“But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto (for) all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”I Timothy 4:7-8
My childhood home was located at the end of a cul de sac and our house was positioned in a way that the black top served as a perfect basketball court for me. My Dad officially made it a basketball court with two wooden beams, a backboard, a rim and a net. I used to love playing, and I tried to emulate my favorite basketball players out there on my court. I looked up at the trees and imagined they were the fans in a packed Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum. I practiced my dribbling, shooting and passing, and I shot lays ups, free throws, and even trick shots for good measure. My neighbors would watch me and one of them came outside to tell me that if I made it to the NBA, I’d better not miss my free throws. I promised him that I would make every free throw, as there was no doubt in my mind that I would one day make it all the way to the pros.
One night, a drunk driver hit my wood basketball court and ruined it beyond repair. My dad scored us a nice pole and welded a backboard together and installed it at a 10-foot height. I felt like a real pro as the height was regulation, and it was legit in every way. I did not grow up with a television, a cell phone, or even a Nintendo, so I spent many hours on the blacktop trying to perfect my basketball skills. When I was younger, I was much better than everyone else because I practiced all the time, but the older I got, my skill topped off and soon others surpassed me in both skill and height. This did not keep me from practicing, though, and I tried my best to not skip a day playing basketball. As I got older, I got another court that I could lower and dunk on, and I soon lost interest in enhancing my skills on a regulation rim, and became more concerned about being Michael Jordan on an 8-foot rim. I spent hours practicing dunks, pretending to be the dunking champion.
The love of basketball never left me. We moved to Chicago and I asked my dad for a basketball court for the driveway. I spent many hours there after work, shooting shot after shot to the point where my shot became automatic from certain spots on the driveway. I found basketball to be relaxing, and I strove to get better every time I went out there. I still play basketball, although time has not been kind to me, and I am more of an out-of-shape player now, far past the glory days of yesteryear. I still strive to work on my shot, my dribbling, and even my free throws. I know the NBA will never call me, and I most likely would not even make as much as a church league team. Although these facts are true, I still desire to train and become better than I was the day before. I still love the feel of a brand new leather ball, and the sound of squeaky sneakers on the basketball court. I no longer practice to play on a team, but I practice for the joy of simply playing the game.
I look at these verses, particularly the phrase, “Exercise thyself rather unto godliness.” God is instructing us to train ourselves for godliness. The practicing of godliness includes self-discipline, commitment and consistency. I should be just as committed, and even more so, to godliness than I am to improve on the basketball court. My basketball game may get marginally better, but every year God gives me on this earth will include diminishing physical abilities as my body will not be able to keep up with the grand ambitions of my mind. Godliness, rather, will yield eternal rewards, and the practice of this will yield a prize that I will obtain as I run the race that is set before me. I must ask myself, do I make the effort needed to grow in godliness as I do in other earthly things I desire to get better in? Physical exercise has its place, but it should not take the place of godliness in our lives.
Where are you today Christian? Do you train yourself for godliness, or are you pursuing things on this earth that will soon vanish and have no eternal value? Do you desire to be more like God, or do you desire more so to be like your favorite athlete, business person, or blogger? Godliness always pays – both in this life and in the life to come. May our ambitions and goals be directly linked to godliness, and may we seek Him first in all that we do. Matthew 6:33 states, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”