1 Timothy 4:7

What is godliness? Most Christians think of godliness as something that automatically occurs as a result of an internal spiritual condition. Recently I did a study on the Greek word eusebeia. This is the word that is most often translated godliness in the New Testament. I was challenged by what I studied.

One thing that impressed me about godliness is that it doesn't happen automatically as a result of being a Christian. Rather, godliness is an intentional behavior that comes from practice. By practice, I'm referring to the dictionary sense of "repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it."

In I Timothy 4:7-8, Paul used the discipline of bodily exercise as a metaphor to teach Timothy the nature of the superior discipline of godliness.

Godliness, like bodily exercise, is done intentionally.
Physical exercise doesn't happen automatically. Let me share a personal example. As a result of recent tests, I have learned that because of my "sedentary lifestyle" I have put myself at greater risk than most men my age for future medical complications. The performance of my normal daily routine is fine for fulfilling my family, work, and spiritual responsibilities; but it doesn't naturally provide me with the physical activity that my body needs. If I want to preserve my health, I must intentionally start incorporating daily physical exercise into my lifestyle.

That's the way godliness works. Paul told Timothy to "... exercise thyself rather unto godliness." I will not automatically be godly as a result of being a Christian, being baptized, surrendering my life to the Lord, graduating from Bible college, being ordained, going to the mission field, planting churches, or instructing in a Christian educational institution. If I am to be godly, it must be intentional and be practiced. Godliness is by design, not by accident.

Godliness, like bodily exercise, requires effort.
Just as bodily exercise requires physical exertion, so godliness requires spiritual exertion. Godliness is intentionally "putting out" spiritually, even when my flesh is weak.

Godliness, like bodily exercise, requires discipline.
Godliness is an intentional, spiritually demanding behavior that must be exercised, even when I don't feel like it. Godliness is purposely behaving, reacting, and responding, in any given circumstance, in a way that I know is biblically correct in spite of my own personal emotions or desires. Godliness means conducting myself the right way even when my flesh doesn't want to!

The Bible has more to say about godliness than could possibly fit in this brief devotional. There is, however, one more thing that should be noted in closing. The fact that godliness is intentional does not mean that it is hypocritical. Yes, godliness is to be exercised, even when we don't really feel like it. That's not hypocrisy; that's dedication. In II Timothy 3:5, Paul warns Timothy about those who act godly, but their godliness is not genuine. We should understand that there is a difference between "acting" godly and exercising oneself (i.e. intentionally making the effort) unto godliness. This difference is like the difference between someone who is a bona fide medical doctor and someone who plays a doctor on television. The former is a person who intentionally puts out the necessary effort for the pursuit and the practice of a life-saving profession. The latter is a person who pretends to be someone he isn't while in front of an audience. As Christians, we are not to act godly. We are to exercise ourselves rather unto godliness.


Written by Larry Quinlan
Instructor - BSWE
June 24, 2020