5 “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.“ (2 Peter 1:5–7 ESV).
The Holy Spirit commands believers, through the Apostle Peter, to supplement, or add, to their saving faith. This supplementation is not contributing to their justification but rather it is a necessary component of each believer’s sanctification. Sanctification is the believer’s growth in holiness.
Believers are to add to their faith virtue or godly character and moral excellence. To virtue, believers in Christ are to add knowledge. To knowledge, believers in Christ are to add self-control. To self-control believers in Christ are to add steadfastness.
Steadfastness (ὑπομονή; hypomone) means endurance or the ability to endure. It is the capacity to bear up under difficult circumstances.
In 1959, Alfred Lansing wrote the bestselling biography entitled Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage.
The book recounts the failure of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition led by Sir Ernest Shackleton in its attempt to cross the Antarctic continent in 1914 and the subsequent struggle for survival endured by the twenty-eight man crew for almost two years. The book’s title refers to the ship Shackleton used for the expedition, the Endurance.
The ship was beset and eventually crushed by ice floes in the Weddell Sea leaving the men stranded on the pack ice. All in all the crew drifted on the ice for just over a year. They were able to launch their boats and somehow managed to land them safely on Elephant Island. Shackleton then led a crew of five aboard the James Caird through the Drake Passage and miraculously reached South Georgia Island 650 nautical miles away. He then took two of those men on the first successful overland crossing of the island. Three months later he was finally able to rescue the remaining crew members they had left behind on Elephant Island.
Virtually every diary kept during the expedition was made available to the author and almost all the surviving members at the time of Lansing’s writing submitted to lengthy interviews. The most significant contribution came from Dr. Alexander Macklin, one of the ship’s surgeons, who provided Lansing with many diaries, a detailed account of the perilous journey the crew made to Elephant Island, and the months of adversity.
I think it is safe to say the few of us will ever experience the difficulties faced by the captain and crew of the Endurance. However, what about the difficulties we do face on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis? These may include ill health, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the task of finding and keeping a new job, a betrayal by a trusted friend, temptation and spiritual adversity, etc.
God calls believers in Christ to persevere and to endure ((Luke 8:15; 21:19; Romans 2:7; 5:3; 8:25; 15:4; 2 Corinthians 6:4; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 3:10; Hebrews 12:1; James 1:3; 5:11; 2 Peter 1:6; Revelation 2:2, 19; Galatians 5:23).
Dr. John Walvoord writes, “Believers living in the latter days, especially when surrounded by scoffers and false teachers, also need perseverance. This word hypomenēn means “staying under.” It is frequently used in the New Testament to refer to constancy or steadfast endurance under adversity, without giving in or giving up (cf. Rom. 5:3–4; 15:4–5; 2 Cor. 1:6; 6:4; Col. 1:11; 1 Thes. 1:3; 2 Thes. 1:4; James 1:3).”
Dr. R. C. Sproul once recalled a visitation he made as a pastor. He writes, “Years ago, I had the privilege of visiting the home of a former Miami Dolphins quarterback and meeting his wife, who was dying of cancer. It was a privilege because she was a deeply committed Christian woman. I sat next to her, she looked at me, a single tear flowing from her eyes, and she said, “R.C., I just don’t know how much more I can take. It’s gotten to the place where it seems unbearable.”
“She wasn’t complaining or bitter. She was simply tired. We prayed together. I left, and several days later I got the report that she had died. She had fought the good fight for the faith, she had finished the race, and she had kept the faith. And her pain was over—forever. I look at her life, and I ask myself whether I could endure that kind of prolonged, protracted suffering without becoming absolutely impossible to be around, without becoming bitter and angry. But this is where the rubber meets the road. Will we love God when we’re hurting, when the pain of our experience is so intense?”
What has God called you to endure? What circumstances have entered into your life which have required you to remain steadfast in your faith? There are those who would say that God never wills pain and suffering. Obviously, they have never read the New Testament. Obviously, they have never read John 16:33 which says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
May we add to our faith the quality of steadfastness.
Soli deo Gloria!