Why? Why should a Christian memorize, study, and read Scripture? Why should a follower of Jesus pray and fast? What should motivate us to discipline ourselves spiritually?
In his classic work, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald S. Whitney looks to 1 Timothy 4:7 for a purpose for discipline. “But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness…” (1 Timothy 4:7, HCSB). Godliness is a desirable result. We can endure a great deal when we feel the result is worth it.
For example, I occasionally feel the motivation to get into better physical shape. I just started week four of my latest surge of motivation. I’m jogging and doing exercise. Do I enjoy it? No, I have every second of it. I am not one of those people who would post on social media, “I just ran 10 miles and feel great.” If I were honest, I would be more likely to write, “I just ran maybe two miles, and I feel the dry heaves coming on.” Still, I feel motivated because I desire the results—better health and more energy.
So, the end result can motivate us, but when it comes to spiritual disciplines, I want to suggest that the motivation for godliness begins somewhere else. Godliness in the context of 1 Timothy 4 is a deep sense of devotion to God. It is a desire to do what pleases Him and to be with Him. It is a desire for God Himself.
Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commands.” (John 14:15, HCSB) The motivation for godliness begins with love toward God. Because we love Him, we desire to spend time with Him through His Word and prayer. We desire to please Him (to keep His commands) because we love Him. Spiritual disciplines are not acts of duty or drudgery, but acts of love toward God.