“Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
~1 Timothy 4:7b-8 (NRSV)
I recall times, in earlier life, where I would try so hard to be a moral and dignified person. What I ended up doing was projecting a ‘good Christian’ façade—but I was fooling no one, least of all myself. I had nurtured a beautifully productive double life. I had the best of both worlds, apparently. I lived unregenerate six days a week, yet on Sundays, and before ‘good people’, I was a different person. But I wanted to be that person, the latter person, all the time. My problem was, ironically, I was trying too hard.
That was nearly 10 years ago now.
When my world fell apart, and I suddenly needed God more than ever, I began to learn the most basic lesson. It was a lesson I hadn’t exposed myself to in those nearly 13 years since my baptism.
Christian Endeavour Is Not About Trying
We could be forgiven for getting it wrong, and who hasn’t tried this—to try so hard to be the good Christian?
But trying is fatiguing, frustrating, and, ultimately, hypocritical.
Trying comes from the school of external motivation; of wanting to behave in a certain way to fit in; to present a certain image. Yet, what comes from outside rarely feels right from inside. We may know what’s right but we don’t quite get how to institutionalise the approach from within.
Trying, as an example, to lose weight is ultimately futile. More often than not the weight gradually piles back on again, and there are arguments that we may put even more weight on. It would be better to train ourselves into new habits. It would be better to work on a new lifestyle. We might cut out animal fats and sugars and eating after 7 PM and exercise at least three times a week. Over six or twelve months we would lose a better quality of weight.
Similarly, when it comes to our Christian faith, we are far better off training ourselves in micro components of the moral life; to work on our patience in particular situations where our impatience has got us into trouble; to work on thinking more hopefully during tough times; to be more prayerful in simple ways, like setting reminders to get into the habit. Some habits cannot be broken without confession, and a program to assist. Our full commitment is required.
Christian discipleship is best broken down into little digestible components where we can measure our growth.
We achieve much more lasting change when we focus less on trying and begin to focus more on training. Training ourselves in godliness is the key to a better faith life.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.