“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness… For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness (virtue), and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, SELF-CONTROL, and to self-control, PERSEVERANCE…”
2 Peter 1:3-6
You have probably watched enough movies or plays to recall situations where one of the characters has lost it emotionally and is unable to function. Often, another character in the story reaches over and grabs the out of control person by the collar and shouts at them, “Get a grip on yourself!” The faith additive Peter lists as self-control expresses that same idea. It is about “getting a grip on yourself.”
The word we translate self-control describes the person who has a grip on himself or herself. Such a person does not allow passion or emotion to control their actions. It does not mean passion and emotion have no place. It simply means emotions do not alone control our actions. Rather, they are perfectly controlled by reason born out of wisdom and knowledge – the ability to get a grip. It applies to major circumstances in our life like finances or that awful announcement by a doctor who says, “it’s cancer”. It also to the everyday things like driving in traffic (Ouch!) or dealing with the emotional drain of daily relationships.
When faith is graced by goodness and knowledge, self-control is more likely to come into play because we know what is true, and that God is in control. We are still passionate, but not irrational or uncivil. That is faith doing its work. Without self-control, there is no peace. That’s when the Holy Spirit takes us by the collar and firmly speaks to us, “Get a grip!” While self-control keeps us from irrational and careless actions, when combined with perseverance it also helps us push through the pain to achieve a goal that is worth achieving.
In the 2010 Winter Olympics, Norway’s Ansel Lund Svindal won the gold medal in the super-G slalom. What you may not know is that for him to get to the Olympics he had to overcome a disastrous fall in a race the previous year. His injuries could have kept him from competing. Rather than give up or get discouraged, Ansel had to dig deep and persevere through a rigorous recovery and training process in order to compete for the gold medal.
Every Olympian understands that persevering through intense pain is part of the price for being able to compete at this level of competition and have any hope of getting a medal. By focusing on the Gold Medal, Ansel gladly persevered in order to be counted among the best in the world.
Perseverance is necessary for following Christ too. Jesus reminded us there would be plenty of trouble in this life. Our faith, more precious than gold, keeps the goal of our eternal reward in heaven before us so we can persevere in the race. This “growth-additive” to our faith is more than passive acceptance of what life dishes out. It is the courage to dig deep in the face of the storm. However bad the pain, we place our trust in Christ, our Savior, in whom we have the assurance of something good beyond anything we can imagine on the other side of the pain.
Perseverance is rooted in a strong faith focused on the ultimate goal of our blessed hope in Christ. Perseverance increases our faith as we draw closer to the prize. Unlike most Olympians who compete but never get gold or any other medal, those who get a grip, dig deep and persevere in Christ are guaranteed the ultimate prize—eternal life. Let your grandchildren see that kind of self-control and perseverance as hallmarks of your faith in Christ.
The Olympics provide an excellent opportunity to talk with your grandchildren about self-control and perseverance—things every good athlete understands. In what ways do athletes have to exercise self-control in order to compete at such a high level? What is it that drives athletes to compete and endure so much to be the best? How does that apply to our Faith?
Talk about some of the hard times we face in life. Discuss how trusting Christ and His promises help us practice self-control and perseverance even in the toughest of times. Share some examples from your own life.
“I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” -Apostle Paul (Philippians 3:12b)