DAY 1: A New Creation in ChristColossians 3:1–17 Paul is a moral theologian of the caliber of the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. Aristotle wrote the original significant book on ethics. It is called The Nicomachean Ethics and it shaped all of western culture. But Aristotle had a secular ethic that has nothing sacred, spiritual, or religious about it. The Apostle Paul’s ethic is just as sweeping in scope, but it is rooted in the character of God, the work of Christ, and a vision of human nature restored by the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s ethic is a profound moral vision of what it means to be a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17–20) and what that new creation life looks like as it is manifest in a new kind of community with new relational patterns. Today’s list has both virtue and vice. It gives many directions for your responsible partnership in character formation. It places all your personal responsibility in a framework of the initiating and empowering work of Jesus in your life. Writing helps the learning process. Make a list of every vice and wrong behavior that harms others. Make a second list of every virtue and worthy behavior that helps others. Make a third list of every theological insight about how transformation in character happens. Use verses 12–14 to shape your prayer life today for positive character formation. For any mentioned vice problem you have, ask for forgiveness. Consider why that vice afflicts you. Live intentionally according to the virtue patterns of life together with others.
DAY 2: What it Means to Have Grit1 Timothy 6:11–16; 2 Timothy 4:7 Before we go any further, let’s define grit and why we are using it as a core word for a cluster of character qualities. The cluster of virtue qualities included in grit includes things like stamina, discipline, resilience, endurance, resolve, determination, toughness in terms of “fiber” or “mettle,” and fortitude/courage. The vice qualities are described with these words: slothful, sluggish, lazy, lethargic, lackadaisical, undisciplined, careless, half-hearted. While you will find many of the above words in the Bible, grit is not a word found in the Bible. The idea is there, but not the actual word. So why this word? I like it because it is a powerful word for our culture. It connects with people and makes a good conversation possible. It is a word that resonates for many people. It resonates as something we need today. There is a widespread sense that we have lost those qualities that are gritty. Look at the second and third paragraphs above. Which set of words seems more descriptive of our culture? If you put those words on a spectrum, place an X where you fall on that spectrum. Now mark an XX or an X where you would like to be in the next several weeks. So, how will you get to that new place on the spectrum? Grit, like all virtue, must be cultivated. It is cultivated by the intentional, deliberate, consistent, sustained practice of grit. In other words, start to put into practice responsibility, self-control, and discipline. Choose to endure instead of bailing out. Step out and do things that require courage. And, as always, in everything you do pray for the transforming grace of God to be at work, shaping you into the person you are meant to be. Paul had grit. You see it in 2 Timothy 4:7 when he reflects back on his entire life and ministry. Paul wants his protégé Timothy to have grit as well. Life is hard. Ministry is harder. Following Christ in a post-Christian world is hardest of all. You will need all the grit you can get.
DAY 3: Jesus Had GritMatthew 4:1–11; Hebrews 12:1–3 Did Jesus have grit? It may seem like a strange question. We usually think of Jesus as having faith, hope, and love (which he has in abundance), but grit? I’ll say that absolutely Jesus had grit. He had physical strength and stamina. Life was hard. Jesus was on the road all the time. He had energy and resilience. He showed it in the wilderness when he fasted for 40 days and fought the devil. He showed it in the endless miles he put in day after day traveling around preaching the good news of the kingdom of God. He showed it as he dealt with hostile Pharisees and oppositional crowds. And he showed it during his trial, his torment, and above all, on the cross. The meek, mild, and gentle Jesus is also a Jesus of strength, stamina, resolve, determination, discipline, and spiritual toughness. The author of Hebrews uses Jesus as the moral exemplar for our own gritty faith. Hebrews 11 is all about the heroes of faith whose faith produced gritty perseverance. Focus on Hebrews 11:32–40. They are among the cloud of witnesses who, alongside the example of Jesus, motivate us in our own faithful, gritty, persevering endurance following Jesus. Hebrews 12:4–12 is then a follow-up exhortation about being disciplined and growing in discipline in our faith. In the undisciplined, irresponsible, “take the easy way” culture of our time, gritty people are desperately needed. Followers of Jesus are always dependent on and surrendered to God, and in that dependence and surrender grit grows strong. What is God saying to you? What do you desire? Where do you most need greater grit to get through the trials and struggles of life?
DAY 4: Responsible and Disciplined1 Timothy 3; 2 Timothy 2:1–7; Titus 1:8, 2:2, 5, 6, 12 To be responsible is to be in charge of something and obligated about what you are in charge of. To be responsible means you will give an account of your responsibility. Most good things for which we are responsible require effort that must be sustained. Good things do not grow and flourish without continual attention to those things. Most good things will face opposition and resistance. The going will get tough about good things. You will need discipline if you are to stay focused and attentive to your responsibilities. To get better at what you do, to improve in your responsibilities, takes hard work, lots of time, patience, perseverance, and stamina. In other words, all this takes grit. In addition to the many passages where Paul uses words like responsibility, discipline, and self-control, Paul uses several occupations as metaphors for the Christian life. Each occupation requires grit. The implication is that the Christian life requires the same grit. In 2 Timothy 2:1-7 Paul uses the metaphors of a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer. As you look at that passage, what are one or two of the key qualities of the soldier, athlete, and farmer that model the way of grit? Which ones can you put into practice this week? If you are looking for a book that goes much deeper into this theme, I recommend Grit by Angela Duckworth. It is written from a secular, non-spiritual basis, but it is loaded with great insight. Take what is useful, skip what is not. As you grow in grit, you will experience the power of passion and perseverance expanding in your life.
DAY 5: Dealing with Hard Times2 Corinthians 11:16–12:10 Grit is always needed, but when times are hard grit is especially necessary. And you will face hard times. Hopefully not nearly as tough as that of Jesus or Paul, but hard times come to all of us. These hard times are times of suffering. Most of us will have to deal with sickness and injury at some point in life. Many of us will deal with the pain of broken relationships as well. All of us will experience the reality of unmet expectations and the disappointment of unkept commitments from others. That is when the going can get really tough. There are many things that will keep you going. Grit is one of them. “When the going gets tough, the gritty keep going.” That’s my version of the old saying. Where does grit come from? First and foremost, it comes from grace. Grace and grit are not in opposition. Grace creates grit. Grace creates all good and worthy things in our life. Grit is one of them. Second, it comes from the experience of faith, hope, and love. As we live in the ways we are taught in Scripture, these qualities grow stronger. Grit is a byproduct of other virtues. Third, it comes from repetition on right things that forms habits of the heart. As you put into practice personal discipline and self-control, as you persevere and endure in hard times, grit grows stronger. If you bail out, grit weakens. Fourth, it comes from the inspiration of role models who display the power of grit. Jesus is the supreme example. Paul is a worthy model as well. Who are the gritty people in your life? How did their grit make a difference for your life? Finally, it comes when you acknowledge the responsibilities and people who have been entrusted into your care. Others need you to be gritty. Love for them inspires a life of determined and responsible actions so they flourish. May the grace of God make you one of his gritty followers.
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