In Second Peter chapter one beginning in verse five is found the following admonition: â€œBut also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to your virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.â€
I have mentioned Titus chapter one in the previous two essays. Let us read chapter one, verses seven and eight once again: “In all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.”
The apostle says that in all things (and how many things is that?) that we should show a pattern of good works.
I take this to mean that this has to be a full time activity, and something that is to be in first place on my daily working agenda, in my short-term plan. It is not just to be seen in small undertakings or in minute ways, but it is to be visible in everything that I do. I should be totally transparent and able to be rather easily marked and tagged as a Christian and as a “sound” or steadfast person — I ought to be easy to spot, easily identified, and for all the right reasons.
At work I tell people that my short-term plan is to make it to 1530 hours each day, and that my long-term plan is to string together a series of short-term plans, typically five in order. But that is meant only for a laugh. My short-term plan is indeed to make it through the day, but to do so by giving my best and to not sin, and by trying to be of some value to my Savior, in the performance of his duties, and thereby to be of some use to my family, friends, and to my employer. So far I have been modestly successful.
I also actively plan the other things I do. I actively plan to work in the direction of modifying my character to fit the pattern left in these words by Paul and left by others in various places in the Holy Scriptures. Some times I have success in this and some times I have to continue to work at reigning things in. It is a full time proposition, and it is not often easily done.
The consultant Stephen Covey wrote that in order to be truly successful in life that it is useful to identify and perform a single selected activity each day, one chosen over all others that would have the greatest immediate impact for good in our lives. In his book First Things First he stated that by identifying a single important activity each day and emphasizing it even to the exclusion of some other urgent activities (urgent activities being those activities that are imposed on us by others or by external conditions), that doing this will have the greatest impact in our daily lives. Planning and doing is everything.
Now I’m not interested in promoting Dr. Covey and his philosophy as an addendum to Christianity. But sensible things outside of God’s word are nonetheless still sensible things. And some of them may have some application in godly lives where they follow or embody the things that God has already given to us to do. In this case, I believe it does have such an application.
Titus was told to hold to a pattern of good works, and if one of these characteristics or activities was to be chosen to be adapted by both you and I and concentrated upon daily in preference over any number of other less valuable activities, that would surely have an immediate impact for common good within our lives. We can’t exhibit a pattern of good works accidentally, and we won’t wake up one morning shaking off the night to stretch and brush our teeth and then suddenly find out that we have gone from doing our own selfish will and over to doing the will of God. That is the equivalent of what the Victorian’s called a pipe dream.
We must (I think) distinguish ourselves from the corrupting influence of the world which works against this, putting us to sleep while the lilting music of sin plays on.
Any pattern may be imitated. If the pattern of the world is imitated then worldliness and godlessness will be the result. If the pattern followed is one of godliness then godliness will result. So, the apostle enjoins one disciple, and thus all the disciples, to be about actively pursuing sound things and to show a pattern of good works and godliness in everything we do.