From the age of five until I was twenty-two, I spent most of my time either on a ball field or in a gymnasium. Through my youth, I was involved in hundreds of practices and games. Athletics was very much at the center of my life, and from those experiences I learned the importance of commitment, teamwork, and discipline.
When I came to saving faith in Jesus Christ at the age of 20, I discovered that what was true in athletics was also true in living the Christian life, namely that to live for Christ is a call to discipline and training. I knew that I could never work to earn salvation or even to contribute to it, for salvation comes by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8,9). I understood that God would not love me more if I prayed more, or gave more, or went to church more. However, as I read the Bible, I discovered straightforward commands and disciplines that believers were to embrace into their lives. If I was going to grow in my walk with Christ, then I needed biblical intake on a daily basis. I needed daily times of God-connecting prayer. I needed personal and corporate worship. I needed to share my faith regularly. I needed to give of my time, money, and resources for Kingdom advancement. I needed to serve others and be united in a local body of believers.
In this fourth post on pastoral reflections, I come to I Timothy 4 which underscores the need for every believer to embrace spiritual discipline as a means of grace to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ. In this chapter, the Apostle Paul gives a directive to Timothy, which comes to every believer. The Christian life is described in athletic terms as the New Testament describes a race (Hebrews 12:1-3) and a battle (2 Timothy 4:7; Ephesians 6:10-17). For this contest, followers of Jesus Christ are called to “discipline themselves for the purpose of godliness” (I Timothy 4:7). (more…)