When you were in junior high and high school there were certain homework assignments and lectures you endured with rolling eyes because you thought, “When am I ever going to use this in the real world?” With much of that content you were wrong and you’ve experienced firsthand the usefulness of knowledge you once thought irrelevant. But with other aspects of your education, you were right and you have not really seen any return on the time you spent studying certain course objectives. The truth is, there are things we learn in school that we don’t use or rarely use, and so there’s not a direct pay-off for having learned that material.
This is not the case for the time and energy we put into pursuing godliness. Let me remind you of a Bible text you’ve probably heard before: …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.
According to God, when you discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness you get a return on that investment now in this life and in eternity. There will be things in this life that you give your time and energy to and never see a benefit, and still other things like “bodily training” that have some value to us in this life but fall short of benefiting us in eternity. But giving your time and energy to godliness has benefit that transcends this life into the next. I’m not talking about a cash return or a return that looks like the things in the world we so often lust after, but true return… like joy and peace and more blessing to worship God with.
The question of how to prioritize our lives is really an investment question. What can I spend myself for that will bring me the most benefit as I seek to glorify the God who loves me and sent his Son to save me?
Let us remember as we invest ourselves that the ultimate goal of this life is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, so my intent in writing these things today is not to turn you toward self-centered pragmatism, but to help you see that working for godliness (by God’s grace) has the most benefit only because godliness means becoming more like Jesus and becoming more like Jesus means obeying the Father and delighting in him. This is where the benefit is found… in God. Discipline for the purpose of godliness is the best investment because it has its end in God and God made us for him.