Home > Discipleship, Theology > Growing in Godliness: Are You Trying or Training?

Growing in Godliness: Are You Trying or Training?

In 1 Timothy 4, the veteran church leader Paul instructs the rookie church leader Timothy on matters of ministry and faith.  In verse 7 Paul tells Timothy to “train [himself] for godliness.” Notice that Paul doesn’t tell Timothy to be more godly.  He tells Timothy to train himself for godliness.  There’s a big difference.

When I first became a Christian, I had a lot of issues to deal with.  The lingering sins of my past never seemed to go away and it seemed like the growth I needed was always just out of reach.  I tried as hard as I could be be godly, but I always failed.  After an ongoing pattern of trying and failing, I finally just gave up.  Faking it was more tolerable than failing and way easier than trying, but it always left me longing for freedom and godliness.

Image via zombieconfidence.com

Image via zombieconfidence.com

From Trying to Training

This pattern continued until a friend of mine finally taught me how to train instead of try. The difference is that “trying” is about what you do, while “training” is about what Jesus has done for you and the Holy Spirit is doing in you.  The problem is we don’t have the ability to overcome sin on our own, but Jesus does and he did on our behalf.

We will never grow in godliness by trying harder because we don’t have the ability to overcome the powerful effects of sin on our own.  We are woefully inadequate to accomplish any spiritual victory apart from Christ. Training, however, is about acknowledging our limitations to be godly and instead relying on the Holy Spirit to make us godly.  

It’s Not About the Fruit

This is what Jesus meant in John 15 when he said that apart from him we can do nothing.  He refers to himself as a vine and his followers as branches. Throughout the passage he explains that a disconnected branch cannot grow fruit.  The point the Lord is making is that fruit is produced on the branch, but it is not produced from the branch.  It is the tree that produces the fruit through the branch, the branch cannot produce the fruit on its own.

In the same way, godliness is produced in our lives, but it does not come from our lives.  Godliness comes from Jesus and is produced in us through the inner ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. The point? We must stay connected to and dependent on Jesus for all things. Instead of trying to become more godly, we would do well to train ourselves to look to Jesus, the One who makes us godly.

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  1. September 1, 2014 at 8:48 AM

    You are on the right track my friend. This journey with the godhead is about being not doing. We who have surrendered our lives to Messiah Jesus are not to work–doing–our way into his presence. Instead we are to spend time with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit–being in their presence–through reading the holy scriptures, talking to them and developing relationships with other like-minded disciples. the difference is the attitude of the heart. One is through obligation, while the other is through love.

  2. September 2, 2014 at 11:04 AM

    Good word!

  3. September 2, 2014 at 7:36 PM

    You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually something which I think I would never understand.
    It seems too complex and very broad for me. I am looking forward for
    your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

    • September 3, 2014 at 9:44 AM

      I can relate. This is actually a simple process, but it’s not easy. It takes time for the Lord to bring significant change to our lives and it’s difficult to continually return to him for that change. I think the real difference is not how determined you are, but in how dependent you are.

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