“If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives tales; rather, 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 4:6-8
Whenever we are able to witness the Olympic competitions we see many wonderful athletic accomplishments. If you are like me you may marvel at the feats of athletic glory which are displayed. I often find myself thinking, and saying on occasion, that I could never do what I have seen. Even in my prime, which was many, many years ago I could not have performed in the way those athletes have been. When interviewed these athletes each have a story to tell of an all consuming, passionate commitment to training their bodies and minds so that they can compete at a world class level. What they do, eat, and think is carefully controlled so that they arrive at the Olympics in the peak of physical shape.
Perhaps this is what the Apostle Paul was thinking about as he wrote his first letter to Timothy. In the first century Roman and Greek world in which Paul lived there was a commitment to competitive games that rivaled, if not exceeded, our own. As Paul writes to Timothy he uses this fact as an illustration of the type of commitment that a believer has to have if they are to live the Christian life. In essence Paul is pointing at the Athlete and asking us to examine their commitment and self disciple. They do this in order to win a prize that will fade away. Does anyone of us know the list of winners in the Olympic Games in the first century AD? Even over a period of some 50 to 80 years our recollection of past winners fades away. Yet the commitment that each athlete exhibits is awesome.
Paul’s point is that the believer’s commitment to the practices of godliness should be equally great. How often do we let other things interfere with our single minded pursuit of the knowledge of the LORD? We are told that we cannot expect people to come out to worship services because there are some many things that compete with that commitment. We expect that they best that we can hope for is a nominal commitment from volunteers. We even question how much we should expect of ourselves. Then we witness the Olympics. There is a slogan I have heard a number of times in respect to these Olympics. It is why not me? I want to take that slogan and apply it to myself in respect to those practices that lead to godliness in life. These are such things as we see in the Scriptures as being marks of the godly life. Do I have a growing prayer life, seeking the Glory of God in prayer? Am I growing in my understanding of and commitment to the Word of God? Do I find myself increasingly rejoicing in fellowship with other believers? Am I developing a growing burden for those who are lost in their sin?
Each of these questions leads us into recognition of my need to grow in these godly practices. The consequence is an increasing awareness of God’s grace at work in us in this life, but even more eternally. We see the fruit of this in the lives of some of the heroes of the faith, now and in the past. We excuse ourselves by saying that that was them. They were, or are, in some way especially gifted individuals. That is where the Olympic slogan comes in. “What about me?”