1 Timothy 4:7-13 says this,
“7 But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; 8 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. 9 It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. 10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.
11 Prescribe and teach these things. 12 Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. 13 Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.”
Let me say at the beginning of this article that I ignored making New Year’s Day resolutions because many times the goals stated by people I knew, while honorable, were too much and too soon. For instance, you make it your goal to lose twenty pounds and exercise 5 days a week starting January 1 with the goal of losing that weight within the first quarter as well as working out 5 days a week right at the beginning. These are worthy goals, but they may be too grandiose or idealistic to realistically accomplish. The same could be said about many other goals.
Leaving aside that critique of New Year’s resolutions, it is a good thing to desire positive and godly change in our lives. 1 Timothy 4 shows us the way toward this goal. The apostle Paul tells Timothy that what he just said in 1 Timothy 4:7, 8 is a trustworthy saying and one to which he and all other people need to pay attention and faithfully receive. He exhorts us all to labor and strive towards godliness, fixing our hope on the living God who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. This declaration by Paul affirms the deity of Christ who is the living God and Savior of the whole world. The last part of 1 Timothy 4:10 is a reminder that for us to receive the benefits of Christ’s atoning death, we must believe the Good News of Christ’s Gospel. The death of Christ was for the sins of the whole world, but that does not mean that all people will in the end be saved and enjoy God’s everlasting salvation. We must genuinely believe the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in order for our sins to be forgiven.
Paul then exhorts Timothy to consistently teach these things in verse 11. He takes it a step further and points out specific ways that Timothy needs to apply the teaching of God’s Word and Gospel. He tells Timothy to lead a good and wholesome example to the Christian believers in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. He piles on these instances in which he is to set a good example to his fellow believers, demonstrating that his life’s example must be comprehensive and not “skin deep.” Timothy is to set an example in thought, word, and deed as he seeks to thoroughly live in harmony with Christ’s will and salvation. One last application for this passage is his exhortation to Timothy to give attention to the public reading of Scripture and the teaching of Scripture. While Paul’s instructions to Timothy are specific to a pastor who has responsibility to teach the Christian Faith to those under his spiritual care, this exhortation also has specific application to all Christian believers. The public reading of Scripture that Paul refers to is none other than the assembled gathering of Christian believers to worship the Lord. During this service was the public reading of Scripture. While not all Christian believers are called to teach and preach the Word of God, we are all called to study, meditate on, and faithfully apply God’s Word to our lives. To summarize the application of this passage to all Christian believers, may we be diligent to practice the spiritual disciplines of the reading and study of God’s Word, to consistently attend the worship services of a faithful Christian church, to seek God’s face in prayer on a daily basis, and to apply God’s Word in all areas of our lives: in what we think, do, and say. We shouldn’t just make this a New Year’s Resolution! Let us make these spiritual disciplines our habits for the rest our lives. If we have been negligent or lax in any of the spiritual disciplines I just mentioned, there is no time like the present to renew and re-dedicate ourselves in the service of the Lord. Resolve to be godly!
I close with this prayer found on page 594 in the Book of Common Prayer, entitled,
“Dedication of Soul and Body to God’s Service, with a Resolution to be Growing Daily in Goodness”
And since it is of thy mercy, O gracious Father, that another day is added to our lives; We here dedicate both our souls and bodies to thee and thy service, in a sober, righteous, and godly life: in which resolution, do thou, O merciful God, confirm and strengthen us; that, as we grow in age, we may grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.