Losing The Weight… Exercise? Really?

“…exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things,...” ~ 1 Timothy 4:7-8

That’s it. For me the argument has been settled once and for all. There it is. Right there for everyone to read in black and white. And the best part? No one less than God Himself is the author of this truly liberating statement. “Bodily exercise profits a little…” Now, that’s a verse worth memorizing. In fact, I think I will get it reproduced on t-shirts and bumper stickers. I just love the way it rolls off the tongue. Bodily… exercise… profits… a… little. Yeah, that’s good stuff. (If any of you want to understand my full feelings about exercise, please, reference the photo. No, that’s not me but I would be lying if I didn’t tell you I’m envious. Video games? Pizza? Mountain Dew? That young man is my idol :))

Unfortunately, I think we all realize that you will never lose weight by sitting around on the couch. Believe me when I tell you I have tried. Repeatedly. For years I have attempted to perfect a number of “couch” exercises. The 16 oz Mountain Dew curl? The commercial snack dash? Remote control finger crunches? Extended chip dipping? Power napping? I have to admit that not a one of them has helped. In spite of my commitment to these exercises I have yet to lose a single pound. Nope, not a one.

On a more serious note, we all understand the connection between burning calories and exercise. Physical exercise does indeed bring a number of benefits. (By the way, spare me the emails in response to the opening paragraphs. I was joking. I do exercise. Not as much as my doctor recommends but I do exercise.) It’s good for the heart. It speeds up the metabolism which in turn burns calories and leads to weight loss. All in all, regular exercise is an important component of good health.

The same can also be said with regard to good spiritual health. Paul encouraged young Timothy to exercise himself toward godliness. Exercise? Yep. That’s the word God chose to use when He wanted to address the subject of godliness. Now, before we become dismissive, it would benefit us to consider the word’s original meaning in the Greek (the language of the NT). The word literally means… “to exercise.” (It actually means “to exercise naked” but I’m going to leave that one alone.) In addition, the emphasis is also on the type of exercise. This is a word that describes vigorous exercise. In other words, this is very active and very energetic. This is not for the faint of heart. Think P90X squared.

But what does exercise have to do with godliness? Good question. Let me see if I can answer it. The most basic understanding of godliness has to do with the idea of piety. Huh? Okay, let me start over. Godliness is all about reverence and respect, most notably respect for God. It begins as an attitude but ultimately it finds its expression in action. We’ve all heard the saying a “godly person.” In that instance we are declaring that someone is demonstrating their respect for God through the way they live. Their character, their conduct, their conversation, their countenance… everything about them tells the world that God is number one in their lives. Faith isn’t just something they profess. It’s much more. It’s real to them. It’s real “through” them. It’s evident to others through their actions, words, attitudes, habits, work, play and every other thing that makes up their day-to-day living. Everyone can see that they respect and reverence God. That is godliness.

In this particular verse Paul is telling us that such a heart-felt attitude does not happen by accident. It happens through exercise. That’s right. We learn to walk in godliness through intentional, energetic effort. It’s a choice. It’s a decision. It’s a commitment. It’s not about feeling. It’s not about waiting for something to “stir me” within. It’s a recognition. It’s a realization. I recognize that God is God. He is worthy. He is holy. He is righteous. He is love and mercy. He is the preeminent One. He is above all, in all, and through all. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is my Father. He is my Savior. He is… God. And as such, He deserves my reverence and respect.

Losing spiritual weight (sin, issues, habits, etc.) requires exercise. Change doesn’t happen by sitting on the couch and flipping through the channels. It doesn’t work that way physically. And it doesn’t work that way spiritually. I am challenging each of us to get off the “couch” of our apathy, laziness, and worldliness. The time has come for all of us to begin to show our respect for God in the way we live. And for that to happen we need to start exercising ourselves unto godliness.