As a heavy kid, I always hated that day in the fall and spring when we were made to run the mile in gym class. Gym class was never my favorite subject, but the worst days were the mile-run days. I could never run the whole mile without breathlessly pausing a dozen or so times with side stitches. In another article (see Page 6), I wrote about my recent weight-loss journey of losing 130 pounds in nine months under doctor supervision.
As my journey progressed, I started training at the gym. I learned to use the weightlifting machines, and later, the free weights. When I started going to the gym, I did not naturally head for the treadmill. But one day, I decided to try. I ran a mile in twelve minutes and it felt good. I didn’t stop to catch my breath one time. After that non-stop mile, I moved on to other exercises. At the end of my workout, I returned to the treadmill for a second mile because I had more in me!
A few weeks later, I was driving to the gym and I pondered what I would focus on that day. I decided to run again. Then the question popped into my head, “Why run?” Out of all the things I could do, why did I want to run? The answer immediately came to me: because I can! Why did I want to run? Because for my whole life I couldn’t run, and now I could. So, I wanted to. After a few months of increasing my skills in running, I entered a race and ran the whole 10K without stopping to catch my breath.
Previously, when I used to read this verse, I always read it wrong. Being overweight my whole life, I read the verse as if the apostle was dismissing the need for physical training. I determined to focus on training in godliness since it had benefit in this life and the next life. I would read it in a way that said there is no value in caring for one’s body. All one should do is care about their soul.
Certainly, our soul does matter! Being a person of faith will mean that we train our grumpy disposition to instead be joyful. Faith will cause us to train our selfishness to instead be like our Master who was selfless. In countless ways, our life needs to come under the Lordship of Christ and obedience to His commands.
But Paul is not telling his protégé Timothy (and us) to disregard the physical body. He specifically says, “bodily training is of some value.” He does not say it is of NO value. There is value in paying attention to one’s physical body. There is value in training the body.
The lesson I learned by devoting myself to bodily training has a lot of impact for us in all areas of training in godliness. Before God came into our lives and saved us, we couldn’t be joyful. We couldn’t be selfless. We couldn’t be kind or loving. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Now that we have been saved by His grace, we can exercise these godly behaviors. Just like I couldn’t run before and now I want to because I am able to, we can find the motivation to do the right and godly thing in the fact that we are now able to. My bodily training has affected my training in godliness. It has given me a motivation for doing more for the Lord and others.
What new spiritual practice will you train yourself in? Do it because you can grow in it! You can excel in it! By the Lord’s strength, His wisdom, and His encouragement, you can be a stronger person than you ever imagined! Now that you have found the motivation, make some time to train yourself in it. You’ll feel those spiritual muscles building. You’ll find those once-awkward practices becoming second-nature. Commit to it and you will grow!
Timothy Schmoyer is lead pastor of Whitehall Bible Fellowship Church, 3300 7th Street, Whitehall, PA.