Paul sometimes talked about his spiritual life in terms of sports. He describes training spiritually to build endurance; enduring to attain a more important victory and prize. Paul also coached Timothy to do the same. We know that exercise improves life — often much more than we expect. The same principle applies to spiritual life.
Spiritual training is much more valuable. The stakes and the rewards are higher. Physical training can extend your life and improve its quality for a few years or decades even as health wanes and life eventually ends, but spiritual training has value in this live and eternally. What you gain by spiritual training is something that never ends.
Like physical exercise, it’s hard to maintain the necessary discipline alone. We need to be coached and we need a team. If you’ve had a good coach or trainer, you’ve probably found that training enabled you to do more than you thought possible. The church is a place for that those relationships to form and mature.
It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
[T]rain yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.