Toads can cause warts… Don’t go outside with wet hair or you’ll catch a cold… Chicken soup will cure your cold… Feed a cold, starve a fever…
Old wives’ tales. We’ve all heard them. Some are totally false. Toads don’t cause warts; a virus does and there’s no scientific evidence that going outside with wet hair will cause you to catch a cold. Some old wives’ tales do have an element of truth, like eating chicken soup to help get rid of a cold. Oh, and by the way, starving a fever is not a good idea. When you’re sick, it’s always best to eat a little something — like that chicken soup!
In his first letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul wrote, “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly (1 Timothy 4:7, NIV).” As followers of Jesus Christ, we should have nothing to do with teaching that is false — those old wives’ tales or with godless myths. Instead, we are to train ourselves to be godly. Why? In the next verse, Paul answers that question. He says that physical training has some value, but training for godliness has value for all things. And, its value is not just for the present life, but also for the life to come, for eternity (1 Timothy 4:8). Physical training will make us physically fit, but training for godliness will make us not only spiritually fit, but also people who reflect the image of God.
So, how do we train to be godly? In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul points out that an athlete prepares by exercising self-control. While in training, he controls his body, steering clear of the wrong foods, avoiding over-training, and making sure to get the proper amount of rest. In spiritual training, we, as followers of Christ, must also exercise self-control, making our bodies our servants and not our masters and steering clear of sin in our lives.
In order to condition his body, an athlete will participate in a variety of exercises, such as strength training, aerobic exercise, and flexibility exercises. In training for godliness, we should also use a variety of “exercises,” such as prayer, self-examination, fellowship, service, and sacrifice. When we do these things, the Holy Spirit helps us to become more godly people.
Finally, in physical training, an athlete may use various types of equipment to help him to attain the conditioning he needs to compete. He may use free weights, weight machines, or cardio equipment such as treadmills or exercise bikes. As we train to be the godly people we are called to be, perhaps the most important piece of “equipment” we need to use is the Bible, the living Word of God. 1 Timothy 4:7 tells us to steer clear of false teaching (godless myths and old wives’ tales). The best way to do that is to spend time seeking the truth, which is found in God’s Word.
Physical training is not easy. It takes a lot of effort and a lot of discipline. The same is true for spiritual training for godliness. It takes effort and discipline to reflect the image of God. In 1 Timothy 4:10, Paul says that we labor and strive and we do so with good reason. We labor and strive because we “put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.”