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1 Timothy 4:8

"Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come."

Strong man working out in a gym.

How is your exercise regimen going? Are you trying to stay physically fit? Getting into shape is a popular goal in our culture, and it's not a new value. As far back as the first century AD, Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 4:8 that physical training is "good." Working out on a regular basis may not be easy, but it is a positive habit to pursue. How are you doing in this area of your life?

Now of course, Paul's main point of this passage is not to get Christians to lose weight. He is actually focusing on a deeper issue. He is encouraging us to exercise godliness. Just like getting into shape, exercising godliness requires us to engage in strenuous activities on a regular basis. If we are going to strengthen our spiritual muscles, we must use them regularly and intentionally. What might this look like?

Just as a weightlifter engages in specific exercises to develop a particular muscle, we should identify the areas in our spiritual life that we need to improve. For example, how strong is your patience muscle? If you are weak in this area, probably the best way to increase your ability to be patient is to put yourself in situations where you get to practice patience. Reading about patience is not how you develop forbearance, just like looking at pictures of athletes doesn't get anyone into better shape. You've got to actually work out.

So for today's devotional exercise, identify a spiritual muscle you need to strengthen. Here are a few suggestions you can use: encouragement, generosity, patience, service. (There are many others of course, just choose one that is specific to you.) Next think about how you can improve in this area. For example, if you want to work on your generosity muscle, engage in generous activities. You could buy lunch for a coworker or donate to a new charity. Like a committed exerciser, focus on the same area and do multiple repetitions of it on a regular basis. If you choose to train in godliness, you'll definitely like the new you, and so will others.

(New Living Translation; photo credit: Wix media)

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