When you arrive in the winter years of your life, you start to wonder about footprints. Not the ones you make in the mud or in the snow, but the ones that are indelibily etched in the path of your life. You wonder about the tracks both good and bad that you have left in the lives of your loved ones. Did they get trampled on, or did they simply see a path to follow? In my case, there are both kinds of footprints. There are things I regret and times I thank God I didn’t give in to my anger or selfishness. I treasure the gift of repentance. That wonderful gift of saying, “I’m sorry.” And, trying to walk more softly around the feelings of others. At that stage in life, you look at the footprints others have left, and you are grateful for their examples.
Mother Teresa left tracks of kindness and mercy wherever she went. Abraham Lincoln and George Washington left footprints in American soil that will not be forgotten. Joseph, who was sold into Egypt, impacted the world for good and his name is remembered over the centuries. Moses and his laws are intertwined with our laws even today. Christ left a set of footprints that truly made an impact on society. In fact, He changed the world, and His followers continue to make an impact. The footprint of His divine nature has given light to the world and a path to follow.
I wonder how well I have followed Him. Have I invested enough time in His kingdom to really make a difference? I know investing in His divine nature will make a difference in our own lives and change the world around us. I have learned you can’t purchase or earn divine nature credits. You must foster them by making choices every day by diving into His work and doing the things He did. His work is sometimes not comfortable. It entails loving your enemies, being persecuted, and putting yourself and your selfish desires on the back burner. It is seeking and doing good to everyone around you. Loving your neighbor isn’t just the people next door. It is like a ripple that circles out to include the entire world, including the politicians you disagree with and the people who are making your life miserable. You can love the person but hate their deeds. That is not easy, but it is infinitely easier than carrying a suitcase full of hate that weighs on you every day.
The Apostle Peter explains that through the Lord Jesus Christ’s divine power, He has given us life and godliness and has called us to glory and virtue. He has given us precious promises so we will be able to be partakers of the divine nature and will escape the corruption of this world. Then, he gives nine attributes of the divine nature to which every Christian should diligently strive (found in 2 Peter 1:1-9 KJV).
What is this divine nature? Divine means godly or having to do with God. Nature means the characteristics and personality of a human being. Divine nature means our characteristics and personality are like God’s. As we walk in His divine footsteps, we become more like Him.
Faith is the first principle of a divine nature that will give us the characteristics of a true Christian. We must first believe in Jesus Christ. Jesus spoke many times about a mustard seed, comparing it to faith. A mustard seed is tiny, but it grows into a huge tree. Faith starts out small, sometimes with only a desire to believe, but if you act on faith by praying, reading and applying the Scriptures, your faith will grow until it becomes a tree that cannot be shaken by the winds of false doctrine.
Peter says to "add to your faith virtue." Virtue is the application part of faith. Keeping the commandments builds faith, and the commandments are designed to change the heart and mind, even our very natures. The Ten Commandments are the milk, but the law of Christ, as found in the New Testament, is the meat. Love your neighbor as yourself. Pray for your enemies. Do good to those who despitefully use you and persecute you. Those are commandments that really test our nature and make us grow to be like the master.
Peter suggests we add knowledge to our virtue. Knowledge is proved faith. In other words, we have had experiences that prove what we only believed. We believe God answers prayers, but when we have a specific answer to a prayer, we know God hears our prayers. We no longer have faith in prayer. We have knowledge; we know prayers are answered.
Peter speaks of temperance and patience being added to knowledge. Sometimes answers to our prayers don’t come as quickly as we would like. We have a tendency, in our instant-gratification world, to want perfect knowledge all at once. We don’t want to wait for our little grain of faith to grow into a tree. We expend tremendous amounts of energy in prayer and reading one day, then on other days, we spend little or no time in our quest. I have learned that only long-term habits create long-term results. We need to find balance and wait upon the Lord for His timing. It must be a daily quest, a quietly burning candle, not a firecracker-once-a week explosion of effort. That is the kind of temperance and patience Peter is suggesting.
Godliness, brotherly kindness and charity come next on Peter’s list. It seems strange Peter would use the word “godliness” when that is the final goal of divine nature, but it all seems natural when you think of the saying by William James: “Act the part and you will become the part.” Peter was saying to act like you already have a divine nature even if you are not there yet. Be a Christlike person. Pretend you like to show brotherly kindness until you do. Acts of charity have their own reward. The feeling of love washes over you, and you feel God is pleased with your effort, even if it is not quite with pure intent yet. The more you act in charity and try to purify your motives, the more you become like the Savior, who did everything for the benefit of mankind.
Charity, of course, is the greatest of all the attributes of Christ, and it endures forever.
“Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." (1 Corinthians 13:8-10 KJV).
I would say that when that which is perfect is come, we won’t need Peter’s steps to obtaining a divine nature because we will have obtained it, and all our motives and actions will be pure charity.
Until that time, we need to continue our quest for divine nature until we reach the point of pure charity.
Speaking of the attributes of divine nature, Peter says, “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins." (2 Peter 1:8-9 KJV).
When I think of the greatness and goodness of Jesus, I am overwhelmed. He created the Earth. His hands spanned the starlit heavens. His footprints are upon the sea. He controls the winds and the waves. I am sure snowflakes don’t fall without His notice. He causes it to rain on the evil and the good. A sparrow does not fall to the ground without Him knowing it, and He arrays the lilies of the field with glory greater than Solomon. Becoming like Him is an impossible task here on Earth, but we can leave His footprints. We can make a difference in our little corner of the world. We can pay attention to where we are walking and who we are walking on. It will be difficult, but He has promised that his yoke is easy, and his burden is light.