– centered and God-glorifying - attained? Paul commanded Timothy: "Exercise thyself... unto godliness" (I Tim. 4:7). 8 The verb "exercise" (v. 7) and its noun form in verse 8 were used to refer to the on-going training program required of athletes in Paul's day. Godliness also requires an on-going training program that involves several basic disciplines. 1. Get adequate rest. An athlete does not have the stamina nor the ability to perform well if he does not get enough sleep. Strength is renewed when the body is at rest. Spiritual rest, for the Christian, is obtained in prayer. An old hymn reminds us that praying does indeed rest the weary. Prayer calls for trust, and trust implies dependence on, and submission to, God. David reminds us that we are to " .. .trust in the Lord" (Ps. 37:3) and to " in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him" (Ps. 37:7). Isaiah promises: "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint" (Is. 40:31). They who would soar on eagle's wings in the heavenly atmosphere of godliness must learn to