by Jonathan Hiles, Associate Pastor of Outreach and Discipleship, Second Baptist Church of Bowling Green
Nothing of any true value worth having or accomplishing is ever gained without effort and discipline. In fact every year millions of daydreams of rock stardom, pro sport heroism, epic acts of romanticism, and the like are abandoned for the simple reason that it is easier to dream it than to do it. And faith is no different.
Jesus called us to follow him not on a stroll through our days where we would be escorted by all of our beloved belongings and family and friends to wonderful and delightful scenic venues where we would be the center of all attention and focus. He didn’t call us to long lives of bliss and luxury amidst peace and kindness from sibling and stranger alike. Luke’s gospel relays what is necessary to follow Jesus: Deny yourself, take up the means of great humiliation and death, and follow him, daily.
First Timothy chapter four, verse seven compels us to train ourselves for godliness. That is to live an existence in which you practice necessary disciplines and habits that place you in the path of Jesus so that He might change you into a faithful and obedient disciple. It’s going to be a series of episodes in which you offer yourself as John the Baptist and decrease so that Jesus might increase.
These disciplines are amazingly capable of changing hearts, minds, and hands to be more aligned with the will of God and the way of Jesus. But beware; putting these habits into practice is going to hurt. It’s going to harm, and it’s going to be like a slab of marble under a master’s chisel. And all along the way, you will look different. Here’s just a few that all believers should commit to live daily in the very effort to train for godliness.
In an effort to be more Godly, it would help to know God. The spiritual disciplines of Bible intake, prayer, silence and solitude and fasting are just some of the ways that a person can know and become like their heavenly father. Reading his very word to understand and obey his will as well as to simply hear his voice by spending time in the Bible both corporately and personally shapes a reader to seek and yield to the will of God. Conversely, conversing with the Lord in prayer brings a growing disciple closer to the Lord and knowledge of the character we are to make as our own. These two simple disciplines of reading the word and spending time with the one Jesus himself directed us to address as father in prayer should change us as any significant amount of time spent with someone will alter a personality. In this instance, the more time we spend getting to know God, and vice versa, the more we will become like Him.
Undoubtedly, getting to know God and striving to match his nature through prayer are devotion to his word will illuminate the need for another discipline. He created everything, everyone, every imaginable piece and portion of our universe and sustains it through his providence which we have a tendency to love more than the one who has given. The discipline of stewardship (or the Godly perspective of wealth) is one of choosing which God to serve: money or the Almighty. We as human beings will worship something. We will focus our attention, time, wealth, and energy somewhere and that will ultimately be our true god. To truly understand a Christ-like to wealth and money one must perpetually live out worship of God with our money rather than worshipping money as our god. Again, gaining momentum by consistently exercising this habitual lifestyle not only leads to greater faithfulness but also to a more generous nature in regards of money, time, attention and so on.
While we are thinking about exercising our faith in terms of generosity, let’s talk about being eager to share our time and strength in service. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the discipline of serving one another would make any short list of spiritual characteristics that require daily training. What’s at heart of becoming more faithful in our efforts for others is the example that we see from God’s own son. Jesus himself claims that He came not to be served but to serve, and then proceeded to wash the grungy feet of his disciples as the second greatest act of humility in the Bible. There is no one who doesn’t deserve our attention, our time, our concern, and our kindness. The struggle for us is to actually adapt a lifestyle in which we actively look for opportunities to assist in anyway and then follow through with doing all that we can to lift up our brothers and sisters.
It’s not going to be easy. You can simply look at the cross and know that what is required to follow the example of Jesus. The Son of God humbled himself in obedience, even obedience unto death in the gracious service to mankind and obedience to the will of God the Father. He reflected the glory of God in worship with all that he had, which was immense considering he had what we would consider to be so little. Ultimately Jesus lived a life that God is calling us to live. It is one of devotion to God first and only, love for one another as He first loved us, and a life that if we also live to God’s glory, will be a blessing that echoes into eternity. It won’t be easy. It’s going to take a lot out of us. But that’s what training for godliness requires.