When I was a boy, I loved rugby. My parents did not. My mother feared for my life; my father feared for my soul. He cited a Bible verse from 1 Timothy, "Bodily exercise profiteth little," to argue that it was at best a waste of time.
But I discovered a different translation that said, "Bodily exercise profiteth for a little time." From that, I argued that I wouldn't play all my life, but I could play until I couldn't anymore — and that would be a "little time." So I played, and they fretted.
When Paul wrote: "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," he was dealing with what is known as Gnostic asceticism. He called that belief "old wives' tales" and was not trying to make a point about modern athletics. But the verse does state this timeless principle: Godliness that lasts for all eternity is far more important than physical fitness that lasts only a lifetime. Godliness means true reverence for God that comes from knowledge.
New Year's is the time when thoughts turn to weight, diet, exercise, and other unpopular themes. So given the above principle, I had an idea. This year, let's all check out what needs to be done about this New Year's resolution stuff!
And as our New Year's resolution, let's focus on the disciplines necessary to produce true reverence for God — a serious discovery of who He is and what it means to be rightly related in trust and obedience to Him in daily living. This, like physical training, requires a goal, a plan, a realistic approach, a commitment, and discipline! So here are some suggestions:
• Goal — This year practical godliness should characterize my life as never before.
• Plan — The Word, sacraments, prayer, fellowship, etc. are means to this end.
• Approach — Manageable realistic targets in these areas are most likely to be achieved.
• Commitment — God helping me, I will commit to these targets I have set before Him.
• Discipline — New behaviors and priorities will require decisions — I must make them. Not everyone wants to run a marathon or needs to lose thirty-five pounds. So approaches and goals vary. In the same way, we are all in various stages of growth. We all have our particular issues and varying resources available to us. So there is no cookie-cutter approach to godliness.
That is why I have avoided a detailed list of "how-tos" and left you to apply the suggestions above to your own situation. But let me encourage you with words I've often told my congregation: "Whatever you do, don't do nothing!"
Telling the Truth has many resources to help you, and I encourage you to explore our website at tellingthetruth.org. You can also keep up-to-date with the ministry by checking out our Facebook page. Read our posts and share your thoughts at facebook.com/tellingthetruth.
By the way, as you think of manageable targets, don't forget to make realistic financial commitments to the Lord and His work through the ministries that have contributed significantly to your spiritual life. That's another timeless principle: You and I are to minister materially to those who minister to us spiritually!