How much clearer could Peter be when he said:
For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2Pe 1:8-11)
There are seven things that we need to add to our faith in order to be fruitful and make it to Heaven.
As we finish our look at these characteristics, we have spent many weeks writing about these qualities. This post will review them as we finish this line of study. Should you wish to read posts about these individual qualities, you can do a search on the characteristic you want in the search box to the right.
Lest we forget what they are, I will list them and a brief description:
Virtue (or moral excellence)
This is the characterisitc that you need to have which says “I will do what God wants me to do, regardless of the costs.” This quality is needed because we don’t yet know everything God will require of us or that Satan will tempt us with. When Joseph fled from Potipher’s wife, he showed great virtue and it did cost him.
It makes sense that the faith we start with is not the faith we will die with if we live any length of time. Learning more about what God wants and meditating on His word will give us that knowledge to live more holy lives.
A wonderful quality that more of us should practice. We should note that this is not “other” control. Once we have a little knowledge, it is easy to look at others and judge where they are. However, we need to focus first on our self, then we can see clearly to pull the mote from our brother’s eye.
Without this, we may quit. To be able to beat a temptation once may be easy but to endure the temptations of Satan, or to bear with those who are still learning, or to continue to grow even when we think we have attained all we need to do requires dedication to the race. When you retire from your work, you do not retire from God.
This quality says, what I do, I do with God in mind. In being pious, I show the attributes that God would show were He on Earth. It is something to be trained in, is not to be used superficially for gain but to be coupled with contentment so that I can gain even more…in the next life.
I owe it to my brothers to have a warm feeling for them, to desire to be around them more than the world. There is a companionship in the church that needs to be fostered to encourage others and allow yourself to be encouraged.
This is a duty bound love that does what is in the best interest of the person loved. Sometimes it is your neighbor, sometimes it is God, sometimes (occasionally) it is your self. You cannot love God unless you love your fellow man. This is the love that we are commanded to show to enemies because when we were enemies of God, He showed it to us!
This is not some check list that you can just mark off and say “I got that covered”, it is not that simple. You cannot simply do godliness for a day and think you have it. You cannot be steadfast for a week and mark it off. These are qualities that you ADD to your faith and CONTINUE IN and GROW IN.
Notice Peter didn’t say if you ‘have them’ but if you have them and they “abound.” That is, if you grow in them. And if you grow in them, you will not be “unfruitful”, you will not “stumble” and you will be “abundantly” supplied entrance into the Kingdom of Jesus.
Those that do not, are soooooooooo short sighted (blind) that they can’t see past this world. In other words, unlike the great men of faith, they do not look for a heavenly home, it is not real to them. They also have forgotten that they were cleansed from their sin. Imagine someone barely saved from death by a liver transplant. Grateful, they stop drinking which caused the problem in the first place. Then they forget that they were barely saved and go back to the bottle and ruin the new liver. Such are those who were saved and do not grow in these virtues.
Peter made a point of reminding his readers about these qualities. It wasn’t that they didn’t know these things but he wanted them always to be able to remember them, even after his death. Let’s work to add these qualities to our faith so that we may be fruitful for Jesus.
This morning’s lesson dealt with the quality of perseverance, sometimes translated steadfastness, patience or endurance. Keeping in mind that Peter’s list of qualities which we need to add to our faith includes perseverance, we might ask why he includes this one. I think that perseverance is the quality which best compliments self-control because anyone can exercise self-control for a short period of time, maybe seconds, hours or a few days but to live a life time of self-control takes perseverance.
The idea of perseverance is that you do so willingly, not out of force. God does not force us to serve Him; we choose to do so. Also, while we persevere under the circumstances that befall us, we are not to go looking for trouble. When I was in 3rd grade, my dad told me that if a bully tried to beat me up I should go find an “equalizer” (e.g. a stick or piece of wood to help out). What he did not tell me to do was to go get an equalizer and then go knock on the bully’s house and challenge him to a fight. Which is exactly what I did! I did suffer for that but Peter also tells his audience not to endure suffering for doing wrong.
For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. (1Pe 2:20)
Another idea to keep in mind is that persevering just for the sake of persevering is not a good thing either. John writes in Revelation that the Ephesian church was a persevering church:
“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. (Rev 2:2-3)
However, they had a major problem: Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. (Rev 2:4)
It seems as if the Ephesian church was all about the mechanics of being a church of God and not about the Love of being that church. Perseverance without the other qualities that make a Christian life Christian will not avail anything in the end.
The implication in saying that we should add Perseverance to our Self-control is that there will be resistance to our Self-control. I mean, how hard is it to persevere when there are no obstacles in your way? Perseverance is a fruit of the trials we go through, which is why, not only do we hear that we will go through them, but we are told to count our trials as a source of joy, knowing that it will help our faith.
And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” (Act 14:21-22)
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. (Jas 1:2-3)
It can be easy to quit but we need to continue to persevere as Christians in our service to the Lord. Jesus warns us about starting and not finishing:
And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luk 9:61-62)
The Hebrew writer says:
For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: “FOR YET A LITTLE WHILE, AND HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME AND WILL NOT TARRY. NOW THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; BUT IF ANYONE DRAWS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM.” But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. (Heb 10:36-39)
When we look at the examples of perseverance from the Scriptures, we see plenty of examples that we can follow. In another post, I would like to look at those examples and see what we can learn from them. Here’s a question for you:
What do you think is the best way to help a person continue to persevere?
As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (Jas 5:10-11)
To shore up the idea that we should suffer patiently through the trials that come upon us, James appeals to the “Prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord”. He makes a statement that is full of meaning. I think it is the key to the point he is making: “we consider those blessed who remained steadfast.”
Think about the best example of faith that you will. Those who remained steadfast, we consider blessed. Almost all of them did, Solomon perhaps being a notable exception to the rule. Sometimes, we have a tendency to elevate them to much and think their faith was so great, and that they never made a mistake. Yet we forget the sins that some of them committed. Abraham lied, David murdered, Noah got drunk. On the other hand, we sometimes tend to minimize their sufferings: “But my troubles are worse than theirs”, “no one has ever suffered like I have”.
Of course, of all the prophets that he could bring up, he brings up Job. A man who suffered a lot of emmotional and physical pain and yet, he did remain steadfast. It seems that his confidence truly was in the Lord and not his possessions, riches, or family. It may be difficult to understand the full effect of the sufferings of Job but, we can all imagine some aspect of them. The Hebrew writer says that his audience had not yet resisted to the point of death and of course, we could talk about the suffering of Jesus but, don’t get me started.
We need to realize that while we may honor these men for being so steadfast, they had real problems. They may not be like ours but they were real problems. When we say “they weren’t like us” we take away the value of their example. Yet they are a great example to us and for us. (Romans 15:4)
James wants his audience to remember that God is a God of mercy and compassion. While we may (and often do) suffer in this life for the cause of sin or because of others sins (those rich ones who were oppressing them), God is a righteous God who will take everything into account.
Paul’s sentiments however, express very well the attitude that Christians are being asked to adopt:
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Rom 8:15-18)