The best reason for training
Who is the fastest man on the planet?
Depending on which Olympic sport you preferred to watch this past summer, you probably answered Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. Both men are incredible athletes and physical specimens that have pushed the limit of what the human body is capable of accomplishing.
Hours upon hours of training went into shaping and sculpting their bodies to bring them into top physical form so they could compete at the highest level. They gave up many things so they would be physically and mentally prepared to win.
Now some Christian preachers and teachers might be tempted to knock these men for putting all their effort into “the here and now” as opposed to “eternal things”. But have they really wasted their lives? Paul gave us the answer in his letter to Timothy when he was warning his protégé about the dangers of false teaching:
1 Timothy 4:7-9
But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths. Rather train yourself in godliness, for,
the training of the body has a limited benefit,
but godliness is beneficial in every way,
since it holds promise for the present life
and also for the life to come.
This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance.
We’ve come to the third trustworthy saying Paul had for his protégé. Each one of the pithy statements made a specific point that Timothy needed to remember and accept.
In this saying, Paul wants Timothy to keep in mind the ultimate end of where he spends his efforts during this lifetime. I find it interesting that Paul doesn’t say that training of the body has “no benefit”; instead, he says it has a limited benefit. There is a short-term profit to taking care of ourselves; we can make our 80ish years on earth a lot harder – or a lot easier – depending on the amount of effort we’re willing to spend on training of the body.
I fully expect that how well we took care of our physical bodies to be a stewardship issue with God. In fact, there are many verses that point out that God made our bodies and that we are responsible for what we do with them (see Psalm 100:3 and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
However, physical training isn’t the only training we need – and it’s not the most important training we can have, either. The most beneficial training we can put ourselves through has benefits that go beyond our current circumstances. Even if I take my physical training to the max and become the next fastest man on the planet…age and/or injury will catch up with me, and I will only hold that title for a short time.
Our spiritual growth here in the present life on earth carries over into the life to come. That’s not just a “double benefit”, either. Paul comparing our 80ish years to an eternity of years. Realistically, there is no comparison when we’re talking about our return on investment for how we invest in training.
So, has Bolt and Phelps wasted their lives on physical training? That’s hard to answer from my vantage point. The answer to that question would boil down to two things – What is their motivation for all their hard work?, and What are they going to do with the platform their hard work created?
I can’t answer those questions for our current living versions of the fastest man on the planet. However, do I need to be able to answer those questions for my own life. When God asks me about stewardship of everything He gave me in this life, will I be able to say that I trained for the life to come?