Let’s survey what we have learned from Peter so far about thriving at the end of the end times. Peter started with a reminder to reflect on the reality and riches of our salvation (2 Peter 1:3-5a). Then, he commanded that we take definite, purposeful, vigorous action to grow spiritually (v. 5b). Then Peter began to describe our goal, the seven qualities of an effective and fruitful spiritual life. So far, these have been: virtue, which is the pursuit of excellence (v. 5c); knowledge, the intellectual grasp of what God has revealed in His word (v. 5d); self-control, the power to direct one’s thoughts, emotions, and will (v. 6a). Peter now introduces two more elements essential to a thriving, productive, god-pleasing life. These are perseverence and godliness.
Perseverence is simply carrying on when things are tough. It is sometimes confused with patience. To get a good idea of the difference consider a person whose job it is to deliver your mail. Day after day the postal worker makes their rounds. It is the same route, doing the same thing, every day, six days a week, all year long. They need patience in the midst of the daily grind and tedium. Patience allows them to get through the monotony without getting upset. Now consider that same postal worker bringing the mail through a raging snowstorm. Their progress is delayed by high winds, blowing and blinding snow, icy roads, perhaps they also need to contend with careless drivers. What’s more, bonechilling cold greets them every time they stop to deposit the mail in a mailbox. Perseverence is the quality that keeps them moving forward through all the challenges.
If you are a faithful Christian who is trying to lead a holy life you will most certainly be faced with challenges and will need perseverence. The apostle Paul warned that everyone who desires to live a godly life will be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12). Martin Luther, who knew something about persecution, wrote “For if you believe and lead a good, Christian life, the world will not let you alone. It must persecute you and be your enemy.”1
Forewarned is forearmed. Time to get ready. As Luther says the world is our enemy. The world or kosmos is the whole system of values, economics, law, politics, education, and entertainment that characterizes our age. More than that, these systems are mutually supporting and are joined in their opposition to God. If you don’t fit in with this system then the whole system reacts against you. Just ask Jack Phillips.
Jack is a follower of Jesus. He is the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop right down the road from me in Lakewood Colorado. Jack refused to celebrate a homosexual marriage by baking a wedding cake for the couple. By saying “no” he declared his refusal to fit in with the values of the world. Instead he chose to follow Biblical values. As a result every part of the Colorado legal system was brought to bear against Jack. He was first ordered by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to make the cake. He appealed within the state and every appeal failed. Finally, in a last recourse, Jack appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court where the Colorado decisions were reversed. Jack persevered. He ultimately prevailed. Nevertheless Jack proves that the kosmos is opposed to anyone who desires to live a godly life. Are you prepared to persevere for your values? Make every effort Peter commanded (1 Peter 1:5). Will you be willing to sacrifice your safety, your business, your livelihood, your savings, your family, your life? The earliest follows of Jesus were (Acts 7, 1 Peter 2:19ff).
This brings us to the fifth quality that will guarantee spiritual effectiveness and fruitfulness: godliness. To be godly is to display reverence for God. I think there are two aspects to having a reverent life. The first is inward. By inward godliness I mean a turn of mind, attitude, or disposition that is preoccupied with God. This is a mindset or world-view that is centered in God and seeks to align thinking, emotions, and actions with what he has revealed in His word.
The second aspect is outward. Greg Beale has well said “What people revere, they resemble”. If we inwardly revere and worship God we will outwardly come to resemble Him. Godliness then is to be inwardly focused on Him and outwardly conforming to His likeness.
If you are starting to feel that developing this cluster of qualities is just too much to ask, let me say I agree with you! This is not just hard, it is impossible without the the empowering work of the Spirit of Jesus in your life. Remember, Peter has written that we have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). The resources we need are all at our disposal. We just need to “…make every effort…” knowing that the Spirit will be at work in us to both will and work what He desires (Philippians 2:13). We are not alone in our endeavor to thrive at the end of the end times.
1 Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 30: The Catholic Epistles, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 30 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 156.