Better Than Fit: Motivations For Godliness
Emma Snowsill was an elite Australian athlete, one of the greatest female distance triathletes. Three times world champion, Olympic gold medallist and Commonwealth champion. She did 1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10 km run.
She had to overcome years of pain, tragedy and frustration. In 2002, when she had the Athens Olympics in her sights, her life was turned upside down. Her boyfriend, fellow triathlete Luke Harrop, was killed in a hit-and-run accident while out on a training ride. She almost quit the sport. In 2003, when she was world champion, she suffered a stress fracture of the femur during the Olympic trials, putting her out of contention for the Athens Games. But she kept on until she won the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
How does she do it? Training for the three 'swim, bike & run' disciplines of triathlon typically consume six hours of Emma's day, at least six days a week. It can involve swimming in lakes, rivers, oceans or public pools. Biking through flat country plains or over mountain roads, running trails or beach-side pathways. She rise at 5:30am, go swim-training; Breakfast; nap; ride; Lunch; nap; run-train; Dinner; then sleep.
What an incredible dedication to be the best triathlete. Incredible focus and perseverance. Athletes are an incredible inspiration to me for their dedication to their sport. They are so motivated and go through such gruelling training all the time to be fit.
If athletes can put so much into being fit, what about us? As Christians, the Bible challenges us to have a higher focus that fitness itself. To be godly. Yet how motivated are we to be godly?
A definition of godliness: living a life pleasing to God, out of a heart devotion to God.
Let me suggest a definition of godliness: living a life pleasing to God, out of a heart devotion to God. Godliness is an inner attitude, a reflection of a person’s spirituality. Now what can motivate us to desire to live a life pleasing to God? A life lived out of devotion to God?
Let’s examine 3 key categories of motivation.
OBEYING THE COMMAND TOWARDS GODLINESS
1 Timothy 4:7 (NIV) Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.
The statement above is an imperative, a command that Apostle Paul gave to Timothy. Some of us may think, “Well, that is a command for pastors only!” It is not a command relevant only to pastors, but also to every believer. 2 Peter 3:11 - 12 (NIV) 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.
God wants all believers to become godly, we are to grow in godliness.
God wants all believers to become godly, we are to grow in godliness. And as we read our Bibles, we get that sense loud and clear! For there are many passages that speak against ungodliness, that proclaim doom for the ungodly, the wicked. It is obvious that God wants us to be the opposite of the ungodly. In other words, God wants us to be godly people.
Godliness was not presented to us as a suggestion, as an option. Many Christians make the mistake of thinking, I do not really need to be godly. After all, I am already saved. I already have a ticket to heaven. But growing in godliness is an imperative! Indeed, we are told to pursue godliness. 1 Timothy 6:11 (NIV) But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
We are to rigorously train to be godly! A vigorous application of energy and self-discipline to attain towards godliness.
V7 uses the word “train” which is the Greek word gumnazō, from which our English words “gymnasium” and “gymnastics” derive. We are to rigorously train to be godly! A vigorous application of energy and self-discipline to attain towards godliness. Indeed, v10a states “...for this reason we labour and strive...”
God is saying this is important. Important enough that you must apply yourself vigorously, with focus and determination! Be godly! Emma Snowsill spent 6 hours 6 days a week training. How much of our daily life do we spend training for godliness? Do we even spend 30 min a day in reading the Bible and prayer? How about 60 minutes?
APPRECIATING THE VALUE OF GODLINESS
1 Timothy 4:8–10 (NIV) 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 9 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. 10 That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.
What is the value of godliness?
It is exceedingly valuable (v8a) “...godliness has value for all things...”
Physical training, physical exercise is important. Yet it is only of some value when compared against godliness. As the NRSV puts it, “...godliness is valuable in every way”! What a statement. If exercise is very important to you. If going to gym every day is a high priority. How much more important should godliness be to you!
Imagine that you have a COVID vaccine. How valuable is that? Now imagine you have a vaccine that protects against all diseases, COVID, AIDS, small pox, Ebola, etc. How valuable would that be by comparison? So how is godliness far more valuable in every way? It is absolutely valuable.
Valuable in this present life (v8b) “...holding promise for both the present life...”
This statement in v8 is the trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance referred to in v9. So the Bible declares that godliness is valuable because it brings positive effects while we are here on earth and later in heaven. How is that?
The desire for godliness is to desire to be like God in character.
The main outcome of godliness is a godly or Christlike character. For the desire for godliness is to desire to be like God in character. Some people have the wrong idea of what a godly person looks like. Some imagine it is a serious-minded person who frowns at anything that seems a little less than holy. It doesn’t help that too many movies make Jesus out as very serious!
I see Jesus as a very warm-hearted and loving person that simply touched the lives of many who interacted with Him. One who knows how to relax and chill out with his mates. One who enjoys good company, who is witty and enjoys a good laugh.
Growing in godliness means growing more in the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Growing in godliness means growing more in the fruit of the Holy Spirit such as described in Galatians 5:22 - 23 (NIV) 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self–control.
Imagine how blessed you will be, to have great love in your heart, be full of joy, filled with peace, calmly patient, overflow with kindness and goodness, steadfastly faithful, ever so gentle and fully in self-control. The more godly you become the more people should enjoy being around you. Except the Pharisees of course!
The more we grow in godliness the more we please God and we will surely see more of the blessings of God.
The more we grow in godliness the more we please God and we will surely see more of the blessings of God. Psalms 119:2 (NIV) Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.
There are so many wonderful benefits of growing in godliness.
Valuable in the life to come (v8c) “...and the life to come.”
Clearly the godly will be richly rewarded by God in heaven. Colossians 3:23 - 24 (NIV) 23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
God will reward us not so much by how successful we are, but by how faithfully fruitful we are.
God will reward us not so much by how successful we are, but by how faithfully fruitful we are. Success is invariably measured by our accomplishments. Success can occur even when we are unfaithful to God. Samson had incredibly success against the Philistines because of his God-given strength. But he was also incredibly unfaithful to God.
We must understand that God seeks faithful fruitfulness. I used the word fruitfulness deliberately because it encompasses far more than success. It includes what we produce in our character, which is not usually measured by accomplishments. God seeks fruitfulness and will judge those that fail to produce good fruit. Matthew 3:10 (NIV) The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
It is not just how fruitful we are but how faithful we are to God in our fruitfulness.
I used faithful as an adverb as it is not just how fruitful we are but how faithful we are to God in our fruitfulness. Faithful to be obedient to God. In other words, living lives pleasing to God. Living godly lives. To have God say to us, “Thy good and faithful servant!” The godly will be richly rewarded, and the godly will be close to God in heaven.
MOTIVATIONAL FOUNDATIONS FOR PURSUING GODLINESS
1 Timothy 4:10 (NIV) That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.
What does “Saviour of all people” mean? Jesus came to be the Savior of the whole world. 1 John 4:14 (NIV) And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.
Jesus, when He died, He died for all, for all sinners. However, His salvation is only effectively for those who believe. In other words, the scope of salvation is available to all (unlike what many Calvinists believe). But this is not universalism where salvation is applied to all. The are other fundamental and intrinsic motivations for growing in godliness:
The foundation of hope
It is important to make sure our motivation flows from our already firm hope of salvation, not out of a desire to earn it.
When we desire to please God FOR salvation, our purpose is rooted in insecurity.
When we desire to please God FOR salvation, our purpose is rooted in insecurity. Insecurity about whether we are good enough for God. We are hoping that our attempts at godliness will somehow be acceptable to God and that maybe He might accept us because of our own godliness. Such a motivation is susceptible to discouragement whenever we seem to lack progress in developing godliness. Maybe we just cannot make it!
When we desire to please God FROM salvation, our purpose is rooted in our security.
On the other hand, when we desire to please God FROM salvation, our purpose is rooted in our security. Knowing that God has already saved us, and has already secured our eternal future, we are better motivated towards godliness because we know we will eventually reach that lofty goal. 2 Corinthians 3:12 (NIV) Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.
So hope becomes a foundation upon which a motivation towards godliness can arise.
The foundation of devotion
Godliness springs out of our devotion to God.
When we love God and are devoted to Him, we would naturally want to live godly live. Godliness springs out of our devotion to God. Colossians 1: 10 (NIV) And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,
We would be looking for every possible way to express our love for God. We would, as stated in Ephesians 5:10 (NIV) ... find out what pleases the Lord.
Imagine a professional singer who has two children that he is lovingly devoted to. One tries with all his might to win the acceptance of his father by singing to the best of his ability all the most difficult songs, hoping that if he sings well enough, his father will love and accept him. The second son knows and trusts his father loves and accepts him, and out of that security sings to his Dad because of the love and security he has received has welled up in him as devotion to his Dad.
Now both sons are loved by their Dad, but which is more pleasing to their Dad? The one motivated by a need for acceptance, or the son motivated by devotion? God is also more pleased with those motivated by devotion to grow in godliness. For our focus becomes devotion rather than performance.
Martin Luther describes his struggle with sin in terms of his life in the monastery. “When I was a monk,” he wrote, “I tried with all diligence to live according to the rules, and I used to be contrite, to confess, to assiduously perform my allotted penance. And yet my conscience would never give me certainty. I always doubted and said, “You didn’t do that correctly, Martin. You were not contrite enough. You left that out of your confession.” The more I tried to remedy a weak and afflicted conscience with the traditions of men, the more I found it each day more uncertain, weaker, and troubled.”
“Luther,” Rosell observes, “was caught in what we might call a circle of despair. To be absolved from sin, one needed to love God above all else. But to love God above all else Martin felt that he needed to know that his sins were forgiven. Otherwise, he would only fear a wrathful God. He was afraid that his faith/obedience wasn’t genuine, that it wasn’t motivated out of love, but out of fear of a wrathful God. It’s in the midst of that dilemma that Luther made the great discovery of the Reformation – the discovery of God’s mercy and grace”.
As Martin Luther discovered the amazing grace of God, he also discovered an incredible passion to live a life please to God, not out of fear, but out of love for the one who poured out His grace.
(Church Historian Professor Garth M Rosell PhD)
Devotion to God is critical because it is impossible to please God without taking the time to walk with God.
When we love God enough, it is only natural to be devoted to God and out of that devotion comes a desire to be godly. Devotion to God is critical because it is impossible to please God without taking the time to walk with God. Enoch was someone who walked with God. He pleased God so much, that God took him to heaven (Gen 5:21-24).
God desires us to grow in godliness. To live lives pleasing to God, out of a devotion to Him. We can be more motivated towards godliness if we realise that we are commanded towards godliness and appreciate the value of godliness. That godliness is of exceeding value both to our life here and in the hereafter. Further, if we truly place our hope in Christ, if we are truly devoted to God – we would be motivated to grow in godliness.
Copyright©️2023 by Wilson Lim. All rights reserved. Materials are free to be distributed in whole or part as long as proper acknowledgement is given to the author and not sold for profit.