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 things are yours and abound, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:5-9
It’s important that we honor and remember the lives of the saints, which is why on the major feastdays of the liturgical year, specifically the ones that will be honored with the Divine Liturgy, we pause on the Prayer Team to reflect on them. There are certain days that the church sets aside to honor the saint with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Several years ago, I was celebrating the Divine Liturgy on a saint’s day, and I realized I didn’t even know what century that saint had lived in, and nothing about his life. That’s why we pause to reflect on the lives of the saints, to remember their stories, and for those stories from centuries ago to inspire us today.
Today, we jump back into our discussion of “an uneasy feeling”, which we will stay with for another few days. These indeed are uneasy days for many people, each for different reasons. One thing I try (I don’t use the word “try” very often, but in this case, it is appropriate, because I try, as in intending to do something, and sometimes I succeed, but often I fail) to do is my best in a given situation.
Saint Peter in his epistle is intentional about the word “effort” in 2 Peter 1:5, when he says “make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue” (and all that follows). In our own personal sinfulness, and in the fallen world in which we live with the shortcomings of others, it is indeed an effort to supplement faith with virtue, and sometimes in this effort, we fail, or others fail us. Today’s Scriptures are a great reminder, and actually, a great roadmap that begins with effort and ends with knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In 2 Peter 1:11, we are again reminded of the goal of this life, which is “an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” That is always the goal, regardless of our circumstances, whether we feel confident today or uneasy, that goal remains the same. Everyone reading this message has some amount of faith, or you wouldn’t be reading it. That’s a good thing. Whether you are brimming with confidence or quaking with anxiety today, you have faith. So, with faith as a starting point, and the eternal kingdom as the endpoint, we now put our attention to the effort.
Saint Peter, in these verses, takes us on the road from where we are to God’s kingdom by reminding us that faith can be supplemented with virtue. So, if your uneasiness today is caused by a lack of faith, or even by the shame of sin, the antidote to this is to grow in virtue. To be virtuous is the follow the commandments of God, to be obedient, and to focus on doing things that are both good and Godly. If faith is where the problem lies, then focus on the works of faith today.
Works require inspiration. An important motivator for anyone to work a job is the material reward that comes with it. We know what money can do for us. We watch what it can do for others. In short, knowledge is a great motivator to work. Thus, if working to be virtuous is where your uneasiness lies today, the antidote to that is knowledge. Spend some time in the Bible, and see the kinds of good works that are rewarded by God.
There is so much knowledge out in the world, and there is so much to choose from both good and bad, healthy and unhealthy, that we need the discipline to identify what is good (and Godly) and what is not. We can find bad things to meditate on, almost without trying it seems. This is where self-control comes in. We need to control what kind of knowledge we take in with our eyes and our ears. And we need to control what happens with knowledge by how we use our mouths, our hands, and our minds. If what you are intaking is not healthy, discipline is the antidote.
Self-control is a life-long work, a continuous action. And in order to do something continually, one must be steadfast, in the sense of being focused and patient. If your uneasiness is coming from a lack of self-control, the key is to get more focused, stay more patient with others, and even have a little patience with yourself.
We know that God is love, and that love is defined first and foremost as patience. If we are able to demonstrate patience, we are not far from a sense of godliness. How is that? Part of what makes God so loving is His patience with our sins and shortcomings. If we want to be more Godly, we should be more patient with the failings of others.
One of the fruits of being Godly is being able to see others as brothers and sisters, rather than as competition or as enemies. Seeing the good in someone else, rather than sizing them up as potential competition, and therefore finding the need to “cut them down,” is what “brotherly affection” (v. 7) is all about. This doesn’t mean everyone we meet is someone we’re going to be friends with forever. It means seeing God in the people we meet, seeing the good in the people we meet, and seeing the potential for good, rather than just the potential of failure in each person. It means seeing God in them, rather than sizing them up as potential enemies.
And finally, when we are able to show brotherly affection, when we are able to root for our brother or sister, and to see God in them, this is what truly is, to see God in the face of another person, and to honor that person as if God Himself was standing in front of you, because in that person, created in His image, He is.
If we are able to do these things, we will be kept “from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (v.9), in other words, we will be well on our way to that final goal of “entrance into the eternal kingdom.” (v. 11)
Faith tells us that we should never lose sight of the goal. And if we are uneasy at present, that’s okay, just don’t lose sight of the goal, and continue doing the things that lead to the goal of eternal life, which are found in faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, affection and love. But all these have their beginning not with achievement, but with effort.
Lord, I sometimes (or oftentimes) feel uneasy and uncomfortable, stressed and anxious. Please ease these burdens as only You can. Help me to always have my focus on the end goal, which is Your Kingdom. And as I work my way through this life, help me to see the things that lead to You, which also lead away from uneasy feelings. Help me to remember faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, affection and love. Help me to desire these things. Bless my effort in working on these things. In my times of uncertainty, help me focus on efforts I can control, and please comfort me with the knowledge that is the effort, not necessarily the outcome, that pleases You. Amen.
When you feel uneasy, control your efforts. We can’t always control outcomes but we can control our efforts. And rest easy knowing that if you gave your best effort, there was nothing more to have been given. God is concerned more with our efforts, not our outcomes.
Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website!
Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
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