December 11, 2019
This past week I had two doctor appointments. I must confess I found it frustrating. As I drove to my appointments, I was thinking, “I so wish I didn’t have to do this. It’s uncomfortable. It’s inconvenient. It’s going to eat up half of my day. Probably more. And for what? The doctor will probably just tell me to exercise more, lose some weight, same old, same old. I don’t need this today.”
Then I started thinking smarter thoughts. “Hey, Mason . . . what are you thinking? Do you want to live? Do you want to see your grandchildren? Do you want a quality of life that is enjoyable? Do you want to finish your mission well and make lasting contributions in life? Come on, man. Going to the doctor, doing what he says, taking care of your one and only body—making sure your physical health is as good as you can make it—well, that’s not just necessary for you. It’s essential for the happiness and future of the people you love.”
So, I went to my appointments with a humble attitude and am working on my health. Paul instructed Timothy, “Take the time and trouble to keep yourself spiritually fit. Bodily fitness has a certain value, but spiritual fitness is essential both for this present life and for the life to come.”
1 Timothy 4:7 PH
Paul obviously wanted Timothy to keep himself in the best possible shape, physically, so God could use him fully. But he wanted him to realize that spiritual fitness is even more important. Physical care makes us look better, feel better, contribute more, and live longer here. But spiritual fitness? The value and significance are even more. Paul says that making sure you are spiritually fit has value—he says it is essential—both for this present life and the life to come.
Whether it is physical health or spiritual health, it requires self-discipline, That’s not a favorite word for many of us. We WANT self-discipline but struggle to achieve it. Health professionals urge us to exercise regularly, choose healthy foods, and get adequate sleep. Think about the benefits of following their advice. When we work at it, discipline in our physical health gives us a sense of purpose and accomplishment, helps us feel less stressed, results in improved health, and helps us love and serve longer. It helps build our relationships. All such good things! I am going to press in with new commitment.
Yet Paul declares that physical discipline has value, but it is strictly for this life. As essential as it is, Paul finds far more valuable self-discipline for the purpose of godliness, since it is essential for now and later, this life and heaven too.
Physically, we know how to work out, eat, and rest to build muscle and strength and minimize problems. Spiritually, he tells us to exercise godliness. Godliness is an attitude that looks toward God, wanting and choosing to do the things that please Him. That means our spiritual exercise is to know what God said, what He desires, and what He expects of us in character and conduct. It means we consistently build an intimate love relationship with God.
If you are married or have a best friend, you know how you got there. You prioritized that relationship. You put getting to know that person at the top of your list, and you regularly did the things that would draw you closer. Becoming intimate with God, and thus healthy spiritually, is the done same way. Discipline for godliness means that we make reading, studying, and meditating on God’s Word a priority. It means we say no to sinful desires and impulses to wrong and plain old laziness in order to build our closeness with Him. The results will be transforming! We will begin to be shaped like Him, we will have a clear conscience, and our spirits will be characterized by joy and peace.
Then the benefits will go even further. When this life is over, we will find ourselves welcomed into heaven with joy! The benefits of our spiritual health will never end.