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Grace Notes

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GOD’S PATTERN FOR A BELIEVER’S LIFE
by Philip Owen

             What is a believer’s life to look like?  Is it possible in the space of a few paragraphs to provide a general pattern or a broad outline that encompasses God’s expectations for those who have “obtained like precious faith . . . through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ”? (II Pet. 1:2).  The answer is “yes”; Peter provides us with an inspired pattern in the first chapter of his second epistle.

            1.  A diligent life.  “Giving all diligence . . .” Peter begins (v. 5).   A believer is not to be a dilettante or a dabbler.  The Christian’s vocation is not a 9:00 to 5:00 affair, not a hobby, not a casual avocation.  We live twenty-four hours every day, and each of those hours is to be lived as a believer.  When we define ourselves, do we find ourselves doing so in terms of our occupation, our human relationships, or our interests and hobbies?  Certainly, we may speak in those terms in answer to a casual question.  But is that how we think of ourselves?  Or are our redemption, our heavenly citizenship, and our character and walk as children of God at the forefront of our minds?  A believer is to lead a diligent life.  The root meaning of the Greek word is “speed.”  One cannot be “speedy” without the application of great effort.  Working speedily requires the expenditure of time and energy.  The word suggests a sense of eagerness and earnestness.  A diligent life is neither careless nor casual, but purposeful, focused, and directed.  Diligence requires prioritizing and single-mindedness.  A diligent person is one who achieves measurable accomplishments—work gets done.

            2.  A virtuous life.  The diligence Peter enjoins does not concern giving our best effort to our natural vocation or working to improve our natural relationships (though what he envisions will affect positively those things and all areas of our lives).  Peter explains that a believer is to be diligent about his character, or what might be described variously as virtues or the fruit of the Spirit.  He lists seven that we should be diligent to “add” or “supply” to our faith:  virtue (moral excellence), knowledge, temperance (self-control), patience (perseverance), godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity.  Some see a progression in this list.  But it seems unlikely that any of these virtues can exist or increase without the presence, to one degree or another, of the others.  It is perhaps instead similar to a list of natural exercises, e. g., to your bench press add curls, and to your curls add leg lifts, etc.  As all parts of the physical body must be strengthened in the space of a single workout but in succession within that workout, so the virtues of a believer are to be strengthened individually and yet more-or-less simultaneously. 

            This kind of diligent, virtuous life does not happen by chance or accident.  It is the fruit of conscious, purposeful devotion.  As I write these words, the winter Olympic games have just begun.  The athletes participating in those games have devoted themselves to that effort day and night for years.  In many cases, they have set aside relationships, occupations, hobbies, and leisure in order to prepare for the competition.  Such diligence for a fleeting temporal medal is misguided.  But it illustrates the sort of devotion God calls a believer to exhibit.  Human relationships, occupational advancement, personal pleasure, and every other merely human endeavor must be subservient to pursuit of a God-honoring life.  (When such is the case, we will not neglect our families or our employers in selfish pursuits, but we will honor God, and He will bless those other things as they are in their proper place.)  No Olympian wins a gold medal by accident.  Nor does a believer manifest virtue without conscious and deliberate time and effort given to that end.  May we diligently pursue a Christ-like character.                           

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