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; and to mutual affection, love. 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. (2 Peter 1:5-7)
Step 1 - Faith. When we come to Jesus we start with faith--no matter how small. At first it may be like a mustard seed, but Jesus already promised that we would be able to move mountains with the smallest amount of faith. (Matthew 17:20)
Step 2 - Goodness. In the Bible, God is called good and His word, goodness (Hebrews 6:5). So if we add to faith the goodness of His word, we're working toward the next step.
Step 3 - Knowledge. By reading God's word and praying for Him to help us understand it, we will grow in the knowledge. (Proverbs 3:5)
Step 4 - Self-Control. This one is a hard one for me. Once we have the knowledge of the things we should do or should not do, we suddenly find them impossible to accomplish, just like Paul did in Romans 7. But we need to remember that Jesus promised His yoke is easy and His burden light - because He knows that He will carry the greater burden for us if we remember to turn to Him for help with this self control thing. (Romans 7:25) (Matthew 11:30)
Step 5 - Perseverance. Ugh. We cannot develop perseverance without being tempted, overcoming obstacles, or without pain. Either we learn to persevere by denying the temptation over and over again, or we develop it by keeping the course with obstacles in the way, or we stay faithful no matter what pain or suffering we're going through. (Romans 5:3)
Step 6 - Godliness. When we overcome the steps we've worked on so far, we discover the freedom that Jesus has given us and the hope of a freed, abundant, eternal life... which He'd promised us was not only for Heaven, but here on Earth, too -- no matter what our external circumstances (Titus 1:1-2)
Step 7 - Mutual Affection. Only by encouraging each other and building one-another up can we overcome all the steps that have helped us get this far together. (1 Thessalonians 5:10-11)
Step 8 - Love. The final goal is one where we can learn to love the way Jesus did. Love whether the person loves us back or not. Love when the person hates us. Love the most sinful person. Love when there is no gain for ourselves. We can only love this way when we have completed all the other steps and drawn closer to God than we are when we start. We spill over with His love so that it reaches everyone we touch. (1 Corinthians 13)
I am finding myself having to renew my mind each day through steps 1-3 just so I can get some handle on steps 4 and 5. I know that the freedom and godliness that God promises can only come through perseverance. Nothing worth having comes easy. I pray today that you will overcome what you're going through, and that reading this breakdown will give you hope and encouragement to reach the next step, too!