Accomplished athletes make their sport look easy. But for all of us who have tried to advance in a sport, we know there is nothing easy about reaching a level of proficiency in athletics. Some people can make godliness look easy. They seem to effortlessly love God and do what is right. But the Bible is clear that like athletics, reaching a level of proficient godliness requires a lot of hard work.
Paul wrote, “train yourself for godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7). The word that translates “train” is the Greek word gymnazo, from which we get the words “gymnasium” and “gymnastics.” This word carries with it the sense of strenuous, persistent, and sweaty exercise. And that certainly doesn’t sound easy. Of course it is not physical exercise Paul is promoting, as he goes on to say: “…while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way” (1 Timothy 4:8). But the parallels are undeniable.
To grow in godliness we must strenuously and persistently work to establish and intensify godly habits, godly traits and godly patterns of thinking. This is key in moving us toward spiritual maturity, which the writer of Hebrews defines as “those who have their powers of discernment trained (gymnazo) by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14). So keep at it. And remember that God’s Spirit is in you to carry you forward as you give yourself to the hard work of becoming a more godly person.