Discipline, Ritual, and Godliness

1 Timothy 4:7-10

But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; 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. 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.

Discipline.  Tall Tales.  Eternal Hope.  Just before this, Paul was talking about how to avoid being deceived by the spirits of this world so as not to fall away from the faith.  He is continuing here that we must be disciplined.  Don’t you find it odd that verse 7 is in there?  What does “worldly fables fit only for old women” have to do with discipline?  It is prefaced with “be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.”  Paul is teaching us the importance of being disciplined.

I don’t like ritual very much.  The reason is that for myself, I tend to start coasting once I repeat something over and over; you may have experienced the same thing in regards to your daily drive home from work.  Have you ever gotten lost in your thoughts or a phone conversation and as you pull into your driveway wonder how you got there because you don’t remember the actual trip?  I am always concerned about this happening in my relationship with God.  Yet, we still have to work on our relationship with Him, don’t we?  So where is the balance?

Being disciplined stretches beyond doing the same thing every day.  It’s about being proactive in achieving whatever goal it is you are striving for.  An athlete doesn’t do the same exercises everyday.  Instead he or she develops a plan of attack that not only aims toward the goal, but also is custom fit for their individual attributes.  If someone needs to run faster, they won’t create a workout with just pushups and pull-ups, will they?  Likewise, spiritual discipline and routine should be formatted to work with the individual you are and help you reach your goal.  The goal here Paul is talking about is: godliness.

What is godliness?  Godliness is aligning yourself with the Will of God and strengthening your relationship with God.  It’s not about earning favor, grace, or even our way into heaven.  We cannot earn our way into heaven and by acting as such, we are in fact distancing ourselves from God since that is not how our relationship with Him works.

The discipline of working on our relationship with God is just as important as that weekly phone call to your mother, the yearly birthday card to your best friend, or even hitting the button on the coffee maker when you wake up in the morning.  You do the things you do because they have purpose and meaning in your life.  The daily rituals and disciplines you perform signify what is important to you.  They affect your relationships either negatively or positively.  Our relationship with God is no different.  If we aren’t intentional about our interactions with God, then the relationship will not be a fruitful one.

How intentional are you about your relationship with God?  What disciplines can you add to your life that will enhance your relationship with Him?




Daniel Harris is launching a book called Living Prayerfully.  He is in the process of putting the principles found in his book to practice by instituting A Year of Living Prayerfully. Follow his progress here!


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