Not all of us are big on New Year’s Resolutions. Which is just fine. The Bible doesn’t command an annual ritual of goal setting every January.
But those of us who are followers of Christ should be big on resolution in general. This is what Paul passed on to us in 1 Timothy 4:6-10.
Train yourself for godliness.
1 Timothy 4:7
There are things in life that just don’t happen naturally. Time and entropy are always working against the good things in life and if we are not pro-active and strategic, those good things are not fully realized. Godliness is one of those good things. If you aren’t training yourself for godliness, it’s not going to happen.
All training requires three things: a sustaining vision, strategic goal setting and effective systems.
An athlete who has a vision to make a team must set goals to meet standards of speed, strength and skill. And they must establish habits of diet, exercise and recovery in order to achieve those goals.
In the same way, if a man or a woman wants to know God and be used by Him in this world they must learn the art of setting realistic goals and establishing good habits. Habits of Bible study and memorization, prayer and fasting, fellowship and acts of service.
There is something about the cycle of the new year which provides a great opportunity to step back and freshly assess our godliness and our training. Are you aiming to grow in godliness? What goals are you striving to achieve? What habits are you implementing to get you to those goals?
Here are a few principles that have helped me think about training:
Pay Now or Pay Later
You can pay now or you can pay later, but you’re going to pay. Another way to say this that you will experience pain in life, but you can choose which kind – the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. If you’ll pay the price of discipline today, you’ll avoid the pain of regret later and reap a harvest tomorrow.
Feelings or Desires
In order to minimize regret, we must always remember the difference between our feelings and our true desires. Our feelings and impulses come and go and often are in opposition to our desires in life. I want to be fit and healthy, but I feel like turning over in my bed and hitting the snooze button. In the moment I must learn to go against my feelings in order to serve my desires.
The Power of Habits
Most of us look inwardly, to our will-power, when it comes to training. We try to will ourselves into godliness. The problem is our reserves of will are limited. The good news is we don’t need them. If we will use our limited will-power to establish good habits, those habits will require much less discipline and effort to carry us towards our goals. Rather than willing ourselves into more consistent Bible reading, why not think through a simple list of steps to take in order to establish a habit of daily reading?
- Choose a reading plan with a daily checklist.
- Set out your Bible, journal, and pen at night before bed.
- Program your coffee pot and set your alarm for the next morning.
- Wake up in time for coffee.
- Open your Bible and read the next passage on your list.
- Write down one verse.
The Power of Small Things Over Time
Just a few minutes spent in prayer or Bible reading can add up over time. It doesn’t take hours a day to make progress in our souls. If you’ll commit to a few minutes of Bible reading and a few minutes of prayer each morning, you will be surprised at the gains you can make.
To this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
1 Timothy 4:10
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown