Prior to the summer, I wrote about how valuable I find it when God sums things up using lists in the Bible. Lately, as I've been asking God for His kingdom to come in my life each day, I've found it a great help to pray through a particular list. As I wrote in June, if God offered you a list of character traits and told you, "If these qualities are yours and are increasing, they'll keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful" (2 Peter 1:8), would you pay attention? And what if He told you, "If you practice these qualities, you'll never fall" (2 Peter 1:10)? Well there is such a list, and it's in 2 Peter 1:5-7...
"...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."
Those are eight qualities that I've been regularly asking God to increase in my life. And I know He doesn't want me simply trying harder in order to grow in these things. He wants me coming to Him for them, because as Peter wrote a few verses earlier, "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" (2 Peter 1:3). We will grow in these qualities as we draw closer to the Source of these qualities.
But lately as I've been praying straight from the pages of 2 Peter, I've found myself wondering, what exactly are these qualities? So I did a little digging. And if you'd like to join me in praying for these qualities so that we can all be more effective and fruitful, here's some simple explanations of what we're asking for...
faith: This can mean both a strong conviction regarding the truths of God as well as a strong reliance on Christ as we seek to walk by faith rather than by what we see around us.
virtue: This word is not simply about moral excellence, but is actually about the exertion of strenuous energy -- vigour of soul -- to pursue moral excellence. It's energetic moral action, not merely living a quiet nice-neighbour morality.
knowledge: This isn't simply about accumulating information, but is about gaining insight and understanding.
self-control: This is holding passions and desires in check.
steadfastness: I'd really like more of this one! This is staying power, but it's not simply about endurance. It's about patient and courageous and hopeful -- and even cheerful -- endurance.
godliness: This is actually about living a worshipful life -- worship rightly directed to God. It's from the words "worship" and "well." It's about living a life of reverence paid to One who is worthy of it, that reverence being evident in our conduct, speech, convictions and lifestyle.
brotherly love: The Greek word for this sort of love is phileo, meaning an affectionate love that's rooted in our feelings, that results in friendship, and that truly likes being with a person.
love: The Greek word for this sort of love is agape, which is a love based on a decision more than a feeling -- a decisive act of the will to love others unconditionally and even sacrificially.
So that's what we're praying for if we're wanting to grow in the qualities needed to serve God most effectively!
© 2009 by Ken Peters