Also available as MP3: Are You Getting Enough Exercise? – 1 Timothy 4:7-10
“Profane” (v.7) means anything outside of the Bible, such as profane history. Paul is telling Timothy to shun fables outside the Bible, stories that must deal with “bodily exercise” or Paul wouldn’t say “for bodily exercise profiteth little.” This would agree with “old wives fables,” which are about things old wives know a lot about, things like pregnancy, health, nutrition, and the good effects of exercise.
What could Paul have against exercise? Well, remember he predicted in the last days some would command to abstain from meats (4:3) so they can be healthy enough to survive the persecution they think will come in the last days because they think our last days will be like Israel’s, filled with persecution that demands that you to run or fight. Being in tip top shape helps with that, but exercising yourself to godliness will help in our last days, days that will be filled with “doctrines of devils” (4:1).
How will exercising godliness help you oppose doctrines of devils? Obeying the Word helps you learn the word (Ps. 119:100). You may not think of godliness as an exercise, but “exercise” just means to use or practice something. God exercises godliness (Jer.9:24), and so should we. It will help you prepare for the last days before the Rapture. The hope of the Rapture instilled godliness in Paul (Acts 24:14-16), and it should in us as well (Titus 2:11-13).
Even doctors in Paul’s day knew exercise profits a little (4:8), and I’m sure Dr. Luke told Paul about the benefits of sleeping better, feeling better, thinking better, etc. Paul doesn’t discount the profit of exercise, he just says godliness profits more. Sleeping and feeling and thinking better profit in this life, but godliness profits in this life and in the life to come in heaven. We will be rewarded on the basis of how we built others up in the faith (ICor.3:5-15), and godliness builds men up by giving them a good example
Paul calls our reward a profit, which is the benefit you have after you’ve covered your expenses. The reward we receive in in heaven will more than cover the expenditures of godliness we invest in this life (Rom.8:18). Remember that when you take account of your life to see if you are getting more out of it than what you are putting into it.
But if you think your books don’t balance without that, you may be using Israel’s ledger.Under their accounting system God rewarded them health for godliness (Deut.7:12-15) and wealth (Deut.28:1-11). If you think you’re under that ac-counting system, you’re going to think God is swimming in red ink for the blessings He’s failing to profit you. In reality, even the world knows that virtue is its own reward.
Paul knows some will doubt the profit of godliness, so Paul adds it is a “faithful saying” that there is profit in godliness (4:9). That means you can count on the profit of godliness as much as you can count on the fact that Christ came to save sinners (ITim.1:15). Both parts of that saying are worthy of acceptation, that Christ came, and that He came to save sinners, and both parts of this saying are worthy of acceptation, that godliness profits in this life and the next. If you are not finding godliness profitable in this life, it is only because you haven’t learned that “godliness with con-tentment is great gain” (ITim.6:6). If you still lust after the riches that being dishonest can bring, or if you lust after the flesh that being carnal can bring, you haven’t yet learned to be content with godliness and so don’t see the profit in it.
We should react to the promise of this profit as Paul did, by choosing to “labor” for the Lord (4:10). How hard would you labor at work if you knew every dollar you earned could be spent in this life and saved for your life after retirement? You wouldn’t care if anyone “reproached” you, so don’t worry if you “suffer reproach” for working for the Lord’s profit in this life and in the life to come.
Of course, to believe God can profit you in the next life, you have to believe in “the living God” (4:10), for a dead god can’t profit you in the life to come. Godliness can even profit unbelievers who apply godly principles—but not in the life to come. That’s why Christ is “specially” the Savior of believers, for we are saved the misery of sin in this life (ITim.4:16) and from hell in the life to come.