We are in a series called Faith Foundations as the apostle Paul writes to Timothy about what it looks like to be a servant of God. What Paul has taught Timothy are critical foundations for our faith. You will notice that the apostle Paul says this in 1 Timothy 4:6.
If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. (1 Timothy 4:6 ESV)
This is an excellent summary of what Paul is doing in this letter. Timothy is to teach people these faith foundations that Paul is declaring. Listening to what Paul is saying is the training in the words of faith and in the good doctrine that we need to follow. These teachings will be nourishing to our faith. Paul in this next paragraph is going to talk about cross training. But he is not talking about the cross training that has become very popular in our exercise programs over the past few years. Paul has in mind spiritual cross training. Look at verses 6-10 of 1 Timothy 4.
True Training (4:6-10)
Paul tells Timothy to training himself for godliness. Paul reminds us to not participate in the myths and endless speculations, which he first warned about back in 1 Timothy 1:4. This is an important reminder. There are so many false things and so many wastes of time in various teachings. There are some teaching pursuits that simply hold no value, yet people want to offer endless speculations. For example, God has not decided to explain to us exactly how everything works with our eternal spirits when we die. He has not given a bunch of details about what our spirits are doing as we await the final return of Christ. But there are certainly endless speculations about what will happen and what it all looks like. In the same way, there are endless speculations about the end times. To make teaching platforms and ride these speculations where God did not clearly reveal is not training ourselves in godliness. What God did say is limited. Paul told the Corinthians that when Christ returns then comes the end (1 Corinthians 15:23-24). Even later in the same chapter the Corinthians are asking how the resurrection of the body is going to work. Paul does not give details. We will be raised in glory and bear the image of the man of heaven (15:43,39).
I want us to see that Paul has a concern that we not waste our time in things that do not have answers nor help in our faith. Remember that our goal, as stated back in 1:5, is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Paul sarcastically insults these waste of time teachings as “irreverent, silly myths.” Cross training does not waste time with empty teachings.
But we need to see that cross training is the most important thing we can be doing in this life. Look at verse 8 where Paul notes that bodily training has some value. But godliness has value in every way. Godliness is useful for all of life. This is such an important truth for us to hear. The most important training you can do in your life is devote yourself to God. Godly training has value in this life and also in the life to come. Cross training realizes that our souls are the most important exercise we need to do. Think about your spiritual training. Think about training our souls. How much exercise is our soul receiving? There was a bodily training that swept the nation a few years ago called P90X. It sounded to painful to me so I never looked into it. But I sure did hear about it. Think about the kind of training and exercise our souls need. What are we doing to strength our souls? Too often our spiritual exercise amounts to only the sermon on Sunday morning. Maybe our spiritual exercise amounts to only three hours a week. Imagine what would happen to your physical body if you never moved except for one hour a week. Or what if you never moved except for three hours a week? What would happen to your body? We would destroy our bodies. In the same way, rare spiritual training is a disaster for our souls. Paul wants us to make a comparison to physical training. We understand that physical training is helpful to our bodies. But Paul says it has limited benefits. But the training in godliness is beneficial in every way. We need to work out our faith. We need to exercise our souls. This is an important truth for us to realize and believe (4:9).
But that does take work. Paul notes this in verse 10. Paul says we are working and laboring because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people. We train our souls and exercise our faith because our hope is not on our physical bodies. Our hope is not in this life or in this world. Our hope is not in our health. Our hope is in the living God. The point is that the cross training is worth our effort. So what are some of the areas where we need spiritual cross training? Paul has described many areas throughout this book. But he will carefully consider some important cross training areas in the rest of this chapter.
Cross Training Areas (4:11-16)
Set an example (4:12).
Paul tells Timothy to not let anyone despise his youth. It is important to notice that Paul does not tell other people to not despise Timothy’s youth. Rather, Paul tells Timothy to make sure that no one despises him because of his age. How would he do this? Timothy is not going to do this by telling people not to despise him. Timothy will do this by setting an example in his speech, in his lifestyle, in love, in faith, and in purity. Cross training means thinking about your life as a way to be a spiritual example to others. When you speak and when you act, think about the kind of example this shows others.
This is a powerful tool to consider for cross training. Let’s start small and work our way out. First, set an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity in your home. The way you talk should be an example in the home. The way you act should be an example in your home. Your love, faith, and purity are to be examples put before everyone else in your home. How different would we act and talk if we used this cross training habit? Second, set an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity in the church. The way you talk should be an example to the church. The way you act should be an example to the church. Your love, faith, and purity are to be examples to other believers. How different would we ask and talk to each other if we used this cross training habit? Finally, set an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity in the world. The way you talk and act should be an example to your neighbors, co-workers, strangers, friends, and everyone else who sees us. This is the cross training habit Paul gives to Timothy. Set an example for others to see. Live your life to be an example, not a cautionary tale.
Devote yourself to the scriptures (4:13).
Second, devote yourself to the scriptures. Sometimes when we think of devoting ourselves to the scriptures we can only think of personal Bible study time. Personal Bible study time is important and critical. But there is so much more that we need. In verse 13 Paul is referring to the public declaration of the scriptures. This is why most translations add the words “public” so that we do not think the reading refers to reading the scriptures to yourself. Devote yourself to the public reading of the scriptures, to the preaching and the teaching. We live in a time that really emphasizes doing things at home by yourself. I want us to see that this is not what God had in mind for our faith. Cross training is not independent or isolated. The scriptures are always declaring the necessity of coming together so that the word of God can be publicly read and publicly taught. We saw this earlier in the book and it comes out again here. Worship is not an at home activity. Worship is an activity requiring participation together. Devote yourself to the teachings. Devote yourself to the public reading of the scriptures. Learn from God through his publicly proclaimed word.
Do not neglect your gift (4:14).
It is apparent from reading verse 14 that Timothy had a special situation. A prophecy had been made about him and he understood his calling from that prophecy. The council of elders had laid hands on Timothy to devote him to that calling and that gift. Paul tells him to not neglect the gift that he has. While we have not been granted miraculous spiritual gifts today because we have the complete and inspired word of God, this does not mean that we do not have abilities and gifts that God has given for us to use. All of us are built differently and have different capabilities in what we are able to do for the Lord. We must not neglect the gifts we have. We must not think that there is nothing we can do for the Lord.
Further, it is important to remember that there is not just one gift in the body. The apostle Paul reminds the Christians in Rome and in Corinth that we are one body, but have many members who do not have the same function (Romans 12:4; 1 Corinthians 12:12-20). This body needs so many different areas of talent and ability. When we studied chapter 3 we saw the call made that we need men who will prepare themselves to be shepherds in the church. We made the call that we need men and women to prepare themselves to be servants in the church. We need people who will be encouragers. We need people who will be generous. We need people who will show mercy. We need people who will lead. We need people who will teach. We need people who will reach out to the world. No one person can be every thing. We do not have all of these abilities nor do we have enough time to do them all. But each part is to do its share. Paul told Timothy to not neglect what he had been called to do. Cross training understands that we all have a work that we can do. Do not neglect doing it.
Watch your life closely (4:15-16).
Finally, watch your life closely. Paul says in verse 15 that cross training is all about practice. We understand this about physical training and physical activities. I cannot expect to be good at golfing if I only go one time every three years. I cannot expect to be a good fisherman if I only go once in my life. No one is good at anything the first time they do it. No one stays good at anything if they only do it on occasion. Spiritual cross training is about practicing and immersing ourselves in spiritual things. Look at your life closely and evaluate it. Watch your life in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity. Why is it so important to closely evaluate yourself spiritually? Look at how verse 16 ends. “Persist in this, for by doing so you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
The only way we will save ourselves from spiritual disaster is doing this constant evaluation of ourselves and then immersing ourselves in godliness and practicing those things. But this is not only for your own good. This is also for the spiritual welfare of those we teach and live our lives of faith before. Stay in the word of God and devote yourself to godliness for your own spiritual health and for the spiritual health of others. Spiritual cross training has benefits for everyone else in your life. Your influence, your teaching, your conduct, your faith, and your love can have a dramatic impact on the lives of others. Devote yourself to cross training. Cross training avoid silly teachings that only promote endless speculations. Cross training sets examples for others. Cross training does not neglect our gifts but uses our gifts. Cross training is all about practice, practice, and more practice in godliness.