“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.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Do you want to be effective? We all do, don’t we? We want to be able to have an impact on the people and environment around us. Not only that, but we want to do so in a way that will last and have meaning. The question, then, becomes: How do we do this? How can we have an effective impact on our situations?
Well, that depends. Different situations will have different ingredients necessary to be effective in them. Being an effective parent does not require the same skills as being an effective plumber (except when your kids try to flush something larger than the toilet can handle…). Being an effective plumber does not have the same skills as being an effective teacher. Being an effective teacher does not have the same skills as being an effective football player. We could go on. We need to thus narrow our question down a bit. In what kinds of situations do you want to be effective?
If you are a follower of Jesus, then presumably you want to be effective at that. Here we can refine our question even further: What does it take to be an effective follower of Jesus? Peter here offers some pretty sound advice.
Effectiveness comes when we pursue a spiritual training course that begins with faith and proceeds logically from there through several character traits that will leave you stronger and more effective than you were before.
First, faith leads to virtue. Belief in God leads to a commitment to take up the ways of God. The more we take up the ways of God, the more and better we will know Him. In other words, virtue leads to knowledge. When we know God and the things He has planned for us well, we are better able to restrain our desires in favor of what He has for us. This is self-control. The discipline of self-control gradually deepens our foundation of character. We become able to pursue the things and ways of Jesus over a long period much more effectively. In other words, self-control leads to steadfastness. The sum of being steadfast in our commitments will result in us more closely resembling the character of our great God which is godliness. And finally, the more fully we reflect His character, the better we will be committed to the good of the people around us, a commitment which is the substance of love.
If we are willing to commit to this path, to see these various virtues become more centrally a part of who we are, we will become powerfully effective citizens of the kingdom of God.