But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
—1 Timothy 4:7-8
Have you ever heard of two former NBA basketball players named John Williams? Both players came from Louisiana colleges (Tulane and LSU) and made their entrance into the NBA in the same year, 1986. The first John was nicknamed “Hot Rod.” He was the twenty-first pick in the NBA draft, worked really hard every season, and had a very productive, thirteen-year NBA career, playing nine strong seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The second John Williams was an LSU superstar. He was selected twelfth in the NBA draft by the Washington Bullets. Many scouts predicted that this John Williams would take the NBA by storm and be a difference maker for his team. But, alas, that never really happened.
The problem with John Williams from LSU was a lack of discipline. John was extremely lax with his diet and exercise regimen. He literally ate himself out of the NBA. He reported to his rookie training camp twenty-five pounds overweight and quickly earned some undesirable nicknames—John “Hot Plate” Williams … John “Meals on Wheels” Williams … John “I’ll Take Seconds” Williams. Charles Barkley once told Williams, “You could have been a great NBA player if you had just learned two simple words: I’m full.”
What was the key difference in the two Johns? Without question, the difference was discipline! In 1 Timothy 4:7-8, Paul told young Pastor Timothy of the importance of discipline. While it produces little lasting profit in the physical realm, (have you seen Arnold Schwarzenegger lately?), it produces tremendous profit in the spiritual realm.
If you are like me, discipline is something that does not come easy. Peter and the other disciples struggled with it, too. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked them to pray with Him for one hour, yet they fell asleep. What was the problem: “The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak.” I can so relate to that, can’t you? My flesh would much rather watch TV than read my Bible … my flesh would rather eat than fast … play video games than pray … stay home than go to church. But, I know if I give in to the flesh, I will be a spiritual underachiever, living so far below the potential God has placed within me and before me.
You know what is really interesting? The word for discipline in 1 Timothy 4:7 is the Greek word gymnaso, from which we get our word “gymnasium.” The word means to train—or to exercise naked. It is an athletic term. The athletes in Paul’s day would take off their shirts to work out. They would strip down and really get after their exercise routine so they could be stronger, faster, and more physically able to compete successfully in the games.
You and I must do the same in the spiritual realm. We must strip away all the garments of pretense as we meet with the Lord each day in prayer and Bible study. We must come before Him with an open and honest heart. We must not tell God what we think He wants to hear … but truly share our hearts, hurts, fears, and problems with Him.
Remember, there is no deep intimacy with the Lord until there is first vulnerability before the Lord. Nothing makes you more vulnerable than being stripped naked. And God wants us to meet Him in the gym every day, stripped for a productive, encouraging, and enriching workout with Jesus. We need not try to be someone we are not—or pretend we are some spiritual giant when we are not. He wants us just to be real. God will take us where we are and bring us to a place of strength, peace, and power as we come to Him day after day.
Would you make a fresh commitment to spiritual discipline? Would you get back to spending at least fifteen minutes each morning reading God’s Word and praying? Would you start memorizing a verse each week? Would you be faithful to witness to at least one person each week?
God will be faithful to make us spiritually strong if you and I will be faithful to do the hard work of saying no to the flesh and yes to the Holy Spirit, of doing the things that are necessary (spending quality time with Him) to develop a deep and genuine walk with the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Pastor Jeff Schreve,
From His Heart Ministries
Dr. Jeff Schreve believes that no matter how badly you may have messed up in life, God still loves you and has a wonderful plan just for you. From His Heart provides real truth, love and hope on over 700 radio stations each day, in 182 countries each week on TV, and is always available online. Pastor Jeff takes no income from this ministry. All donations go to furthering the broadcast outreach. As a listener/viewer supported ministry, we thank you for joining with us to help speak the truth in love to a lost and hurting world. Go to www.fromhisheart.org for more information.