The Gift of Faith
The foundational quality of believers.
It is the beginning of a new year and with this comes a feeling of optimism and hope. We ask ourselves, What will this year hold? Where will we be 12 months from now? In contrast, some people say that resolutions and conceiving of a “fresh start” are the result of an artificial construct. Nothing has really changed, they might say. We just turned over a page in the calendar.
While I understand what many people mean when expressing that sentiment, I would encourage us to see the new year as an opportunity to imagine afresh areas of our walk with Jesus we wish to cultivate further or develop for the first time. In this light we can think of the new year as a time to align our feet with the call to follow Jesus more deeply.
And so, for the next eight weeks Ministry to State will be covering a series on 2 Peter 1:3-11 with a focus on the qualities the Bible lists in verses 5-8. They are virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love.
There is an internal logical flow to this list of items Peter describes as “qualities.” That is, each one needs the other and no one is complete without the other. Moreover, they are all meant to be supplementary to one thing that all believers possess: faith.
We use the word faith in a couple of different ways. Sometimes we use it in a way that means the Christian faith, like how it is used in the title “Westminster Confession of Faith.” Another way we use the word is when we are referring to the means by which we believe in the saving work of Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 11:1 we read, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
It is in the second sense that the word is being used in our passage, and there are three observations I would like to make in light of that.
The first is that faith comes by the grace of God (Eph. 2:8). It is not something we earn or conjure but something that comes to us by the Holy Spirit. Along with this is the need for reading the Bible regularly and sitting under the preached word of God (Rom. 10:14). And that we receive the sacraments and cultivate a life of prayer (1 Cor. 11:23-29; Phil. 4:6-7).
The second is that our faith is deepened by a reverent fear of our holy God. This sense of reverence encourages us to obey him and heed his commandments. It means that we trust in and cling to God’s promises to us. As the Westminster Confession of Faith says, “the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life.”
The third and final point is that the strength of our faith will often vary in degrees of weakness and strength. The growth of our faith does not occur in a neat, straight line from lesser to greater. Sometimes we feel confident to the point of unassailability. Other times we feel like a reed blowing in the wind. Our faith moves up and down, but over the long journey of faith the overall direction is upward. For we know that in the end we will be more than conquerors because of the perfect work of the author and finisher of our faith (Rom. 8:37; Heb. 12:2).
I’ll close with 2 Peter 1:3, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” Our mighty and loving God has given us this wonderful gift of faith. When we supplement our faith with the following seven qualities listed in 2 Peter 1:5-8 we live out the Christian faith.
Will Stockdale is a Ministry Associate in D.C. and cohost of The Will & Rob Show.