Legendary football coach Tom Landry once described the craft of coaching in this way: “I don’t believe in team motivation. I believe in getting a team prepared so it knows it will have the necessary confidence when it steps on a field and be prepared to play a good game.” Coaches know that ninety-five percent of winning a game is about preparing well.
Like a good coach, Paul wanted to encourage Timothy to form habits that would sustain him for faithful ministry in a difficult context. In today’s reading, Paul exhorts Timothy to maintain three priorities in his life. First, to be daily in Scripture. Timothy should be “nourished on the truths of the faith and good teaching” so that he could be a “good minister” (v. 6). The metaphor of nourishment is a good one. Just as we need nutritious food on a regular and habitual basis, we should also be immersed in teaching from God’s Word on a daily basis.
Secondly, Timothy was to train himself for godliness (v. 7). This involved avoiding and distancing himself from “godless myths” and “old wives’ tales” (v. 7). Specifically, Paul is referencing the false teaching being spread in the Ephesian church. Paul compares training in godliness to physical training. Some of us devote time to making our physical bodies more fit. Paul recognizes that this has some real value. But how much more important is training in godliness, which has value for “the present life and the life to come” (v. 8).
Finally, Paul encourages Timothy to keep his eyes on the goal. His “labor” and striving is grounded in the hope that Jesus is the Savior of all people (v. 10). Proclaiming this message faithfully is worthy of our best efforts.
>> Hope is a powerful motivator. In verse 10, Paul gives insight into what motivated him to work as hard as he did for the spread of the gospel. Take a moment to reflect on what motivates you most in life? What do you labor and strive for and why?
Coming to the Lord in prayer, we ask for deeper understanding of Paul’s metaphors of spiritual nourishment and training. We want to be wholehearted followers of Christ and put all “our hope in the living God” (1 Tim. 4:10).