The Right Kind of Virtues

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in {your} moral excellence, knowledge; and in {your} knowledge, self-control, and in {your} self-control, perseverance, and in {your} perseverance, godliness; and in {your} godliness, brotherly kindness, and in {your} brotherly kindness, love. - 2 Peter 1:5-7

In this familiar passage, we find one of several Bible lists of "qualities of character" or "virtues" that Christians should strive to attain in our lives. But have you considered that some of those virtues seem "natural" with some folks, yet completely contrary to the disposition of others? For example, some people just seem "naturally" to be able to exercise "self-control" with much less effort than others, perhaps because of some inherited traits or the environment in which they were raised. Some seem to have an easier time with "brotherly kindness." Others seem more disposed toward "patience" or "perseverance." Do you see what I'm saying?

What is often not fully understood, is the fact that the virtues enjoined upon the people of God are to be products of the will - not products of our genes, or the results of circumstances over which we have no control. Let's try to illustrate this important principle by looking at the virtue of "patience" (translated in some versions as "perseverance" or "longsuffering").

I like the definition of "patience" given in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: 

"'Patience' implies suffering, enduring or waiting, as a determination of the will and not simply under necessity."

I especially like that last part: " a determination of the will and not simply under necessity." It may well be that a convicted criminal is forced to endure his confinement - to suffer the loss of his freedom, - to wait through the long months or years until his release. His waiting may indeed have the outward appearance of patience. But, in fact, it may well be only the symptoms of a will broken by the State or, worse, just simple hopelessness. This is not the patience of which the Bible proscribes for Christians. This kind of patience is the end result of making up our minds to 'suffer, endure, or wait' in direct response to submitting to God's will. If we have been "gifted" in some area of our lives so that we are naturally inclined to be more patient, more loving, more generous, etc., that is well and good. Use that "gift" to the glory of our Lord by submitting it to His will (see Romans 12:4-8; 1 Peter 4:10-11). 

That's the key! As we develop and possess the various "virtues" in our lives, we must never lose sight of the importance of exercising them, not out of habit or necessity; but rather as acts of our will which is completely surrendered to the Will of God.