A Daily Training Regime
You might have used the rhythms of lockdown for physical training; how much effort did you put into godly training? Here is a training regime inspired by 1 Timothy 4.
Experiences of lockdown have varied wildly, but as a mum of three with work outside the home, my lockdown consisted mainly in trying to do too many things at once. For example, conducting a plastic survey of the local area (Year 7 Geography) whilst leading a discussion on chapter 5 of Calvin on Prayer with the ministry trainees at The Globe Church.
I praise God for the timely trip in February to visit my missionary brother in Central Asia. Taking part in their home-school schedule (pinned up on the fridge door) for a week meant that on my return I was able to navigate a way out of the chaos through a complex system of timetables, calendars, lists, and rotas on my fridge door! Life became a military operation as I tried to organise my way out of lockdown.
Lockdown looked very different for others; furloughed with long days, free from all the usual busyness. Many in our church coped by throwing themselves into physical training schedules. Not all of us emerged from lockdown slimmer, fitter, and more tanned than ever, but some did!
My 16-year-old son had a series of exam timetables, revision timetables, revision guides, prompt cards, and mind maps to help him prepare for his GCSEs. Within a few days of lockdown, the timetables were torn down alongside any hope of a fair reflection of his abilities being recorded in his exam results.
How do we make sense of such experiences?
God has helped me so much through just five words in 1 Timothy 4. Train yourself to be godly.
If I can organise* my way through lockdown, can you imagine the impact of employing even a fraction of that organisation to my godliness?
* I edited out the adjective ‘successfully’ from that statement. Let’s be honest. We survived. There was nothing even remotely successful about the fact I crawled out of the full lockdown a shadow of my former self!
Timothy doesn’t just write “train yourself to be godly”, he contrasts it with physical training, which he says is of limited value. God has proved the limitations of the value of physical training beyond all argument!
We don’t know what the future holds. Nothing is certain, not even GCSE and A-Level exams. But there is one thing we can invest in that will hold value eternally, one thing that will never be a waste of time: train yourself to be godly.
One of the ways God has been training me to grow in godliness is through the discipline of Biblical meditation. When the Bible speaks of meditation it is not referring to breathing exercises, chanting mantras, or adopting the lotus position. Biblical meditation is about storing God’s word in our hearts.
Storing is big business in Central Asia. I was astonished when I looked in my brother’s kitchen cupboards to find that he’d not just got a couple of Kilner jars in there. He had preserved 36 jars of tomatoes during the summer months, so that when winter came, his family could still eat tomato pasta!
This principle of storing up is at the heart of biblical meditation. We see this in Psalm 119 v 11 (ESV): “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
Notice how this meditation is more than just storing up. It is storing up God’s word so that when we need it we can reach for it, find it right there on the shelf of our hearts, and feed on it.
Many of us invest a lot of effort in training ourselves for various things – to cope with the chaos of life, to prepare for major life events, to keep ourselves fit and healthy. Have we ever considered training ourselves to fill our hearts with God’s word to keep ourselves spiritually fit and healthy? Training ourselves to be godly?
A daily training regime
In my brother and sister-in-law’s house, their home-school schedule was vastly outnumbered by the Bible verses pinned up around the house that were keeping them going through what is a very tough and barren landscape for a believer.
My kids and I joined in their daily training regime while we stayed with them. I don’t remember much about Captain Cook’s travels that we covered in history. I can vaguely remember the different sources of energy we looked at in science. But what has stuck with me and my kids, and holds value for eternity, was the Russian memory verse we were learning whilst we were with them: но ты Бог прощение “With God is forgiveness” (from Psalm 130:4).
Physical training is of some value, but godliness holds value for all things. Train yourself to be godly.
Are we training ourselves? In what? 10,000 steps a day is of some value. But godliness holds value for all things.