1Timothy 4:7-8 states, “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
First, let’s look at the context and why the Apostle Paul wrote this instruction to Timothy. The first five verses warn that some Christians will listen to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons and leave the faith and then teach heresy. They will try to convince people not to eat foods created by God, such as meat, because the animal may be a reincarnated human spirit, which is a myth. These false teachers may try to tell you not to marry, yet the truth is, God created marriage and called it good, so we are to be thankful for all the good things God created for our benefit.
Second, what is a myth? Dictionary.com (5/2021) says a myth is a traditional or legendary story, often about an imaginary or fictitious thing or person. A myth can also be an unproved or false collective belief used to justify a social institution [or cult]. Some Bible versions translate the Greek word as a fable, which is a story not based on the fact [truth]. The New International version says to have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales. The New American Standard says they are worldly fables fit only for old women. We should not give our time and attention to worldly myths but rather cultivate purity and seek to please God and become more holy.
How do you train yourself for godliness?
When you train for something, you make an effort to learn and practice to improve your knowledge and skill. In verse six, we are to train ourselves to be godly, that is, to think godly thoughts based on the truth of God’s Word. In my post called What Controls Your Thoughts?, I explain how our thoughts control our beliefs, and our beliefs create feelings, and we express our feelings in our behavior. So when we discipline ourselves to think God-pleasing thoughts, we will believe what is true and display godliness. Dictionary.com (05/2021) says godliness is the quality or practice of conforming to the laws and wishes of God; devoutness and moral uprightness.
When you physically train, you discipline yourself to exercise and increase your strength and endurance every day. You can’t occasionally exercise when you feel like it and expect to be physically fit. In the same way, you can’t expect to be godly if you are not reading the Bible every day. Joshua 1:8 states, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” We need to train our thoughts to focus on the truth of God’s Word and practice doing what God says we are to do to succeed in staying in godly shape. James 1:25 states, “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty [love1], and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing [what he does].” Paul admits that physical training has some benefits, but godliness has a more significant benefit.
How does godliness benefit us in the present life and the life to come?
When we live godly lives, Christ’s love controls us (2Cor. 5:14-15). A person who trains themselves to be godly puts off their old habits, thinking, and resentments that derail their spiritual progress and develops new habits, righteous beliefs, and love that help them succeed (Eph. 4:22-24). Physical exercise only benefits our physical body and allows us to be successful in doing temporary physical things. But spiritual exercises benefit us in the physical world by causing us to succeed in all we do. And spiritual discipline prepares us to stand before God in the eternal spiritual world.
Spiritual exercises are praying, praising God, and pondering Scripture day and night. Then we are to do good and turn from evil, knowing we will receive a reward for all we do while in our physical body. 2Corinthians 5:10 states, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
1. Law of liberty is love: Gal. 5:13; Rom. 13:8,10]oJam. 2:8.