His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 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. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
(2 Peter 1:3-11 ESV)
The Christian’s Virtues
Here, we see a list of the qualities that a Christian should be pursuing. The individual qualities don’t stand alone, however—each quality is listed in order to build it onto the previous one: add virtue to your faith, be knowledgeable in your virtue, and be self-controlled in addition to your knowledge. The first time I read this, though, it was the next one that jumped out at me: that we need to supplement “self-control with steadfastness.”
Not only are we supposed to be self-controlled—being disciplined with our money and our time, building godly habits and fighting sinful ones, battling against our very flesh—but we’re supposed to be steadfast in our self-control? So not only do we have to do these things, but we have to do them consistently, perseveringly, day in and day out?
Combined with the weight of the virtues listed both before and after, it almost seems too much to bear.
The Christian’s Promise
And it would be too much to bear, if it weren’t for the promise that God gives us in the verses prior. Before the “make every effort to supplement,” there’s a “For this reason.” For what reason?
1. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness,” Peter says. Through human effort, to be steadfast in our self-control would be impossible; but we’ve been granted the power of God Himself to have and do everything pertaining to life and godliness. Everything, Peter says! When we’re called to be godly, God doesn’t just leave us to our own effort, or only help us partway—He promises to supply everything that we need to become like Him. How are we granted this power?
2. “…through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises….” By knowing Christ and by being saved, we receive this God-granted power purely through the immeasurable glory and excellence of God. Note how little we had to do with this! We don’t receive this power by trying to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Instead, God reveals Himself to us and promises us the power of sanctification purely because He is glorious and excellent.
3. “…so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” These promises that God gives us allow us to have fellowship with God and to become like Him. Not only that, but we become like Him “having escaped” our sinful corruption. Look at the past tense! The promises of God guaranteed our separation from the pull of our sinful desires, even if we don’t experience it fully yet.
So when we think about the task of becoming more godly, or becoming steadfast in our self-control, remember this: God Himself has promised to make us more like Him, and He’s promised to give us everything that we need to get there.
The Christian’s Motivation
But wait, there’s more! Not only does God promise us that this steadfast self-control is possible, but He promises two results of pursuing godliness.
1. They keep you from a meaningless life (v. 8). If you’re striving to become more godly, God promises that you’ll be neither ineffective or unfruitful. Have you ever worried that you’re not doing enough for God, or that you’re going to live and die with no legacy? God says to grow in these traits and you’ll have lived for the greatest cause there is.
2. They guarantee your salvation (v. 9-10). If you’re not trying to grow in these qualities at all, then there’s no reason to believe you’re saved. However, if you strive for these things and continue in them, “you will never fall,” says Peter. Not only that, but entrance into the kingdom of God will be “richly” provided. It may be hard to persevere in being a Christian, but God promises you’ll receive the greatest reward if you try.
The Christian’s Calling
So don’t lose hope as you try to live as a Christian, and don’t be complacent. Grow in your faith—your complete trust in God and His promises to provide for you materially and spiritually. And as you grow in your faith, become someone who is virtuous as well, trusting that the character God asks you to have is something that is worth your while. To know how to be virtuous, add knowledge, studying the Word of God to know His will. And the more you learn, the more you need to discipline yourself, growing in self-control.
And to this self-control, add steadfastness. Persevere. Endure. Don’t just be self-controlled for a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a week, but strive to make godliness the pattern of your life, growing in affection and love.
Remember that you’ve been bought by God and supplied with everything you need. And remember that you have a great hope in a worthy life now and an eternal, abundant life to come.
O Christian, persevere!