Training for Godliness.
2 Chronicles 15-16, 1 Timothy 4
For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. – 1 Timothy 4:10 ESV
For Paul, godliness was the goal. It was to be the sole objective for the life of the believer. In a world filled with all kinds of distractions, it was essential that Timothy keep his eye on the prize: “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14 ESV). Finishing well was important to Paul. It wasn’t enough to start strong. Paul wanted to complete the race of life in full stride, giving every last effort for the cause of Christ. He would later write to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8 ESV). Paul knew that there was more to life than what was visible to the eye. He believed in a hereafter. He knew that the pursuit of godliness would prove to be beneficial “in this present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8 ESV). Peter believed this same truth and also knew that God was the one who provided means by which we could live godly lives. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV). Peter would go on to encourage his readers to pursue a life of godliness, telling them to “make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8 ESV).
What does this passage reveal about God?
In some ways, godliness in this life is a dress rehearsal for the life to come. It is to live with God at the center of your life, focusing on Him and relying on Him for all your needs. The prophet, Azariah, told Asa, the king of Israel, “The Lord is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you” (2 Chronicles 15:2 ESV). He went on to remind Asa, “when in their distress they [Israel] turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found by them” (2 Chronicles 15:4 ESV). In other words, when they turned to God and relied on Him, He made Himself available to them. He stepped in and provided assistance to them. When they lived godly, God-focused lives, they found themselves experiencing the power and presence of God in their lives. From his own experience, David would write of God, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them” (Psalm 145:18-19 ESV). James would express a similar sentiment when he wrote, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8 ESV). There is a real sense in which we must constantly remind ourselves of our desperate need for and dependence upon God. We will not only face the reality of our own sin nature, but the constant presence of a fallen world that stands diametrically opposed to Him. We will face difficulties, trials, temptations and spiritual warfare in this life. Our very survival is dependent upon God. But we must seek Him. We must rely upon Him. We must put our hope and trust in Him.
What does this passage reveal about man?
Asa would start out well, but finish poorly. Early on in his reign, when faced with the presence of a massive enemy force and threatened with annihilation, he would turn to God for help. “O Lord, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O Lord, you are our God; let not man prevail against you” (2 Chronicles 14:11 ESV). And God answered, providing a great victory and a tangible reminder of the efficacy of trusting Him. Asa would go on to institute a number of religious reform, removing the false gods from the land of Judah, repairing the altar of the Lord, renewing the covenant between God and the people, and even executing those who refused to seek God. But when Asa found himself facing an eminent attack from the northern kingdom of Israel, rather than turning to God he turned to the king of Syria. He paid King Ben-hadad to break his treaty with Israel and side with Judah. And while his plan seemed to work just fine, God had a different perspective. He sent word to Asa saying, “Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the Lord, he gave them into your hand” (2 Chronicles 16:7-8 ESV). Asa was reminded that the last time he found himself surrounded by a formidable force, he turned to God. But this time, he had turned to Syria. God had given him a great victory over the Ethiopians and Libyans, but rather than remember what God had done, Asa came up with his own plan. God told Asa, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him” (2 Chronicles 16:9 ESV). God wanted to provide support to Asa, but it would require that Asa be devoted to and dependent upon God.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
Paul told Timothy, “train 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” (1 Timothy 4:7-8 ESV). There is a sense in which we must constantly remind ourselves that the God-centered life is the sole objective of this life. We are not to allow ourselves to get off focus and distracted by the cares of this world. Paul would tell Timothy, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (2 Timothy 2:3-4 ESV). My goal in life should be to please God. One of the key ways I can please God is to live in dependence on Him. When I seek Him, I will find Him. When I rely on Him, He comes through for me. When I seek His will and attempt to live life on His terms, He provides blessings beyond measure. That doesn’t mean my life will be trouble-free or without difficulties. I will face trials and temptations. I will encounter enemies along the way. But when I make godliness my goal, I will find “the eyes of the Lord run to and fro through the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him” (2 Chronicles 16:9 ESV).
Father, I want to live a godly life. I want to make You the center of my life, putting my hope, faith, and trust in You. Teach me to seek You with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. You have promised that if I seek You, I will find You. You will give strong support if my heart is blameless toward You. Show me how to make that a reality in my daily life. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men