5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moralexcellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
I have been looking forward to studying this passage since I first stumbled across it during my research for a sermon over a year ago. I made two important notes on this passage back then which I wish to share with you today.
It all starts with trust.
Every relationship hinges on this very element. Whether it is a relationship with your parents, siblings, friends, a lover, a boyfriend or girlfriend, and even God. A relationship is hindered if its trust is not intact. Aditionally, the trust in a relationship grows throughout the duration of the relationship in direct respect to the growth of the relationship. If a relationship ends, so does the trust between the two that were in the relationship.
The Greek word used throughout the NT for “faith” is pistis, which is defined to represent: conviction of the truth of anything, belief; in the NT of a conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervor born of faith and joined with it. Faith is trust in God! Faith in something is trusting it fully. I discussed this element of relationships in my articles about walking on water. A common phrase in the “missionary world” is “faith comes by hearing,” a reference to Romans 10:17. Have we ever thought about why that is? What makes that statement true? It is because when people hear the truth of God, they then learn more that they can trust God and therefore are more able (psychologically) to enter into a relationship with Him. Not all do, obviously, similar to the fact that not everyone who hears about you decides to put forth effort to become your best friend. However, whenever someone hears about the Good News of Jesus Christ and that He has paved the way for us to enter into a relationship with God our Creator, they are presented with an opportunity to respond. This is also why it is not up to us to convince others about their relationship with God. We cannot persuade someone into having an intimate relationship with God anymore than I can persuade you to pursue friendship with someone I know. I can tell you about them and maybe put up a good case as to why you should at least try, but ultimately the choice is yours to enter the relationship and it is up to you and the other person to work out the details of your relationship.
It is this factor of trusting God enough to at least try a relationship with Him that starts it all. If we don’t trust someone and become vulnerable enough to let them into our lives to allow the relationship to flourish, then it is all in vain. This is why it all starts with trust. We must trust God enough to be upfront and honest with Him (even though He knows anyway), in order for us to learn that we can trust Him more. It’s not about what He knows about you, it is about how vulnerable you are willing to be in the relationship. This is what we refer to as “growing our faith”. Certainly, nobody can expect us to trust someone with everything at first, but we have to be willing to be the least bit vulnerable in order for us to learn and experience God’s faithfulness (trustworthiness) so that we can trust Him a little more. We can equate this to a common exercising phrase, “you only get out what you put in.” This leads into my second point.
Being true to the faith begets love.
Peter explained a few steps in between, a progression that exemplifies the process of the changing of our hearts as a result of our growing relationship with God. The more we trust Him with, the more we understand what pure love is and can therefore exhibit it to others. The more we let God into our hearts and surrender to Him, His Spirit better fills all the dark places of our heart and we therefore have a greater capacity to love unconditionally. We learn through our relationship with God what unconditional love looks like (and is also what He calls us to exemplify as His children and representatives) and are then able to give it to others. Afterall, how can you give someone something you do not already have yourself?
The progression that Peter uses is quite interesting, isn’t it? In your faith supply moralexcellence: In trusting God, we will produce moral excellence. Well, how do we “trust God” in this fashion? I mentioned in my article about the scientific proof of the existence of God that the bible is our equation. He tells us many times in His Word, “do this and that will happen; do that and this will happen.” So, if we trust God by His word (making ourselves vulnerable because we do not know for sure yet if it is true), then we will see the result match what He said would happen. These things He tells us to do revolve around what us humans call “morality”. In your moral excellence, knowledge: we gain knowledge as we apply these principles and begin to understand how the Kingdom of God operates by what we experience. In your knowledge, self-control: As we learn more about the principles of the kingdom of God, our knowledge base helps us better act in a way that we know is best for us. As I mentioned yesterday, “we know better” not just by what we have been told but because we have experienced the truth and know its power in our lives. In your self-control, perseverance: In Peter’s first letter, He talked a lot about perseverance and staying “true to the faith.” Here he is explaining what that looks like. This is also why Paul explained to his disciples that it is not wise to name a deacon, elder, or pastor who is “new to the faith” into position because they have not yet developed the tools and experience to cling to the truths of God amidst adversity. In your perseverance, godliness: Peter previously mentioned godliness. Notice how long in this chain of events it takes to get to that point? It’s a LONG process! Also, notice that Peter doesn’t just say, “do good things and you’ll be alright.” No, He says, “trust God and the rest will follow.” I know with my own struggle with perfection, I want to be there yesterday, but tomorrow comes and I’m still working towards the goal. In your godliness, brotherly kindness: It is at this point that Peter tells us we are able to be real friends. Why is that? Because it is after this entire building of our relationship with God we can finally understand what it means to be a true friend because we have endured much with Jesus by our side that we know the qualities that are to exist in true friendship. In your brotherly kindness, love: Finally we are able to love others unconditionally. After all that, we can know deep in our hearts the depth of God’s love for us and understand what He has poured out for us that we can truly be able to do it for others.
So why aren’t we in this process? Our desire for instant gratification or our selfish motivations in relationships prohibit us from having a true and meaningful relationship with God, or anyone else for that matter, and we continue to feel disappointed, betrayed, and otherwise unsatisfied with our relationships because we try to skip steps in the process or we go about altogether differently. If we trust God enough to follow this formula, we will learn how easy it is to trust Him and our trust in Him will result in an everlasting and unconditional love.
I can’t convince you of the wonderful power of God’s love for you, but I can tell you that He is the best friend you will ever have. He will always be by your side.