The popularly dubbed “Pastoral letters” of Paul to Timothy are full of practical advice and instructions on church, ministry and personal life. Paul effortlessly weaves these three strands seamlessly transitioning from one to the other demonstrating, in the process, that they are in fact inseparable and integral parts of the minister’s life. For Paul these strands of the minister’s life are all equally important and inextricably intertwined with one another – they cannot be viewed separate from each other.
In one of his seamless transitions from ministry to personal life Paul hits the young minister with a stern exhortation to, “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness;” (1 Timothy 4:7). In Timothy’s case it seemed that there were “irreverent, silly myths” going around in Ephesus at the time that the young minister was in danger of being sucked into and distracted by from the all important task of exercising himself to godliness. These myths obviously had no value in his life as a servant of God and so Paul was instructing him to avoid them full stop. Have nothing to do with them. In fact, right at the start of his letter, the apostle Paul alludes to the destructive properties of these myths warning Timothy to steer clear from them and how they have affected those who have carelessly and casually indulged in them (1 Tim 1:3 – 7). As for Timothy, he was to have nothing, absolutely nothing to do with them but was, in their place, to train himself for godliness.
These “myths” had no value in themselves – they represented unverified and unreliable semi-truths of dubious origin that lacked substance, were frivolous and downright silly. These may well present themselves as stimulating and entertaining but without lasting or real value. They threatened to rob the young minister of the time and energy he was to rather invest in the more profitable and commendable exercise of training in godliness. His time as a servant of God was way too precious to be wasted on consuming (or even dabbling with) unverified and unreliable information of dubious origin but rather be used in the profitable exercise of growing in godliness.
What are the modern day equivalents of these “irreverent, silly myths” Timothy was being exhorted to steer clear from? They will of course not come packaged as such but what are your favourite pastimes that feed your curiosity but deliver naught of lasting value serving only to rob you of time that could easily be invested in training in godliness? These may not necessarily be evil or sinful exercises in themselves but fade in their value and significance when compared to training in godliness which is of value “in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Tim 4:8)
Often, these are the very things that hinder us from engaging in training in godliness. Ergo, successfully identifying them and viewing them for what they really are (thieves and robbers of our time) become paramount if we are to eliminate them from our lives. And eliminate them we must if we are to engage in training for godliness.
I suspect, no, I am convinced that in our time this has a lot to do with social media and the unhealthy, unhelpful and very often misleading content available out there. Examine the content and value of what you so voraciously and regularly consume online? The YouTube channels you are subscribed to and the Instagram accounts you follow may be a good place to start this exercise of self-examination (not to mention your viewing history!). What value would God attach to these? Honest self examination (without the irresistible itch to self justify) is essential on the journey to godliness.
These modern day equivalents of “irreverent, silly myths” pose a serious threat to our growth into Christlikeness. You need to address them now. Unless these are removed, decisively dealt with and taken out of your life, training in godliness will continue to suffer in your life indefinitely. You must identify them and see them for what they really are if you are to eliminate them. We need to seek the Lord’s help in identifying the “irreverent, silly myths” in our lives and seeing them for what they really are (this is called discernment) and for the resolve to uproot them from our lives – to have nothing to do with them, distance ourselves from and totally renounce them. Renouncing them is key here and enlisting the help of a brother or sister to hold us accountable is wisdom.
Church, God is calling us to invest now in the things that last forever.
Stop chasing “irreverent, silly myths”, those things that eat away at your time piecemeal – may even be your favourite pastimes. Rather, invest in your training in godliness (a routine, a rhythm of life centred on your relationship with God and your growth into Christlikeness).
In the next blog we’ll look in detail at the content and form training for godliness is intended to take.