By David Baumann
A Reading from 1 Timothy 4:7b-16
7b Train yourself in godliness, 8 for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 9 The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
11 These are the things you must insist on and teach. 12 Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhorting, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. 15 Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.
For many years I trained in martial arts and eventually became an instructor and opened a school at my church. Over the years hundreds of students from ages five to 70 came to learn. Training begins with often-repeated simple moves that gradually become more complex. Repetition is a constant part of training as the years go by, even to a master’s level. It doesn’t have to be boring by any means, but all too often it is. I remember one middle-aged woman who started the class but gave up after just a few sessions because she said that the slow-motion early stages of training were not “true to life” — in other words, not the same as what the moves would be like later on, when used in a faster, more complex way. But only with practice and perseverance can one become skilled and able to handle almost any situation that arises with very fast, free-style techniques.
In today’s lesson, Paul wisely recognizes the similarities between “physical training” and “godliness,” and describes growth in godliness as an “end [toward which] we toil and struggle.” His firm counsel to Timothy is that Timothy should “put these things into practice” for himself at the same time that he “insists on and teaches them” to others. Surely that must be true for anything and everything we want to learn. We must have a goal to which we are dedicated, and we must be committed to working toward it, whether that’s learning to cook, playing the cello, speaking Mandarin, making clothing, building fireplaces, understanding the universe’s dark matter, or anything. And the early stages will probably be slow and maybe even boring and repetitive.
Today’s lesson tells us how to come to know God. Start with the basics: pure conduct, reading the Bible, saying your prayers, avoiding nonsense, setting a good example, and exercising the gifts you have been given “so that all may see your progress.” That’s how you do it.
David Baumann has been an Episcopal priest for 47 years, mainly in the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Springfield. He is now retired and has published nonfiction, science fiction novels, and short stories.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Christ & St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, New York, N.Y.
Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan