This past week, as I was working on the ceremony for Corey and Miranda’s wedding, something caught my attention as I typed in their scripture reading, which is none other than 1st Corinthians 13:4-8. As I read the text concerning what godly love is like, I realized the similarities those qualities have to the list of things Peter encourages his readers to “add to your life” (1st Peter 1:5, ETRV). Then, as I considered it further, I also realized the connection these two lists have to the “fruit of the Spirit” that the apostle Paul mentions in Galatians 5:22-23. It seems reasonable then to surmise that our endeavor to pursue these God centered character attributes are linked to the exhortation to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). I say all this for one reason, the quest to grow in Christ is a journey that must include God in each step. We simply cannot do it alone. With this in mind, we considered the next two attributes the Spirit guides Peter to write down.
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence,
add to your faith…self-control, to self-control perseverance…
2nd Peter 1:5-6
How are you when it comes to self-control? The Greek word means self-mastery, self-restraint. As was mentioned before, this character trait is a by-product of the fruit of the Spirit that as our text reveals, needs to be nurtured. This transformative process called spiritual growth can be difficult in so many ways. At times, it is like a war, for “the sinful self wants what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit wants what is against the sinful self” (Galatians 5:17, ETRV). This battle is echoed by the apostle Paul, “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will to do, that I practice” (Romans 7:19). This spiritual reality gives us reason to be earnest in its pursuit. As one person writes, “I am a spiritual being… After this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot rule the eternal. I choose self-control. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ.” Proverbs 25:28 in the ETRV says, “People who cannot control themselves are like cities without walls to protect them.” Self-control is a discipline that God grows in us when we continually choose to die to our flesh and live in Him. It is a quality of God, that when pursued through Christ, helps us to be more useful in His cause.
The next word empowers the disciple to be steady in a world that is so chaotic. That word is perseverance. This carries the idea of endurance, steadfastness, patient waiting for. We live in a “hurry up and wait” society. People simply hate to…well…wait. We say things like “Time is money.” We get frustrated if we have to wait in the drive-thru line. In the mind the words “I want it yesterday” often reveal our impatience. It is said that 2nd Peter was written sometime around 66-67 A.D., which makes these Christians young in the faith. Peter warns them of scoffers who would be saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?” (2nd Peter 3:4) and reminds them “that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2nd Peter 3:8). As they wait for the Lord’s promise to be fulfilled, they will face difficult times. Paul writes this about troubles in life, “…troubles make us more patient” (Romans 5:3, ETRV): That is, as long as our focus is on Christ. C.S. Lewis wrote, “God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them.” Why pursue perseverance? We need it to run the race (Hebrews 12:1)! We need it to become mature, lacking in nothing (James 1:4)! It is what we need to be more useful in His kingdom!
As I close these thoughts, I begin to see the connection between self-control and perseverance. As one person explains, “While self-control enables one to deal successfully with his inner desires, steadfastness enables him to be victorious in spite of the trials from without.” Help us Lord this day to recommit ourselves to working with You to develop these qualities so that You may be glorified through our daily lives and that others may be influenced for Your cause. Amen.