The day goes so much better when we have some type of plan to the project ahead, doesn't it? If we know the wash needs to be done, but we have no plan for how to sort, pre-treat those items with stains, and eventually dry them at a setting which will not leave them too wrinkled or damaged by the heat, we might not do the job quite as well, right? We want a plan in most things in life because it makes sense to understand the steps to take to get something accomplished. I think we often approach our walk with Jesus in quite the same manner - we expect some kind of "plan" to get us from what we "used to be" to the place we become what "God wants us to be". In essence, we have that plan laid out in scripture, tutored within us by the Holy Spirit, and modeled for us by Jesus himself and those who have chosen to put their trust in him down through the ages. The "plan" fail, the person executing the plan does! We think it is us having to execute the steps of the "plan", when in actuality it is God fulfilling the plan in us.
Through these things, we have received God’s great and valuable promises, so we might escape the corruption of worldly desires and share in the divine nature. To achieve this, you will need to add virtue to your faith, and then knowledge to your virtue; to knowledge, add discipline; to discipline, add endurance; to endurance, add godliness; to godliness, add affection for others as sisters and brothers; and to affection, at last, add love. For if you possess these traits and multiply them, then you will never be ineffective or unproductive in your relationship with our Lord Jesus the Anointed; but if you don’t have these qualities, then you will be nearsighted and blind, forgetting that your past sins have been washed away. (2 Peter 1:4-9 VOICE)
The "divine nature" is what most of us believe to be the "plan" for our lives - leaving the old ways and the sinful pursuits that "way" demanded, embracing the new ways laid out by God for us and somehow reaching an "end" which we believe to be "perfection". Well, if I lived every day thinking that particular day may be the day I reached perfection, then I'd be disappointed at the end of each and every day! There is just no way this side of eternity that I am ever going to achieve perfection - as I am still growing, changing, becoming more like Christ with each breath I breathe. I don't "reach" the place or position of perfection - it is worked out in my life by the situations and circumstances of life which allow me to put aside the "old ways" of living life and embrace a new way energized by the Spirit of God who indwells my life.
We are daily "escaping the corruption of worldly desires". It is an active process, not just a one time occurrence. We don't "get to" perfection - perfection "gets into" us. It is a little bit more of Christ in us which edges us closer and closer to what we think will be "perfection". The truth is, we receive all the "perfection" we need in Christ - the achieving part is already done without our effort! We don't achieve it, we embrace it as it is offered to us in Christ. What we can say is our "part" in this process is this little thing most of us don't want to talk about - obedience. It is through being consistently obedient to the things God reveals to us that we begin to see virtue added to our daily lives. We had all the "virtue" we needed the very moment we said "yes" to Jesus, but we see that "virtue" worked out in a very practical way as we begin to see our choices be affected by that virtue which dwells within.
Virtue is what we might call "moral excellence" - what the Bible refers to as righteousness. We don't find ourselves fully virtuous each and every day, do we? In fact, if we were honest here, we'd say we have some days in which anything "righteous" in our behavior was really not all that evident. We lose our patience with others and react in ways which shows we just don't want to bother with whatever it is they need. We have those moments when we take the easy way out rather than doing what we know is the right thing to do, such as when we know it is really "right" for us to sit with someone to work out issues between us, but we choose to say things are okay and walk away. Virtue takes some effort on our part, for obedience to what we know is right is "work". It means we are attentive to the battle between our will and what the Spirit within may be prompting us to do. Attentiveness requires some effort on our part, doesn't it?
Our writer reminds us it is a consistent process we are after in this walk with Jesus, not the instant change. It is adding one "virtue" to another and another until we consistently are responding in a manner which reflects the image of Christ in our actions. Actions can be done without the heart behind them, though. It is possible to do something and still not have the right attitude in doing it, right? The daily tests we experience are simply those opportunities to ensure the attitude aligns with the actions and the attitude is aligned with the virtue God desires to see worked out in our lives. We can be "excellent" most of the time, some of the time, or just barely once in a while, right? God's main goal is to see us move from the "barely once in a while, to the some of the time, to the most of the time, until we "edge" closer and closer to being "excellent" all of the time.
I have friends on the quest to lose weight. They come to the place where they recognize it didn't go on overnight and it won't come off overnight, either. They know the "some of the time" consistency in their "healthy" diet and exercise regimen needs to edge more and more toward the "all of the time" consistency in order to recognize and maintain the goals they have for themselves. They usually recognize the small progress they make each and every week is one step closer to the end goal, but it takes a whole lot of effort, planning and consistency with the plans to get 'er done! They also recognize the benefit of "partnering" with someone to help them along the way - to be their exercise buddy, choosing similar meal choices from the menu, etc. Why is this beneficial? In short, it is because we do better when we are "spurred on" toward the goal. We need "coaching" and "encouragement" to reach our goals, don't we?
The work of the Spirit within us is to help us reach our goals spiritually. He is the one "spurring us on" toward the goal of "perfection" in our lives. He is the one helping us add every virtuous action into our lives in place of any action which lacked those virtues. We won't make it there in one fell-swoop, but by the progressive and often tiny steps in the right direction. Obedience is not easy, but it is rewarding! Just sayin!