In Paul’s epistles, he has 5 faithful sayings that he wants Christians to remember. A faithful saying is a saying that is true and trustworthy. Because the saying is true and important, Paul desires that it be accepted and repeated constantly! In 1 Timothy 4:6-10, Paul writes to us about a certain profitable exercise.
1. Physical Exercise
Paul addresses the issue of physical exercise. I believe we all know the benefits of physical exercise. Sure, exercise is tiring and sometimes even dreadful. But exercise does bring health benefits and helps us to keep fit. The government even actively encourages Singaporeans to exercise regularly. During this circuit breaker period, one of the few things that the government allows to go out for is to exercise!
It is good for Christians to engage in some form of exercise because we need to take care of the bodies that God has blessed us with. God did not give us our bodies so that we can abuse it, and eat unhealthy food every day. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and therefore it must be used for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Oftentimes, the Bible also uses the analogy of exercise to teach us the importance of discipline: just as athletes must be disciplined in their exercise regime, even so Christians must be disciplined in our spiritual walk (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
2. Profitless Exercise
Despite the benefits of physical exercise, the apostle Paul writes that it is of little profit. Perhaps it is of little profit because it does not guarantee health benefits. After all, even sportsmen are not immune to diseases. They often pick up injuries, and they are not free from accidents either (think Kobe Bryant).
But more probably, Paul wants Christians to be reminded that physical exercise is of little profit because of the time spent. Sure, it is good to allocate some time for exercise to keep fit. However, sometimes exercise and training can take up a lot of time. Therefore, the time spent for exercise competes with the time we are spending for God. We need to be honest with ourselves and consider: do we allocate time every week for exercise, but can’t find time to read the Bible or attend church activities? This principle applies really for any activity that takes up our time e.g. personal hobbies/relationships/work/phones (Matthew 13:22). If our activities and habits are preventing us from serving God, that becomes a problem!
3. Profitable Exercise
In contrast to the little profit that we receive from physical exercise, godly exercise is “is of value in every way” (v.8 ESV). Physical exercise may improve your physical health, but that is not even a guarantee! In contrast, godliness improves our lives in every aspect, both in our present life and in the world to come (v.9). The ultimate reward for godly exercise is eternal life!
How can we exercise ourselves unto godliness?
Be involved in the ministry of Christ (v.6)
Study and meditate on God’s word (v.6)
Refuse profitless distractions (v.7)
Labour and suffer for Christ (v.10)
Truly it is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that “bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things.” May we be constantly reminded of what truly matters in this world. Yes, physical activities and endeavours may be well and good. However, may all Christians be reminded that the only activity that is truly worth our time and energy is the exercise towards godliness.