Do The Math: It’s Simple Addition

II Peter 1:5-8

Peter encourages us to “add” certain things to our faith. Although faith in Christ is foundational, we are to “give all diligence” (v. 5) to focus our zeal and effort on further maturation in our Christian experience. The concepts that Peter lists here are characteristics that can help our faith to grow. Faith cannot be stagnant. It cannot exist in a vacuum. One cannot have faith in faith. We are told specifically to have faith in the Supreme Being. The essence of this passage is steadfast activity and energy, for faith is never passive. The word faith is pistis and refers to the confident assurance that what we hope for will be realized. In the Epistle to the Hebrews we read that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

The order in which Peter lists these virtues is not important, for these same attributes in any order would have served his purpose. The important thing is that we strive to possess and demonstrate these things in our daily Christian lives. Neither are we told here to be content with any one of these characteristics but strive to continually add them until we have possessed them all. The word “add” in this passage is an allusion to a chorus leader. We are to let faith lead as a choir director and allow all the other virtues to follow after.

Although this list is not exhaustive, Peter lists seven virtues that we are to add to our faith in Jesus:

1. Virtue. 
The term can be defined as “strength; conformity to a standard of right; morality; manly courage; and valor.” The good fight of faith necessitates an active courage.

2. Knowledge.
This refers to the fact or condition of knowing something by familiarity gained through experience or association.

3. Temperance.
This word points to moderation, restraint, self-control, sobriety and refraining from over- indulgence. It involves control of all the appetites. The idea here is to allow no appetite to have control over us. We must bring our bodies under the control of the Holy Spirit. For example, marathon runners and Olympic athletes are usually not addicted to over eating.

4. Patience.
Peter here emphasizes steadfastness despite opposition, difficulty or adversity. Forbearance should be manifested in times of provocation or stress. Christians are to strive to bear trials and pains calmly and without complaint. Building on our foundational faith in Christ, we are encouraged to not to be hasty in our actions and reactions in situations we find ourselves in.

5. Godliness.
This term refers to devoutly conforming to the will of God and includes the concept of respect for everything which concerns obedience to God and His Word.

6. Brotherly kindness.
As Believers, we are to be warm, pleasant and friendly. We are to seek to develop a pleasant nature and to be considerate and genuinely interested in the welfare of others. “Every one that loves the One that gave him the new birth loves all others that are born again” (I John 5:1). But ideally, Christians should attempt to treat all individuals as they would treat members of their own family, for everyone is a potential member of the family of God.

7. Charity.
This word refers to bona fide Christian love, kindness and empathy for the needy or suffering. It means to have and attitude of mercy and lenient judgment on others.

Peter summarizes this list by saying that “if you practice these things and allow them to abound in your life and to produce character, you will be fruitful in your Christian life” (v. 8). But note that everything hinges on the little word “if.” If you do these things, if you develop these characteristics, you will demonstrate that you are maturing as a Christian. And, if you do practice these attributes, your efforts will be followed by happy results. But if you do not, Peter warns us that we will become short sighted and you will not be able to “see far off.” The picture here is of a person straining to see distant things, but cannot. The sensual person is only willing to focus on things around her/him. Why? Because immediate gratification is their top priority in life. People like these have “forgotten that they were freed from sin.” Peter suggests that such persons are ungrateful for their salvation. An attitude of gratitude is essential to spiritual growth.

Nothing in Christianity comes automatically. I must diligently put this passage into practice. The word “diligence” here means to be earnest, focused and zealous as we work for God. As contrasted with a superficial relationship with God, the diligent Christian will strive to properly respond to God’s specific calling on their lives (v. 10). Because real effort is required to incorporate these characteristics into our Christian lives, Peter reminds us about it (v. 12-13).
 
Everyday, we must strive to exemplify these seven characteristics: virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity.

Maxim of the Moment

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it, you will land among the stars. - Les Brown