Our radical dedication to holiness should be an attractive option in a hopeless world – and a source of severe conviction to a compromised or hypocritical church.
The next bite-sized bit of wisdom is as follows:
“… 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.This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance.” – 1 Timothy 4:7-9 (NKJV)
Bodily exercise profits. Many of us (including myself) can use more bodily exercise than we normally get. It makes our years in this body more enjoyable and can give us more years to enjoy. Still, we’ll only get so many of those years. The rewards of bodily exercise are temporary at best.
On the other hand, there is exercise leading to godliness. Like the physical kind of exercise, spiritual exercise takes a little work or discipline, especially at first. We need to develop beneficial behaviors to fill the void left by the behaviors that offered no benefit – helpful habits to replace the ones that never really helped.
Once the habits are in place an interesting thing happens: they feel good. When I don’t get enough exercise, my body craves it. The workout releases stress and is followed by a reassuring sense of comfort and calm. The same happens spiritually. Doing the right thing feels good while sin feels terrible. Bible reading is a joy; prayer an encouragement. Time in fellowship with other believers is fun while sharing my faith excites me as I never might have guessed.
Best of all, an investment in godliness brings eternal returns.
Paul liked to give his understudies neat little proverb-like gems of wisdom to take to heart as they carried out their own ministries. He recognized the value of placing an important principle in an easily opened package – of saying something that needed to be remembered in a way that his guys would remember it. He called them “faithful sayings”.
Here is the first:
“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” – 1 Timothy 1:15 (NKJV)
Anyone desiring to serve the Lord can benefit from a deep awareness of their sin. It enhances our humility and keeps us conscious of the fact that we fully depend upon Christ. No matter how long or how well we serve Him – and Paul served better and longer than most – we should never get past the fact that we do so by His grace.
This is not a morbid focus on our own shortcomings and should never lead to that. This is good sense and extremely useful in ministry. As we, Christ’s servants, deal consistently with sin-filled people in sin-filled surroundings, it helps to keep in mind that we are sinners saved by grace.
Paul considered himself the “chief of sinners”. During his ministry he was accused of many things, but offhand I can’t think of a case he was accused of arrogant or hypocritical self-righteousness. Maybe there’s a connection?
In our desire to serve the Lord, we may often feel that our resources are falling short, our opportunities limited, and our gifts and abilities not what they need to be. Honestly, that’s OK. What’s important is that we keep going anyway – and that we truly do whatever we truly can. One of the way God leads us is through the seemingly limited opportunities that we have.
No doubt Joseph felt limited in Egypt. Gideon could hardly be called a visionary when God first spoke to Him. Yet we rightly see both of these men as heroes and examples in the faith. Their success depended upon God and not themselves.
Paul may have been tempted to grow weary during those tedious trials and difficulties that he faced in Acts 21-28. (I actually find it tedious just reading about them.) But what do we see at the end of the book of Acts? An apostle defeated and hopeless? No. Rather, we see a resilient, determined, active apostle, working within the confines of house arrest in Rome. Only God knows the long-term effects of his ministry at this time.
“Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.” – Acts 28:30-31 (NKJV)