by Dr. Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 10 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, Blue Denim and Lace)
One of the most important Scriptures in the Bible for a Christian is found in II Peter 1:5. "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge." Here the Holy Spirit inspires Peter to list for us some virtues necessary for character. Notice in verse 5 the words "add to." These words come from the singing of an old Grecian song. The custom was for the people to join their hands as they sang. This means that the following virtues are to "join hands" in the Christian's life, and they are to do so in the proper order.
1. Diligence. This word could be translated "hastening to do a thing well." It is doing the job well, and it is doing the job swiftly. There is a false teaching going around that people who do things swiftly do not do them well, and that people who do things slowly are of necessity thorough. This is not true. We should be diligent; every task should be done well; but we should do it in the least time possible so we can do more for God. Hence, we have the first stone laid. This is the stone of diligence.
2. Faith. Once the stone of diligence has been laid, faith should be placed on top of it. Notice there is no need for faith without diligence, for faith without works is dead. Just to have faith in what God is going to do is not enough. We are to be willing to do our best. God will not do what we can do, but He will do what we cannot do after we have done what we can do. What is faith? Faith is the belief in what God has done, what God can do, what God will do, what God is going to do, and what God is going to use me to do. I have said so often that a Christian should make no provision for failure. Faith is basically "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
3. Virtue. Next in line we have this trait. Now it is interesting that so far nothing has been mentioned about kindness. That will come later. Far more important than kindness is diligence, faith, and virtue. Honesty is better than courtesy. It is better to do right wrongly than to do wrong rightly. Position is more important than disposition. Integrity is better than popularity. Being a right fellow is more important than being a "regular" fellow. Do not misunderstand. It is important to be kind. Courtesy is important. The right spirit is important. Disposition is important. Being a nice person is important. However, these should never be placed above such traits as virtue.
Many years ago when I first began preaching I faced a big decision in my ministry. My heart was broken. My face was against the wall. I then made five promises to God and established five principles that have governed my life ever since.
a. If I have friend, I will stick with him. b. I will base my decisions on right or wrong, not on how right or wrong turn out. c. No one will tamper with my preaching. I will ask only God what I shall preach and where I preach. d. I will never seek a raise or talk money. e. I will treat the rich and poor alike.
One should live by principle, not by convenience. When principles are established early in life, fewer decisions have to be made later. The principles make the decisions for us, and hence, frustration is averted and avoided.
4. Wisdom. For many years my prayer list has been topped with power, love, and wisdom. wisdom is certainly one of the great personality priorities. Notice it comes before self control, godliness, brotherly kindness, or love. Remember that God has given us a divine order. The bricks are laid one at a time on top of each other. First should be laid diligence, then faith, then virtue, then wisdom.
Wisdom is the ability to use knowledge. It is available to all. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." (James 1:5)
5. Self control. This is the next brick in the wall. It precedes godliness, kindness, and love. Self control means discipline. It means discipline over body appetites such as eating and sex. It includes the disciplining of one's schedule, mind, disposition, emotions, frustrations, etc. Nothing will take its place. It is vital to the life of the Christian.
6. Godliness, Kindness, and love. Now we are coming to the traits that show. God starts on the inside and works out. He starts with the foundation and works up. No one can see wisdom, virtue, and faith; but we cannot have true godliness until these stones have been laid. We cannot have Bible kindness until these stones have been laid. We cannot have real love until these stones have been laid. Love is one of the great attributes a Christian can have. Kindness, of course, is important. Godliness is vital, but a godliness, a kindness, or a love that is not built from the inside will not last. It will be superficial. If one gains diligence and adds to it faith; to faith, virtue; to virtue, wisdom; to wisdom, self control; then godliness, kindness, and love will of necessity come.
Let us teach our children and teach ourselves the proper order of character and its priorities. Let us use God's order. To teach them to be kind, and yet not make them obey is folly. To teach them to be loving, and yet not teach them self control is foolishness. Let us exercise care in trying to place all of these things in our lives. Let us give the proper emphasis where God gives the emphasis. All across our country we find a bankruptcy of character. We are more interested in "nice guys" than "right guys." We are more interested in being friendly than being a friend, and in having a good disposition rather than having the right position.
In politics, in the ministry, and in business there is a desperate need for people who have character. Personality is important; talent is important; but a good personality with talent will oftentimes run from character. The motto of some seems to be, "Why work hard? I have it made. I can talk my way out of it." On the other hand, a child that is taught to have character will get the necessary talent. Talent oftentimes flees character. Character will always seek talent - that is, the talent necessary to fulfill the task. How vital it is that we stress character and place each of its qualities in the proper order.
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“I am an old-fashioned preacher of the old-time religion,
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