January 3, 2024

January 3, 2024

Author: Pastor Gordon Cook
January 03, 2024

As you know 1 and 2 Timothy are the two last epistles written by the Apostle Paul. He is sitting in a jail cell and he's pretty sure he's not going to get out. But the letters are not filled with fear or despair or hopelessness, but rather triumphant faith and confidence. He knows he's run that race, he's about to finish that race and receive his eternal award.

1 Timothy 4:6-8, “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

I was thinking as we face the New Year (this is the first Wednesday of the New Year), that people often pull out their calendars and begin to plan for vacations, sometimes appointments, conferences and sometimes they make plans for career changes or buying a new house. Some make changes with regard to their own personal lives; they might want to change their diet, they might do some intermittent fasting this time of the year. They say that this is the biggest time of the year for fitness health clubs. People join these places to lose weight, to increase their strength and flexibility. And you'll notice here in that portion of scripture that I read, the Apostle Paul advocates physical exercise, he's not against anybody engaged in physical exercise. Some even think that he was something of a marathon runner because he picks up that image several times in his writings; he says, “Bodily training has some value.” But what is very clear from the passage is that he puts priority upon the spiritual exercise, training for godliness. There is nothing wrong with physical exercise, but what he wants us to prioritize and give ourselves to is training for godliness. And as we think of a New Year, what are some of the exercises we can incorporate to help us get stronger spiritually or mature in godliness. I read a recent blog on Desiring God by Dr. Donald Whitney and he has ten questions that we might want to ask as we begin a new year. I boiled them down to seven. Here are seven questions that you might want to ask as you think of the New Year in terms of spiritual godliness; the kind of exercise program that might help you grow as a Christian.

1. What is the one thing you can do this year to increase your enjoyment of God? The Bible does talk about enjoying God, not just knowing God, but delighting in God, Psalm 37. Psalm 58, “Then delight yourself in the Lord.” Dr. Whitney says that enjoyment of God comes primarily from our use of the means of grace and he mentioned specifically reading our Bibles. Then he makes a distinction between reading your Bible and meditating upon your Bible. What's the difference? Well, meditation involves deeper thinking, it often involves reflecting. You can say it in terms of a food analogy, it involves digesting or chewing your food as opposed to just swallowing your food. You are seeking to meditate, think more about what you're reading.

2. What impossible prayer can you pray? Think of William Carey that father of modern missions. He said, “Expect great things from God.” Remember, he is a God who can do the impossible. Ephesians 3:20, “God can do far above what we could ever ask or think.” Pray those impossible prayers. If God be God, he can solve any problem, he can heal any disease, he can save any sinner. So what impossible prayer can you pray for 2024?

3. What's the most important thing you can do to improve your family life? Dr. Whitney says, “If your family doesn't practice family worship, here's the best recommendation I would make that you do ten minutes a day: simply read the Bible, pray, sing together. It doesn't really require much preparation. Just have family worship. Commit yourself to family worship.”

4. What's the single biggest time waster in your life and how can you redeem the time? I thought of Ephesians 5:16, “Making the best use of the time because the days are evil.” The Old King James talks about redeeming the time.

5. What's the most helpful new way you can strengthen your church? How can you make your church stronger? He mentions praying, serving, giving, are the three ways in which you can make your church stronger.

6. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year? He doesn't give these, but these thoughts came to my mind. You can pray written prayers that might help your prayer life. You can go to the Valley of Vision or some other books that might just help you pray better. Just read those written prayers. You can follow the ACTS pattern, adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication. That's a good structure you can incorporate. You can make use of the Lord's Prayer, that's a prayer for us to pattern our prayers after. You could also meet with one of the men or one of the ladies and begin to pray together. You could give yourself to more intercessory prayer by using the church directory. You can also pray as you read the Bible, not just after you finish reading the Bible, and before you read the Bible, but even as you read the Bible.

7. Is there somebody unsaved that you know that you haven't prayed for before or you haven't prayed regularly. It could be a friend at work, it could be a distant relative, a neighbor, a brother, a sister, father, mother. I think something else we could add to that is that we certainly could pray that God would increase our burden for the lost sinners in terms of 2024.

So these are the seven questions we can begin to think about and even pray as we think of exercising or increasing our godliness: increasing our faith, our love, our commitment to Christ’s church and even the patterns in our prayer life and our family life.