2 Peter 1:6 “and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,”
One of the dangers of discipleship over over a span of years is that the disciple can—if he’s not careful—become a little too comfortable with his or her level of maturity. Though we might never actually say that we’re satisfied with “good enough”, we might grow weary with putting out the sort of effort that Paul describes in Philippians 3:13, 14, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Why keep pressing on? Paul and other inspired writers of the New Testament knew that if we’re not growing spiritually, we are likely to be getting weaker spiritually—and growing spiritually weaker could end in falling away and losing our soul. And this is exactly why Peter writes, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble” (2 Peter 1:10).
So, we’ve been talking about a series of virtues—found in 2 Peter 1:5ff—that Peter urges upon us, things in which we can grow and which will help to safeguard our souls. We looked at diligence, moral excellence, knowledge, and self-control. This time perseverance.
The Greek word for perseverance here is hupomenè. It’s meaning is rooted in Spartan military tactics, describing a heroic volunteer who would stay behind in a retreat to protect his comrades to his dying breath. This heroic role, then, became the word for a courageous sort of patience—greater than ordinary patience or “long suffering”. And it became the preferred word in the New Testament for Christian endurance. And here, Peter encourages us to obtain (v.8), practice (v.10), and increase (v.8) in it—along with the other virtues.
“OK, so, how do we obtain it?” Obtaining the virtue of perseverance begins with a real faith in the God who rescues. Quintessential examples of perseverance can be found in Daniel’s friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, when they said, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17, 18). Listen to that faith! Such faith provides the confidence and strength that are at the core of Christian perseverance.
“But, how do we practice it?” That comes with recognizing the battle. Now, while we may not be required to face the same flames as S,M,&A, we do live in a world with plenty of opposition to God’s way, plenty of opportunity to exercise a courageous “standing firm” (1 Cor. 16:13; Eph. 6:11-14; Php. 4:1; and others) against the wrong and standing up for what’s right. The battles are engaged when someone entices you compromise your morals, when someone speaks against the Lord, when others argue for things that the Bible says are wrong, or when the temptation is strong to go along to get along. The world has tried to “train us” to just passively put up with the persecution, but the Lord calls us hupomenè. Recognize and use opportunities to be courageous for the Lord.
“But, how do we increase in it?” In the regular practice of hupomenè and getting practiced at standing firm in unashamed and courageous perseverance, we learn and we grow in it. The more you are trained in it, the better your responses will be to anti-Christian persecution and opposition, the greater your trust in the Lord will grow, the easier it will be to resist the forces in the world that seek to conform us to the world’s ideas, morality, and way of thinking. Think of it like self-defense training—as you train and practice, the right “move” become more instinctual and perhaps leads to combinations of moves, leading to expertise, etc.
Why does perseverance matter in making our calling and election sure? Mere long suffering just hopes to hang on long enough. But perseverers are fortified with courage and defiance of the wrong. Such Christians do more than merely endure their beating; they courageously stand against the “world forces of this darkness” (Eph. 6:12), knowing in Whom they’ve believed and knowing His ability to give the victory, when they stand firm!