“…train yourself to be godly. For 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.” 1 Timothy 4:7-8 (NIV)
Godliness is of great value in the eyes of God. A Christian might be a good leader, a conscientious worker, a gifted preacher, a loving parent or a zealous witness, but all these matters very little to God if the person is not godly. God will not be pleased.
Those who follow Christ ought to be like Him in their character. This is the reason the New Testament places great emphasis on godliness.
The apostle, Peter, warned of the coming destruction in the day of the Lord and urged believers to live holy and godly lives (2 Peter 3:10-13). Godliness matters to God, and therefore it matters to us. The sooner we realise, the better.
In his letter to Timothy, Paul reminded his protégé to train himself in godliness because of its implications for both this present life and the one to come. Later in the same letter, he again called for Timothy to pursue godliness (1 Timothy 6:11). To pursue godliness suggests going after it single-mindedly and relentlessly.
To be godly and Christlike is not optional. Everyone who professes to be a Christian has the duty to pursue godliness, train himself in godliness and practise godliness.
Sadly, too many Christians neglect this responsibility and as a result, they are ineffective and unproductive in their life and ministry (2 Peter 1:8). These believers find it hard to see eye to eye with their leaders and bosses. They cannot cooperate meaningfully with their co-workers. They insist on their ways. They quarrel and fight. They behave this way because they are driven by their old and unredeemed nature of pride, evil desire, bitter envy and selfish ambition. Such motivation and conduct are contrary to the character attributes of godliness (Galatians 5:22-23; Philippians 2:3-13; Colossians 3:12-17; 2 Peter 1:3-7)
This kind of attitude and behaviour are destructive. They create mistrust. Nobody likes to work with such people. These toxic people might be talented and gifted, but they are not effective and productive. They are also a liability to their church and workplace because their actions invariably bring unhappiness, dissension and disunity. Now, you understand why practising godliness is so important.
I have good news for you. Practising godliness is not easy but God has made all the necessary provision to help us in this pursuit. Thankfully, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him” (2 Peter 1:3 – NIV). We just need to draw from God.
Practising godliness requires both our effort and God’s power. Without the enabling of the Holy Spirit, it is impossible for us to be godly. However, without our willingness and effort, nothing is going to happen. We do not become godly magically. It does not work that way.
How do you train yourself to be godly?
It begins with a desire and deep conviction to be godly. Then, we must be committed to practise godliness.
Paul borrowed an imagery from the athletic world. The athletes competing in the Olympic games trained hard for the games. They were disciplined. They prepared for the games by spending hours every day doing the same routines over and over again until they had mastered those particular skills.
In other words, they kept practising until the desired bodily motion and movement became second nature to them. World-class sportspersons today still do the same thing. Practice makes perfect and permanent.
Likewise, if you want to be patient, practise patience during trying situations. If you want to be more loving, practise loving those whom you normally find hard to love. If you are miserly, practice giving generously. If you are envious, practise praising the person whom you are envious and praying for his success. If you are careless with your words, practice holding your tongue. If you are proud, practise humility.
Instead of reacting in your normally un-Christlike manner, ask yourself what Jesus will do if He is in your shoes, and then respond accordingly. Be determined in your effort to be Christlike. Consciously practise godliness and at the same time pray for His divine enablement. You will be surprised at the speed of your transformation. All it takes is a little effort, and the Holy Spirit will do the rest.
Pastors Les & Adeline Chua