The Patient Acquisition of Virtue

Feb 7, 2023 | Devotionals

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.  Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4:15-16

A little more than a few years ago, I had the privilege of working as a snowboard coach for a summer ski/snowboard camp. And to this day, it was one of the best jobs that I ever had. Getting to snowboard everyday with kids who were excited to be on the hill learning new tricks…there’s not much that can beat that! 

For me, the best part of coaching was getting to see the lightbulb finally go off for a camper. You know…that moment when everything just clicks for them and they finally land that new trick they’ve been working on for hours/days. Seeing the joy wash over their face makes all of those long hours worth it! It’s what makes coaches come back year-after-year (even with the meager pay). 

But coaching at a summer camp isn’t all fun and games. As a coach, you also have to help curb the expectations of the camper when they come in for the week. You see, at the beginning of each week, as a new set of campers would come flocking in, we would split them off into groups (based on skill level) and ask each of them what they wanted to learn that week. And without fail, each camper would begin to spout off a list of tricks that were far beyond their current skill level. If you’ve ever coached skiing/snowboarding, then you know what I’m talking about. They didn’t want to focus on the basics (that was boring), they wanted to learn the impressive stuff. The “fun stuff.” So it was my job to help the campers set some more realistic goals…so they didn’t end up in the hospital on the second day of camp (I’ve taken more campers to the emergency room than I’d care to remember). In a lot of ways, it was my job to help the campers understand the value of patience. But with young and eager snowboarders, that’s easier said than done. 

And we get that, right? Maybe we’re not trying to learn a bunch of new tricks, but I would venture to say that for most of us…patience is not our favorite virtue. And why would it be when everything around us has been designed to be quick and efficient? 

Recently, I’ve been reflecting on how efficiency has infiltrated and shaped my life. And what I’ve come to realize is that everything that I do is filtered through the lens of efficiency…including my personal walk with Christ. As I look at the “spiritual giants” in my community, I often find myself pining to to be where they’re at…and I want to be where they’re at now. What I often fail to realize, though, is that they often have a couple decades on me. That means that they’ve walked through some things and have experienced some things that have shaped their life and have made their faith what it is today (a faith that has been seasoned with salt and fire). And when I think about that, reality starts to set in. Faith and influence is NOT something that I can rush. The seasoned and mature faith that I admire in these “spiritual giants” takes time. The ability to influence and impact others takes time.  

A few months ago I was reading Eugene Peterson’s book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, and he said something that really convicted me:

One aspect of the world that I have been able to identify as harmful to Christians is the assumption that anything worthwhile can be acquired at once. We assume that if something can be done at all, it can be done quickly and efficiently…There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.

Man, that’s a gut punch. But as hard as that is to read, I think he’s right. We often want to take shortcuts on the road to spiritual maturity. But that’s just not how it works. We can’t rush the work that Christ wants to do in us. A faith that can recognize and resist the temptations and struggles we often face in this world takes time. But that’s a faith worth having. And that’s a faith that will impact and influence others. 

When I think about this kind of faith, I think of Paul’s encouragement to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4. After encouraging Timothy (who is now leading the Church in Ephesus) to live into his spiritual gifts as a pastor/elder, Paul says:

Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. PERSIST in this, for by doing so you will save both yourself and your hearers (1 Timothy 4:15-16, ESV). 

Paul was encouraging Timothy to keep fighting the good fight of faith. He didn’t want Timothy to be discouraged because he was young. He didn’t want Timothy to throw in the towel because he didn’t have the same type of influence that some of the other apostles had. He wanted Timothy to keep living into the basics…day in and day out. Because it would be this persistent and enduring faith/ministry that would impact and save others.

So don’t be that overeager camper who just wants to rush through the basics in order to get to the “impressive” stuff. The faith that you so often admire in others is one that has been tested and tried…over the course of a lifetime. 


  • Who is someone in your life that you admire? Who inspires you? Have you ever sat down with them and heard their story? If not, ask them to join you for coffee and ask them about their life. What can you learn from their story? 
  • Take a moment to reflect on your life and how God has shaped you into the man/woman that you are today. Would your faith/ministry be what it is today if you didn’t walk through some of the difficult stuff that you’ve had to walk through? 
  • Read 1 Timothy 4 and take some notes on how Paul tries to encourage Timothy. What sticks out to you?

By Ryan Leeds|Copper, CO


Sign up for our regular email updates to stay in tune with what’s going on with SFC. We share our latest resources, upcoming events, and the newest happenings in regular email fashion. Right in your inbox.