The apostle Paul admonished Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:7b-8 “Exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” Perhaps your normal daily activities cause you to have a strong physical body. This would be true for healthy individuals who are on their feet much of the time, walking or climbing or running. It would be true for those who repeatedly lift or push heavy loads. Instead, perhaps you have a more sedentary life pattern in that your normal activities do not stimulate your body to be physically strong; to obtain or maintain physical strength, you may choose to take time for exercise. Bodily or physical exercise is physical activity intended to improve strength and fitness. In general, physical exercise improves your health, wards off disease, and leads to longer life. The profit that one receives from bodily exercise is good and desirable. But the apostle Paul states in his admonition to Timothy that the profit that one receives from bodily exercise is little compared to the profit of exercising toward godliness.
What is godliness? The word translated as godliness means piety which is reverence and devotion to God. It describes an attitude that is centered on God and does that which is well-pleasing to Him. The word translated as exercise means to train the body or mind. Exercising yourself toward godliness would be to take time in your day that you devote to God and do things that you know are well-pleasing to Him. Maybe that is prayer; maybe that is praising God for his wonderful grace; maybe that is reading and studying and meditating on His word; maybe that is sharing His truths with those who don’t know them; maybe it is sharing your resources out of love with those in need. Just as repeated physical exercise serves the purpose of making one physically strong, repeated spiritual activities that are devoted to God makes one spiritually strong.
A baby or young child is weak compared to most adults. Strength usually comes with age and maturity and exercise. Some Christians are weak when they should be strong. Hebrews 5:12-14 “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
Your heavenly Father wants you to be strong spiritually. He will chasten you to make you strong and fruitful. Hebrews 12:7-11 “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Trials will come in your life. Your faith will be tested. If you accept God’s testing and chastening and remain faithful, you will be stronger because of your experiences.
Bodily exercise makes your body stronger. Exercising in godliness has “promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” You are given dual promises – life that now is and life which is to come. Jesus said much the same thing. Mark 10:28-30 “Then Peter began to say to Him, ’See, we have left all and followed You.’ So Jesus answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions — and in the age to come, eternal life.’” I have brothers and sisters all over the world. The fellowship which I share with them is sweet wherever I may go. They open their houses to me and share as there is need. I am convinced that the Christian life is the best life. A life of loving each other, of service, of purity, of righteousness, and of seeking after spiritual things rather than physical things is far better that the selfishness and slavery and guilt of sin that the world experiences. Then the second part of the promise is the promise of the life which is to come. That life will be in the presence of the Father and His son Jesus Christ; there will be no more curse; we will eat of the tree of life and experience the wonderful things that God has prepared for those who love Him.
I encourage you to exercise physically so that you can have a strong, healthy body. But I give you a greater encouragement to exercise yourself towards godliness. Such spiritual exercise gives blessings for this life and for that which is to come.