For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(2 Peter 1:5-8 ESV)
Sometime awhile back, this passage was one I came across in my daily bible reading. A simple list of traits but in them is found fruitful living for our Lord. In my work establishing new churches, I come across so many books, kits, conferences, and DVD programs designed to give me the information I “need” to grow a church. None of these are necessarily bad but I think sometimes, we can get caught up in the authority of the author or speaker and forget about the one who inspires them. It’s refreshing when God takes a simple passage like this one and implants it in my heart. This week, I’ll divide this passage up into two parts. Today, I’ll look at the first four traits on the list and later this week, I’ll discuss the last three. Lists like these are found throughout scripture and form a good basis for spiritual disciplines and growth. So let’s look at the first four as Peter writes about how we are to supplement our faith…
1. Am I supplementing my faith with virtue? By virtue, Peter is writing about excellence. An excellence in valor. Do I make a conscious choice each day to live as a Christian man? Do I model this to my family and, man to man, to my son? It’s easy to let little things slide and get caught up in the busyness that is life but to do so robs us of a wonderful life with God. Excellence is something we should always strive for but how much more important is this when following Jesus?
2. Knowledge comes next. Knowledge of what is good and what is evil. Knowledge of God’s will for my life. This is something we must pursue daily and discernment is knowing how to filter the junk out of our lives as it arrives. If we have that kind of knowledge, our hearts will stay pure and our focus will be razor sharp. What steps will I take today to learn something that will aid me in living out God’s purpose for my life?
3. Self-Control. This one was an issue when I was a twenty-something back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I remember thinking back to a time when I thought others were simply not moving quick enough or that they didn’t say what needed to be said. As a young Christian, I battled self-control in my life wanting to be wise but realizing very quickly that this life with God would be one that would take years to develop. Now, as I approach age 50 , I thank God for those lessons and for my pastor who was able to channel those emotions into something productive while God prepared me for what I’m doing now. If makes sense that in pursuing virtue and knowledge that self-control would follow on Peter’s list. I think once you have some knowledge of the Lord’s work in your life and you are pursuing excellence in serving Him, learning the fine art of self-control becomes easier. Not easy, but easier.
4. Steadfastness. Patient endurance. Again, Peter puts his list together in a logical manner. The fruit of self-control, developed with the first two traits, brings about the patient endurance needed to serve God over the long haul. We live in an imperfect world and if you are a pastor, you lead imperfect people. Imperfect people potentially will do things to harm the church and your family and if you are not mature enough to practice self-control, amidst other things on this list, you will surely fail because you will react in a way that dishonors God even if you feel you were justified. James builds on this thought when he says:
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
(James 1:4 ESV)
In other words, our character is strengthened and our preparation for service is improved having learned to deal with issues that test our self-control. Our human nature is to retreat when we see something that we know is going to hurt us and we’d rather just avoid it. The bible tells us to let steadfastness have “its full effect” and not seek to remove ourselves prematurely. When we do, we stunt our spiritual growth. Better to go through the trials and endure the hardship and pain, then to remove ourselves and not be hardened for the battle that we are called to be in. So I ask myself, am I avoiding anything? If so, what should I do to face any crisis head on? Am I practicing solid morals and self-control to aid in my patience? How will this help me to grow in the future?
Later this week, I’ll flesh out the final three traits as outlined by the apostle Peter. My challenge to myself is to look for ways to strengthen them all in my day to day life so that I can be a fruitful servant of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Until next time, be blessed!