76. Is Godliness really Great Gain?

Paul says, in 1 Timothy 6:6, that "godliness with contentment is great gain." The context here involves money, but I've been thinking a lot about the broader context. What is the value of godliness in this life? As a 61-year-old man, who's been seriously seeking the Lord since early 1970’s, I sometimes wonder what it's accomplished in my life.
          Godliness doesn't make you famous.  There is no annual, nationally televised ceremony every year where people received golden statues called “godlies” (“She won three “godlies” in 78!”) It doesn't make you rich (“I forgave two hundred people last year, and, boy did that fill my bank account!”). It doesn't make you especially popular. If a billionaire and a godly person both attend a party who do you think will get the most attention and respect? Ironically, a truly godly person often flies under the radar since they frequently deflect the attention toward others. And godliness can work the other way as well, since following scriptural teachings often puts us at odds with the culture.  Jesus said that the world system hated him and would hate his followers too (John 15:18).

        The male culture, in particular, tends to value other traits more highly than godliness. Uber-masculinity, for instance, is seen as more about dominance of some sort rather than gentleness and humility
       Nor does godliness necessarily make life easier. Living for Jesus involves discipline and sacrifice.  It can feel like walking uphill against the wind. And, during this uphill trek we don’t always sense God’s presence or understand His ways.   Jesus described discipleship in this way in Matthew 16:24: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’”

            So is godliness with contentment really great gain?  Haven’t you ever wondered that, at least now and then; wondered if following Jesus was worth all the effort; gotten tired of “delayed gratification”?  I’ll be honest.  I have. I look around me at others, more impressive than me, who seem to be doing just fine without following Jesus. Nor have I “turned the world upside down for Christ” as we were exhorted to do by preachers at Bible School.  My spiritual footprint seems rather diminutive. I haven’t led many to receive Christ, and my spiritual impact on others is seldom obvious.

            So, is “godliness with contentment great gain?”  The strongest answer I can give is that, after all these years, I still intend to follow Jesus whole-heartedly until death us do join.  Despite the challenges of living a godly life I have no intention of giving up.

            Why do I still believe that godliness is worth it? 

1.    Godliness is worth it because it shows honor and gratitude to God

God created me.  He’s supplied me with every resource I have.  He sent His Son to die for me.  He saved me. He walks with me.  He’s prepared a place in Heaven for me. He loves me.  He’s worthy of all praise.  The list could go on.  The least I can do for this splendid Benefactor and Friend is to cooperate with His plan for my life.  Anything less would be disrespectful and ungrateful.

2.    Godliness is worth it because it makes my world a better place

When I am godly, even if I feel obscure, it sends a ripple effect everywhere I go.  My family, friends, co-workers and community are uplifted when I reflect Christ’s love, patience, compassion, integrity, and so on.  I help to set a tone which not only encourages the immediate person I interact with, but may also affect how they treat others after I have left. Ungodliness, on the other hand, has the opposite effect, elevating tensions, reinforcing selfishness and sinful patterns.

3.    Godliness is worth it because it makes me a better person

I was made to be beautiful.  Christ Himself is the embodiment of all beauty.  When I emulate Him, I become the best me; the me God made me to be.  Most of us instinctively sense this.  We don’t want to be selfish, mean, manipulative, uncaring, and so on.  These are cancers that eat the soul.  Which leads to the next point:

4.    Godliness is worth it because it protects me

You and I do not live in a neutral world.  We walk daily in a spiritual minefield. We live in a world at war.  Without God’s help in living a godly life, we are far more vulnerable to the ravages of sin and Satan.  I once knew a happily saved man who gave in to a pornography addiction and watched his life and marriage plunge downhill. Sin has destructive consequences, we reap what we sow.  

5.    Godliness is worth it because we’re all role models

Whether you’re two or eighty two someone else is watching you; especially if you claim to be a follower of Jesus.  They consciously and unconsciously take some of their cues from us. This is especially true of our children. Paul encouraged the Corinthians to “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ”(1 Cor. 11:1).  Our greatest impact lies not in what we say, but in what we do.  If I’m living a godly life, some will be encouraged to do the same, perhaps even learning how by watching me.  It’s true that others will reject my godliness, but even in those cases, they’re still interacting with it and seeds may be planted which will grow into godliness later when they’re more open to Christ.  On the flip side, an ungodly or even half-hearted walk with Christ can sway others away from Him.

6.    Godliness is worth it because God rewards it both now and later

One of my struggles, mentioned earlier, is that godliness is not especially lauded or rewarded in our society compared to other achievements. But the Judge who matters most is not society or others.  In the end, God’s judgment of our lives will matter far, far more. Jesus told us to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19). Human accolades will fade, but God’s rewards last forever (1 Cor. 9:25).  The Bible speaks often of God’s rewards for those who are faithful. Exactly what these rewards are, we don’t know, but the most valuable of them will be His approval; His “well-done, good and faithful servant”(Matt. 25:21).  Whatever else the rewards are, they will be spectacular. And, as mentioned earlier, it is rewarding to living for God now, enriching and satisfying in deep ways. My life isn’t always fun, but deep down it’s satisfying

            I started this article with a burst of honesty.  Sometimes living for the Lord feels like an exercise in futility.  The “great gain” isn’t always obvious to me.  It takes effort to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Heb. 12:1).  This is where faith becomes so important.  By faith we learn to accept delayed gratification; to look beyond the present moment and into eternity.  As Paul says, in 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory which far outweighs them all.”