Throughout my life, I’ve gone through seasons when I’ve been really motivated to work out. When I was in high school I just wanted to be buff enough to impress girls (I failed). In the months before my wedding I was trying to work on my honeymoon beach body. These days, I’m just trying to make sure I live past my twenties. My motivations have changed over the years, but what hasn’t changed is how fickle those motivations are.
Maybe you’re naturally motivated to work out—shout out to my friends who post pics and videos of their training regimen each day. But if you’re like me, your motivations go up and down like a kid on a trampoline. What if the results from your work out lasted forever, ho? Would you be more motivated?
Hard Work Pays Off
During the Winter Olympics last month I was in awe as I watched lightning quick bobsledders and highflying snowboarders. I was impressed by their athletic excellence, but I was even more impressed when I thought about the disciplined training it must have taken to get there.
At the end of each event when the victorious athletes stood on the winner’s podiums, with smiles on their faces and medals resting on their chests, they were reaping the benefits of their training. But according to the Bible, there’s a superior kind of training—not because physical training is worthless, but because it’s limited.
If you’ve ever wondered what God thinks about your workouts, here’s the answer: He thinks it has beneficial, but limited, value. So while you’re running, doing drills, and lifting weights, rest in the knowledge that it’s a good thing to do. Keeping your body in good shape is commendable—even wise—but it’s only going to get you so far.
This is what the Apostle Paul said to Timothy:
“But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness, for the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." (1 Timothy 4:7-8)
We could sum up Paul’s thoughts on working out like this: Physical training is good, but spiritual training is better. And that’s because physical strength is temporary, while godliness is eternal. When Paul talks about “training for godliness” I think he means doing the things that make you spiritually stronger. It means engaging in the activities that make you more godly. Maybe lifting our Bible is even less desirable than lifting a weight, but neglecting it means we miss out on more than good health.
Forever Is Better than A Moment
We all know that when something lasts longer it’s more desirable. No one buys a car knowing it’ll break down the following month. We’d rather buy something that lasts a while, because we’ll get more out of the investment. But if we’re so calculated with decisions about cars, how much more calculated should we be about our souls?
How often do you think about your eternity? The truth is, we should think about it more than we do. There’s no question that all of us will live forever; the question is what that forever will be like. So we should make investments now, knowing that the consequences will never end.
This should impact what we focus on from day to day. Sports are good, but they’re not everything. Your physical strength may get you into college, but it won’t get you into Heaven. You should take good care of your body, but we have something weightier to care for. How healthy is your soul?
How To Train
God enables us to build “spiritual muscle” when we let go of sin and grab a hold of Jesus. And then he sends us to the gym. He’s graciously given us his word, his people, and even his ear. So let’s read, fellowship, and pray. Athletes train hard because they want to be prepared for the game or match ahead of them. They want to be able to compete at a high level.
All of us will face spiritual tests, trials, and battles everyday. Are you prepared? Coasting doesn’t work for athletes and it won’t work for Christians. Last year’s Bible reading isn’t enough to sustain you this year. We’ll only make it through this marathon by God’s grace, but he prepares us for the race through our spiritual exercise.
It’s helpful for me to remember that while the benefits of physical training are limited, the benefits of spiritual training are unlimited. On those days when I don’t feel like praying or reading God’s Word, I can remind myself that the benefit isn’t small or temporary. It won’t only help me next week, it will help me in the next life. That’s all the motivation I need.