Eight Ways to Be Far More Productive and Effective This Year
— A Bible Study in 2 Peter 1:3-8 —
Introduction: Second Peter 1:8 says: For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. What qualities? I want to know, don’t you—especially if they’ll make us more effective and productive? In 2 Peter 1:3-8, the Lord lists eight qualities that represent the essence of self-improvement. According to verse 5, we must make every effort to add these qualities to our personalities.
Let’s begin with 2 Peter 1:3: His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
The infinite power of God is mind-boggling. The New Testament writers were entranced by the concept of divine power and spoke of it often. In this passage, we’re told that God’s divine power can give us everything we need for life and godliness. What do you need in your life? What do you need to be more effective and productive? His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.
How is this power conveyed to us? In our modern world, power is conveyed by high-voltage transmission lines capable of transporting large amounts of electricity over long distances. But God’s power is transmitted through the high-voltage lines in the Bible, which we call promises.
Verse 4 says: He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
The power of His promises, as we interpret them wisely and claim them by faith, enables us to do two things—to participate in the divine nature and to escape the corruption that is in the world caused by evil desires. I understand the last part of that verse. We all want to resist temptation and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. But what does it mean to participate in the divine nature?
It means we should increasingly be renovating our personalities to reflect the personality of our Heavenly Father and of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit. We need to draw on God’s power, conveyed through His promises, to replicate His personality.
That takes effort. In fact, that’s exactly how Peter puts it in verse 5: For this very reason make every effort…
Participating in the divine nature and reflecting the personality of God doesn’t happen automatically but by lifelong effort. In the next verses, Peter lists eight traits we must develop
1. Faith – Verse 5: For this very reason make every effort to add to your faith…. Faith is trusting God, first of all for eternal salvation, and second, for all the concerns of life. Faith is the confidence we have in God’s ability to keep His aforementioned promises. If God keeps His promises, we really have little or nothing to worry about in life. If He does not, we’re in deep trouble. Our faith grows whenever we face the challenges of life by finding certain promises God has made and by claiming them and focusing on them during difficulty. That’s the starting point, but it’s not enough. We need to add to our faith goodness.
2. Goodness – Verse 5: …add to your faith, goodness. What is goodness? The word Peter used means literally “excellence of character.” Think of someone you’ve known who is a truly good person—kind, giving, sacrificial, cheerful, helpful, honest, upright. That’s goodness.
3. Knowledge – Verse 5 continues: For this very reason make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge…. We want to come to know the Lord better. We want to know more about Him and His Truth. The best way of doing that is everyday Bible study. Let me suggest a simple plan for that. I call it the “Read and Mark” plan. Find a newer version of the Bible and a pencil or pen. Open to a manageable book, like 2 Peter. Ask the Lord to speak to you, then read the first paragraph. Look for something to underline, circle, or highlight. If a verse confuses you, put a question mark by it. If it thrills you, use an exclamation mark. If you find a verse to memorize, circle it and spend time working on it, word by word. Pick up tomorrow where you left off today. When you finish a book, go to another. Evangelist D. L. Moody once said: “I have carried one Bible with me a great many years. It is worth a good deal to me, and I will tell you why: I have so many passages marked in it.” That enables us to personalize the verse. The more we know about God and His Truth, the more we can know Him better.
4. Self-Control – The passage continues: For this very reason make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control… Self-control is doing what you don’t feel like doing and not doing what you do feel like doing. In his new book, A Life Beyond Amazing, David Jeremiah described six areas where we need self-control.
- Self-control enables us to master our moods – “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls” (Proverbs 25:28).
- Self-control allows us to tame our tongue – “He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction” (Proverbs 13:3).
- Self-control allows us to regulate our reactions – “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression” (Proverbs 19:11).
- Self-control helps us control our calendar – “See then that you walk circumspectly… redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).
- Self-control is what manages our money – “There is a desirable treasure, and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man squanders it” (Proverbs 21:20).
- Self-control empowers us to bridle our bodies – “Each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor” (1Thessalonians 4:4).
5. Perseverance – All that requires perseverance, the next quality: Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance…. Perseverance is the ability to keep going with a good attitude even when the roof is caving in. It’s the quality of never giving up. It’s at the very core of a Christlike personality.
- Jesus said we must hear the Word of God, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop (Luke 8:15).
- Romans 5 says that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance produces character (Romans 5:4).
- 1 Corinthians 13 says that love always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:7).
- Paul prayed for the Thessalonian church that the Lord would direct their hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance (2 Thessalonians 3:5).
- He told Timothy, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).
- This is the veritable theme of the book of Hebrews, which says: “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised” (Hebrews 10:36).
- James 1 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
- The Lord Jesus commended the church in Ephesus, saying, “You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name and have not grown weary” (Revelation 2:3).
You cannot be successful in business or in politics or in anything else without a strong streak of perseverance and endurance and determination. And that’s a biblical trait that reflects the character of God. We might describe it as sanctified stubbornness.
6. Godliness – The next quality is godliness: For this very reason make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness… What is godliness? The Greek word is eusebeia. There was a famous bishop of Caesarea who wrote our oldest extant history of the early church and this was his name—Eusebius of Caesarea. It’s a word having to do with reverence toward God and piety. It conveys the idea of worship. We are to live our lives with a sense of reverence for God. We are simply devoted to him.
7. Mutual Affection – Godliness has to do with our attitude toward God, but mutual affection involves our attitude toward other people: For this very reason make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection…. The Greek word, transliterated into English, is philadelphia—brotherly love. It conveys the idea of friendliness and winsomeness. I read an article about the power of friendliness in business communication. The author gave a case study involving the project engineer for the construction of a large chemical plant. Things didn’t go well with his employees and there were frequent misunderstandings. The man spent months trying to figure out how to solve the communication problems. He talked to his wife about it and they came upon a simple solution—friendliness. He said, “I decided to apply friendliness in every situation I encounter in both my professional and private life. The results were astonishing. Not only did I achieve much better results, but this had a great positive impact on my mood and my health. Even better, I found that people in almost any situation are willing to walk the extra mile to help me.”
8. Love – That leads to the final quality—and to mutual affection, love. This is the true essence of participating in the divine nature and reflecting the divine personality—the selfless, giving, caring quality known as love.
There is a concluding promise to the passage. Verse 8 says: If you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Aldous Huxley said: “There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.” God wants us to be productive, to be profitable, and to fulfill His plan for us. His divine power is conveyed through His divine promises which, when seized upon, develops within us the divine personality—faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love.
That’s the biblical secret of personal growth in your own little corner of the universe.