Do you trust God?
It might seem easy to answer the question in the affirmative.
Of course, I trust God, you might say. It seems like this should be obvious if you're a Christian. Trusting God is the first step in your walk with him, isn't it?
Yes, it is. However, our faith in God should continue to grow, and we all struggle - in one way or another - with trusting God. As we continue to grow, so should our faith, and it does so because when we supplement it with certain things.
God gave us these supplements through his apostle Peter.
In 2 Peter 1:5-7, ESV, Peter writes,
5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
This week, we are going to look at one of the listed supplements: virtue. And, for the next few weeks, we will look at the others.
What is virtue?
The word Peter uses here in the Greek is aretē, which means "moral goodness," and specifically pertains to the way people think. It is used two other times in the New Testament, two by Peter (1 Pet. 2:9, 2 Pet. 1:3) and one by Paul (Phil 4:8).
In 1 Peter 2:9, Peter writes,
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies (aretē) of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Here, Peter tells us to proclaim the virtue – the moral goodness – of God to others.
Next, in 1 Peter 1:3, he tells us that God has called us to his own holiness - that God has called us to be holy like God:
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).
Finally, Paul uses the word in Philippians 4:8, when he writes,
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence (aretē), if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Paul tells us to think about moral goodness.
It might be helpful to think of moral goodness as holiness.
Just a few short chapters before today's primary passage, Peter writes,
15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." (1 Peter 1:15-16).
A problem, however, for Christians, is that we don't take holiness seriously. Holiness – being set a part for and by God – is not a common theme discussed amongst Christians, but it should be. Peter, one of the disciples who was closest to Jesus, calls us to holiness. Of course, the reason we ought to pursue holiness – or virtue – is not to earn God's favor, which is only given to us because of the grace and mercy of God. It won't matter how seriously we pursue holiness if we don't have a relationship with Jesus. It would be a fruitless endeavor, one that would leave us feeling exhausted and imprisoned. No, we pursue holiness because as Christians, we know that the more we become like Jesus, the more joy we will experience, and the closer we will grow to God.
Just like how people learn to trust each other the closer they grow, we learn more and more to trust God the closer we grow to him. When we decide to live like Jesus and pursue holiness, it only follows that we will find it just a little easier to place our faith in him for all things.
When Peter calls us to supplement our faith – our trust in God – with virtue or moral goodness, he's telling us to pursue holiness. All Christians want to trust God more; we want to say we have turned over our entire lives to him, and that even in the most difficult circumstances, our faith is in him, yet we sense this gap. There exists a chasm between saying we trust him completely and knowing that to be true.
The first supplement, then, to faith, is virtue. We have to pursue holiness; not for its own sake, and not in an attempt to earn God's favor, but to bolster our faith in God. Since this – virtue – is the first link in the chain of supplements to our faith, it seems that it needs to be a priority in our lives. We must pursue holiness with a fervor unmatched.
So, what does it look like to pursue holiness?
It is simply to live as Jesus does. Pick a gospel to dive into this week and read, reread, study, and talk about it. Look at how Jesus interacted with people, how he chose his words, and what he did with his time. Match his life up against yours and ask yourself, "Where are the gaps in my faith in God and how can I try to close those gaps with the pursuit of holiness?"
A simple way to do this is to note each time Jesus is interacting with someone, and answer these three questions:
- What is Jesus doing?
- Can I do this – or something similar?
- How can I do this the same way Jesus did?
If Jesus lived the perfect life – and he did – then the way in which he lived that life is the holy life we should be pursuing.
The more we pursue holiness, the closer we grow to Jesus, and the more we trust him.
Let's pursue holiness.