In 2 Peter 1:5, 6, Peter gives us characteristics which we are to diligently add to our faith. First we are to add virtue and to virtue knowledge. To knowledge we are to add self-control and to self-control perseverance. As I am studying through these characteristics, I wanted to take some extra time to delve into the meaning of perseverance.
Perseverance is a translation of the word “hupomone”, which means to remain under. The person who is persevering or enduring is remaining under some circumstance or pressure and he is doing so in such a way that his spirit is not crushed by the circumstances. Perseverance can be the result of remaining under the pressures which God brings directly in the form of discipline. Hebrews 12:7 “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons.” Perseverance can also be the result of enduring the pressures inflicted by the world and its system of evil and persecution. Either way we are to remain confident and strong in spite of the pressures.
In the passage under consideration, Peter instructs us to be diligent to add this trait to the others that are being added to our faith. Diligence means that we will focus our attention on and work toward accomplishing this goal of adding endurance to our faith. Endurance is gained primarily by practice. In order to be diligent in adding it to our faith, we will have to go through various trials and be diligent about taking those trials patiently. Needless to say, that is not an easy task.
What does the New Testament teach us about endurance? James 1:3 tells us that the trying of our faith produces patience. Similarly, Romans 5:3 tells us that tribulation works patience and patience brings experience and experience hope. This is why James says that those who endure are to be counted blessed (James 5:11). It is also why he tells us to count it all joy when we come under the various pressures because we know that these trials will produce endurance in us. Perseverance/patience/endurance is a tremendous goal to reach for. Trials bring joy because we know the result will be good.
The word “experience” in Romans 5:3 is an interesting one which would take an entire study of its own. In essence it means proof or evidence. So the patience that comes from tribulation brings about the kind of experience that proves the genuine nature of our Christian life. Experience is not the flimsy, superficial feeling-oriented concept that we have today. It is the documentation of our Christian faith. Tribulation brings about patience which gives rise to the documentation of our genuine faith which then provides hope. Someone has said that hope looks to the future while endurance helps us get there. You don’t get there if you don’t endure. We will see hope in close proximity to endurance throughout this study.
(This article was first posted to the Faithful Men Blog in October 2006.)