We’ve spent several days discussing how to prepare for persecution (see the “Persecution” page under the “Resources” menu to catch up on what you may have missed). The primary way you can prepare for persecution is to be constantly training in godliness (1 Timothy 4:7-8). Every believer in Christ should endeavor to do this, whether we are facing persecution or not.
As followers of Jesus, we must always be building the spiritual muscles we require to keep us spiritually fit and healthy. We know if we don’t eat right and neglect exercise, we will become fat, sick, and miserable. If it is true for our physical bodies, it’s even more true for our spiritual souls.
What does it look like to train in godliness? First, we need to engage in an active pursuit of godliness. Living a godly life is not a passive experience. You must choose it. That means every day we must choose to align our thoughts and actions with God’s will. The next day, we must choose it again. It’s not something we decide once and then forget about it. James 1:22 exhorts us to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only…” It is up to us to daily apply the teaching of God to our lives. The apostle Paul urges us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12-13). Every day, we must choose to do the work of training in godliness.
Next, we need to practice the discipline of godliness. Again, godliness is not a one-time decision. It is a lifelong journey that requires great discipline fueled by an insatiable love for our Savior and King. This discipline is not easy. As the writer of Hebrews points out, “No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful” (Hebrews 12:11). Just as athletes discipline themselves to achieve peak physical performance, so too must Christians discipline themselves to cultivate godliness in their lives. This means spending dedicated time each day in the study of God’s Word and prayer. You cannot grow spiritually unless you are spending time in the presence of your Creator.
If we will engage in an active pursuit of godliness and practice the discipline of godliness, we will experience a transformation through godliness. Romans 12:2 reminds us not to conform to the patterns of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. A commitment to godliness is a commitment to a transformative process. As we pursue God, He will mold us more and more into the likeness of Christ. We will find our desires changing to match those of Jesus instead of our selfish pursuits. Our hunger for God will result in us looking more and more like Jesus.
Training in godliness requires intentional effort. The only way to grow is to train. You can’t back into it. Just as training to run a marathon requires daily sweat and tears, so does training in godliness. You must put in the time and effort. Those who do the work to grow in maturity will be the ones who will stand firm in the face of persecution. Those who neglect time in God’s Word and put off spending time on their knees in prayer will be too weak to stand when persecution comes. Don’t be a weak and timid Christian. Pursue training in godliness and become a bold and effective witness for Jesus Christ who will not bend or wither when trials come. Be a lion for the sake of the Lamb.