"and in your self-control, perseverance..." 2 Peter 1:6
Our 5th quality is perseverance. Words similar to this are endurance, long-suffering, and patience. The idea of perseverance is persisting in the same course or action, not yielding to adversity or hardship. It is steadfastness, holding firm in your belief and trust in the Lord despite what difficulties you may face. I think of long-distance running when I hear the word endurance. It is not easy, or short, but rather requires one to strive for the goal, maintaining their speed and constant effort, overcoming pain and exhaustion.
Ask yourself: are you struggling with your patience? Do you have a hard time dealing with people? Are you quick to anger? Are you going through hardships and finding it hard to continue on? Based on how you answered these questions, you may need to place more emphasis on the quality of perseverance. How can you grow in your perseverance? Take daily steps towards deepening your trust and devotion in the Lord. Learn to pray for every occasion - good news and bad. Make your communication with God your first reaction, not your last. Spend time reading your Bible, especially about people who suffered yet retained their spiritual integrity like Job, Joseph, or Paul. Think of Jesus and the cross, the true example of longsuffering. Remember that all adversity, no matter how severe, is temporary. It will not last forever, unlike your God who never rests. Be patient with people. Remember that even difficult people were made by our God, and that they have a soul worth loving and bringing to Jesus. The next time you have a trying situation, practice these things. Remember that God is in control, lean on your Savior and trust in Him. Don't give up. Don't quit. Just keep pressing on towards the prize of the upward call of Jesus, remembering that you can do all things, even overcome this very hardship, through your Lord (Philippians 4:13).
"and in your knowledge, self-control..." 2 Peter 1:6
The fourth quality mentioned by Peter is self-control. This is the concept of self discipline, being in control of yourself and your passions, rendering your body and mind in obedience to the will. Paul told Timothy that there would come a time when difficult times will come with difficult people, and one of the descriptions of those people is that they are without self-control (2 Timothy 3:3). In Philippians 3:19, Paul describes the enemies of the cross of Christ. One of the characteristics is that their "god is their appetite." Without self-control we will lack the drive to accomplish the good work which must be done, and will lack the strength to overcome the strong lure of sin.
I think of athletics when I think of self-control. I especially think of running, which is an illustration Paul used in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Someone who wants to be a runner must have self-control. They have to have the inward drive to get themselves out of bed and running, even when its hot or cold. They don't wait for someone to tell them, they know what they want to achieve, and they set out to do it. When you see someone who is working out, becoming fit, you see them taking precautions on their daily habits. They watch what they eat, they make sure they are hydrated all the time, they don't stay up late, but they are sure to be up early. They have disciplined themselves for the purpose of bodily strength.
That is the idea behind spiritual self-control! It requires making yourself do the things which must be done, and telling yourself no to things you must avoid. Perhaps of all the qualities Peter mentioned, this is one you need to work on. It can be easy to let time fly by and we don't make the most of what God has given us because we lack control. Here's some things you can do to work on self-control:
- Get organized - clean up, put your desk/room in order. Make a list of priorities and put them in order. Schedule out your time so that everything gets done
- Use your time wisely - don't procrastinate. Work hard! Don't waste time. Stay busy. Be punctual. (Ephesians 5:15-16)
- Pay attention to small things - we often overlook the small details, but if we lack discipline in small matters, it often causes failure in the big things too (Luke 19:17)
- Tell yourself no from time to time - gain control of your own appetites by denying yourself pleasures you may be entitled to. Skip dessert. Take a walk instead of a nap. Do something nice for your spouse rather than treating yourself.
- Once you start something, finish it - see it through. Don't quit. Why multiply projects when you haven't finished what you've started before? Sit down and get what you've started completed!
Need self control? Start today! Set your life in order, and you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish through the Lord, and your own self determination!
"...and in your moral excellence, knowledge" 2 Peter 1:5
The third quality Peter tells us to add is knowledge. When we think of knowledge we think of learning, studying, understanding. It may remind us of education, going through school and classes, trying to grasp a certain subject. When we were younger, to gain knowledge we had teachers, homework, quizzes and tests. We would crack open the books and spend hours reading, taking notes. Growing in knowledge doesn't just happen, but requires work. You learn through studying, practicing, doing; knowledge requires effort!
Peter would later write in this same book that we ought to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Knowledge of Jesus helps us in our goal of becoming more like Him (Romans 8:29). Learning more of Jesus helps us learn more about God's will, of what it means to be obedient to the Father. We learn more of our purpose. We learn about our hope, and how Jesus sacrificed Himself for us, out of His great love for us (Romans 5:8). When we're learning more of the Bible, and spending time meditating on God's words we will be strengthened like the tree in Psalm 1, firmly planted by the streams of water.
So how is your knowledge? Do you know much of the Bible? Can you point out the book, chapter, verse for salvation? What about proving Jesus is the Son of God? The way to grow deeper in our knowledge is to actively seek to learn the Bible. This will require time reading, studying, asking questions and seeking answers. Go to Bible classes and studies and soak in as much as you can. Write down in notepads what you're learning. This knowledge that you are acquiring is the knowledge the world needs to know; the knowledge which leads to salvation (James 1:21).
"...in your faith supply moral excellence.." 2 Peter 1:5
The second quality mentioned by Peter is virtue, or as the NASB states, moral excellence. The idea behind this word is one devoted to doing what is right, and opposed to doing what is wrong. This is someone who is commited to honesty, and modesty. Their concern is for their integrity rather than their social status. Moral excellence is doing the right thing every time, all the time.
As you can see, this isn't easy to do. It is difficult to be committed to doing right all the time, especially when surrounded by peers who don't seem to be concerned with right and wrong. Moral excellence requires courage, inward strength. It can be discouraging, considering the diligent sacrifice of those who purposfully do good compared to those who live for themselves, but Paul reminds us not to lose heart, because the things we do today will determine what we will receive in eternity (Galatian 6:9-10). Those who sow evil, selfish, careless deeds will reap pain and punishment in eternity, but those who sow good seeds, doing good towards others, living for God and committed to the right thing, they will reap life (Matthew 25:46).
So perhaps of the 8 qualities mentioned in this chapter, the one you need to work on is moral excellence. It begins by doing the right thing today. Take control of yourself, your words, and your actions. Force yourself to think through what you say, or how you behave. Consider if this is something God would find pleasing, or acting in a way that Jesus would behave. Don't settle for the wrong kind of living - be devoted to doing what is right. In the words of a prayer offered to high school graduates, "Lord help them to choose the more difficult right rather than the easier wrong." May this prayer be on our lips as we begin each day!
Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith... (2 Peter 1:5)
One of the first qualities of a growing, active Christian found in Peter's list is a diligent faith. We remember from Hebrews 11:1 that faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of things not seen (NIV). Our faith is what we know to be true by what the Bible teaches. We are told to live by faith (Romans 1:17), to walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7), and contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3). Faith is something which caught Jesus' attention. We read of a Centurion who had such a great faith that Jesus marveled (Matthew 8:10). We also read of the people from Jesus' hometown who had such unbelief that Jesus marveled (Mark 6:6). That's what Hebrews 11:6 shows us, that God is pleased through a diligent faith. Diligence carries the idea of a fervent attitude, the passionate pursuit of God. It is someone who is actively striving towards heaven, giving their best towards every detail of the Christian life.
Here's our question, "How do we grow in our faith?" Perhaps I've noticed that my faith isn't as strong as I would like for it to be. How do I change that? How can I gain a stronger faith? Romans 10:17 teaches that faith comes from the Word of God. You gain a stronger and deeper faith by spending more time in the Bible. Read it, think about it, teach it, memorize it - the greater your understanding and handling of the Bible becomes, the greater your faith will be. This requires a lot of time with studying, thinking, praying, meditating, asking questions and seeking answers. But the person who is able to devote their life to learning and living by this Word will be "thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:17), since this Word gives to us "everything pertaining to life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3).
Do you need to exercise your faith? Does your faith need some help? Start today by spending time in the Bible. Set aside time every day to read from this word, to learn from it, and to work hard (diligent) to put it in action through your daily living!
"Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly-kindness, and in your brotherly-kindness, love." 2 Peter 1:5-7
The goal our elders have put before us this quarter involves these 8 characteristics:
Faith; Moral Excellence; Knowledge; Self-Control; Perseverance; Godliness; Brotherly-kindness; Love
These are the qualities of a growing Christian, one who is becoming more and more like Jesus. We can see each of these 8 in our Savior - He demonstrates them perfectly. These characteristics are not easy to grasp. They require focus, effort, time and sacrifice. They have to deal with your thoughts and your speech, your relationship with others and your relationship with God. But if you are able to apply these traits in your life, Peter says that "they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:8). He also said, "for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you." (2 Peter 1:10-11). What a wonderful blessing given to those who are actively giving their best to apply these traits in their lives.
Which of the 8 are you strongest in? Which of the 8 are you weakest in? Based on how you answer that question, you'll know where to begin today! Something you'll realize is that by putting your focus on one characteristic, perhaps one you're weaker in, not only will you grow stronger in that trait, but all other traits will become stronger too. Someone who deepens their faith is one who is growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18), and is practicing self-control to read, think, and develop that faith, and will live out that faith through brotherly-kindness and love towards others, which often requires much perseverance. So look at yourself and consider with what trait you need to begin, and start today!
I believe there are two important questions every person should ask themselves:
1. If not me, then who? We can look at this question through several lenses. We can ask it about how I worship. Singing passionately - if not me, then who? Coming prepared to study and participate - if not me, then who? Being an encouragement to others - if not me, then who? We can ask this question about our behavior towards others. Talking to this person about the gospel - if not me, then who? Asking my neighbor for a Bible study - if not me, then who? Extending words of forgiveness to someone who has recently sinned - if not me, then who? We can often find ourselves shifting responsibility on to other people, only to let opportunities pass us by. Remember Mordecai's words to Esther (Esther 4:14) - it could be that you are in a place and position for a purpose. What God is looking for in His call for workers, is not those who will point to others, but those like Isaiah who will say, "Here am I, send me!" (Isaiah 6:8) Who will provide an example of a godly mate, a godly parent, a diligent faithful Christian; who will work hard for Jesus, seeking after souls, spending hours in the Word and in prayer for others - if not me, then who?
2. If not now, then when? We can fall into this trap easy. We want to do certain things, or take on certain habits, one day. I can't do it today - there's too much going on. However one day I'll do what I need to do, become who I should become, etc. So we can ask about being a spiritual influence in the home - if not now, then when? Coming to services regularly, ready to worship - if not now, then when? Repenting of sins, confessing faith in Jesus, being baptized - if not now, then when? Becoming a Bible class teacher - if not now, then when? Inviting the members over to my house to get to know them better - if not now, then when? Seeking or offering forgiveness with a brother or sister in Christ whom I've struggled with - if not now, then when? So often we make great plans on what we will do or who we will become in the future without considering that someday may never come. This day may be my last day. Life is just like a vapor, here and then gone (James 4:14). This thinking also fails to consider how much time is wasted by not seizing the moment. Instead of becoming a faithful, dynamic Christian, influencing the church, my home, and others for Christ today, I remain as I am hoping to do so one day. Paul would remind us that NOW is the acceptable time (2 Corinthians 6:2). When Ananias spoke with Paul about baptism, he asked, "Why do you delay?" (Acts 22:16)
What is the answer to these questions?
1. I am fully capable of becoming a faithful, strong, obedient Christian. I am capable of worshipping God with passion and heart. I am capable of being a spiritual influence in my home, helping my family draw closer to Jesus. I am capable of talking with others about Jesus. I can do all these things because God has said so - Philippians 4:13
2. Now is the time. I'm not going to wait another day before I start building good, godly habits. I am going to set aside time to read and pray TODAY. I am going to start some spiritual exercises for my family TODAY. I am resolving to go back to services and contribute to the worship and work TODAY. I am going to stop sinning and seek God's forgiveness TODAY. I am going to be baptized for the forgiveness of my sins TODAY. This day is what God has given to it. I won't waste it by shifting today's responsibilities to tomorrow. I will make the most of every moment God has blessed me with. I will seek after and obey God today!
Can we help you with this? Would you like someone to study with? Would you like some prayers? Please contact us if we can help you become the person God wants you to be today!
What comes to mind when you hear the word "attitude"? Sometimes parents will say to their children, "Don't give me that attitude!" I've heard it used in relation to space crafts and their position. There was once a retro officer for the Apollo space program who was asked by a preacher, "What is attitude?" His answer was truly enlightening! He said, "Attitude is where you are in relation to where you ought to be."
When we talk about attitude, we usually are referring to our disposition or state of mind. How interesting that the definition for the attitude of the spacecraft can apply to our thinking. Where are your thoughts in relation to where they ought to be? Paul simply stated for Christians to, "set your mind on things above, not on things that are on the earth." (Colossians 3:2) In the times we've had poor attitudes or negative and depressing thoughts, perhaps we haven't been setting our minds where they belong. Life seems a lot brighter, conflicts seem less intense, and problems seem much less serious when we consider eternity, and what's truly important in this life. There's no need to worry and fret about the little things in this life. God knows and cares for you (Matthew 6:30). What this shows us is that we can have the best attitude and proper thinking every day despite the circumstance, if we just incline our thoughts to a higher, heavenly way of thinking! (Philippians 4:8)
"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14
This is an incredible passage to think about. Jesus who is fully God (John 1:1), fully became flesh (Colossians 2:9). Have you stopped to consider all that this entailed? As a human, Jesus would have experienced the same things we experience - being tired, hot in the summer, cold in the winter, bruises, bumps, scrapes. There are some things we can only wonder, such as did Jesus ever get sick? Did He ever have a runny nose or cough? We know Jesus experienced hunger (Matthew 4:2), and thirst (John 19:28). We know that He knew what it was like to be exhausted (John 4:6). Jesus felt the warmth of a loving embrace (John 20:16-17), and the joy of holding little children (Mark 10:13-16). Yet our Savior also endured the suffering of Calvary, the beatings (Luke 22:63), scourging (Mark 15:15), crown of thorns (Mark 15:17), and being nailed to a cross (Mark 15:24).
Why did Jesus become flesh? Why did He live among us? Why did He lower Himself to experience the particulars of the flesh? Luke 19:10 - He came to seek and save the lost. See Hebrews 2:14-18 - through becoming flesh, and His death on the cross, Jesus crippled Satan, purchased our freedom (the forgiveness of sins - Hebrews 9:26), and has become our merciful and faithful high priest. Praise the Lord for our wonderful Savior who became like us, who became flesh!
"...From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more." Luke 12:48
Do you know that God expects great things from you? For all talents, times, health, knowledge, help and support, God expects you to use such blessings to bear good fruit for Him. In Isaiah 5 we see this thought given through a parable about a vineyard. The owner of the vineyard put a lot of work into it, with the expectation that these vines would produce good fruit. However, it didn't. Thus the Master allowed the vineyard to become consumed with thorns, weeds, and overcome by drought. (Isaiah 5:3-4)
What's the point of that parable and Jesus' statement in Luke 12? God has great expectations for you. He expects you to use your time and talent to produce good fruit. Are you someone who has multiple talents, blessed in many areas of your life? God has great expectations for you. Are you a one talent person who may not be best at a lot of things, but is great at a few? God has great expectations for you as well. A church that is blessed with elders, deacons and preachers, growing in size and strength; God has great expectations for you. Don't let the blessings God has given you go to waste. Be busy today bearing good fruit in obedience to God. Use the talents, time, and opportunities of today to the glory of God. What will be said of your vine? Is it producing much fruit? What will God say of how you've used your time, your talents, the open doors you've received? God expects great things from you, why not be active in those righteous and noble deeds today?