Is Your Soul Healthy?
by Sarah Phillips, Crosswalk.com Contributor
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness… For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (
When I first became a believer, I was like the woman with the alabaster jar (
It's easy to beat yourself up, even run from God, when you fall. Out of frustration and shame, I have begged God to rid me of my sinful tendencies. Of course, God didn't instantly heal me with a lightning bolt, but answered me with a different kind of grace. The answer to my prayer came in the form of a Sunday school lesson on "holy habits," more traditionally known as virtues.
Practicing virtue is a lot like lifting weights – it's exercise that builds health in your soul. There are many virtues, but as we learned in class that day, the foundation of all virtues can be found in the four natural virtues or cardinal virtues. These were first articulated by Plato but hardly belong to Plato. They are part of what theologians call “natural law” – God’s design for humanity woven into our beings since the beginning of creation. When a person cultivates these virtues in his or her life, they are cooperating with the Creator’s design for the human soul.
It's important to note here that pursuing a virtuous life is not the same as trying to earn salvation. Our salvation is a gift that flows from God’s grace. But in our Christian journey, it's important to do our part to improve our character so that we can grow in character and more accurately reflect Christ's goodness to the world. Now let's take a closer look at each cardinal virtue:
1. Wisdom: For wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her. (
2. Justice: Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed (
3. Courage: In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence (
4. Temperance: Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control (
So, are any of these virtues lacking in your life? I can see some areas where I am still weak. Thankfully, with God’s grace and a few good decisions, we can grow in our effectiveness and productiveness for Christ.
Identify which cardinal virtue you struggle most with. Ask God for the grace to grow and make one positive change in your behavior this week that will help you develop this "holy habit."
Ref: Kreeft, Peter. “Justice, Wisdom, Courage, and Moderation: The Four Cardinal Virtues”. (c) 1986 Ignatius Press.