Neil Silverberg

Are You Working Out?

“train yourself for godliness” I Tim. 4:7

Most people, when they think of living the Christian life, would not compare it to a rigorous program like that which athletes follow in order to achieve mastery in athletic prowess. Yet that is exactly what Paul does when writing to his young son in the faith, Timothy. Paul’s use of the word ‘train’ in the text is derived from the Greek word gymnazo from which we get our word gymnasium or gymnastics. Paul’s use of this word was drawn from the Olympic games which had their origin in his backyard. In a word, Paul likens the Christian life to that of Olympic athletes when they are training for the games. In a word, Timothy (and others) are to ’get into God’s gym.’

I learned from my own efforts to stay physically fit that I must be diligent and work past pain if I want to achieve my goals. So it is in the Christian life. Paul tells the Philippian church to “work out what God has worked in” (Philippians 2:12-13). This flies in the face of many characterizations of the Christian life in the modern church. “Let go and let God” is what we are often told as the key to living the Christian life. But this often breeds passivity and sloth. While Paul recognizes that God must be the initiator of the work (“for it is God who is at work with you”). Timothy is to understand that the Christian life is a life of rigorous training. Do we?

This is nothing less than what is often referred to as ‘progressive’ sanctification. We were set apart to God (sanctified) in the offering up of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all, but now we are told to apply that reality to all of life. Olympic athletes, when they are training, are totally focused in order to achieve the strength and prowess to compete. Everything is suborned to the goal of reaching maximum performance. Is that how we think of the Christian life? Are we totally focused on reaching the goal (which is nothing less than conformity to Jesus Christ)?

In order to achieve this, believers must understand those disciplines which the Church from ancient times has recognized are the best way to train for rigorous Christian living (prayer, fasting, worship, solitude, fellowship, meditation, etc.). None of these should be practiced as a way of attempting to earn anything from God. They are simple ways of applying the grace of God to our lives so that we begin to grow in the knowledge of God. Do you have any such practices? If not, it’s time to get into God’s gym.

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