Growing in Grace
2. Make Every Effort to Grow
2 Peter 1: 5 - 11
“It is every pilot’s worst nightmare to hear strange sounds coming from a plane. An exploding engine. A cracking exhaust valve. The metallic ping of a bolt sheering under pressure. At 35,000 feet, even the smallest of sounds can signal serious trouble. So it was surely a frightening moment on Monday when an Alaska Airlines pilot heard a banging noise only a few minutes after takeoff.
“The problem wasn’t a broken instrument, however, but rather a drowsy luggage handler. Passengers on the flight from Seattle to Los Angeles were shocked when their plane returned to the airport almost immediately after taking off. They were even more stunned when rescue workers waiting on the tarmac popped open the plane’s cargo hold and removed an airport employee. The employee had apparently dozed off while loading suitcases and woken up in the sky.”
This got me thinking about the Christian life. Some Christians have fallen asleep surrounded by baggage and as a result they’ve been grounded. Friend, you can’t take off spiritually if you’re asleep and you won’t fly if you’ve bedded down with your baggage. We’re going to see today that there can be no coasting for Christians -. v. 5-11.
If you want to take off spiritually, these 3 elements must be present in your life - Add to your faith (5 - 7) Abound in fruitfulness (8 - 9) Assurance of forever (10 - 11)
2 Peter covers a lot of topics but is primarily a book about Jesus Christ. In v. 1 - 4 we learned that we already have everything we need to live life and everything we need to grow in godliness. While we might not have everything we want we already have everything we need. Because of that we’re to unleash God’s power, utilize His promises and undertake our partnership with Him.
Now our focus is on using all that we’ve been given. Peter starts with our position in Christ before moving to our practice as Christians. Once we know about our resources we can focus on our responsibility. To say it theologically, the opening verses deal with our justification and this next section helps us dive into our sanctification. We move from knowing about grace to growing in grace.
This is going to take some work. No sleeping allowed and it’s time to cut the baggage loose. Since God is powerfully at work in you, you yourself must make every effort. Actually that popular phrase, “Let go and let God” is not all that helpful. A better phrase would be this, “Trust God and get going.” We don’t work hard in order to be saved but we work hard because we are saved.
Have you ever looked at a mature believer and wished you could be like him or her? Wouldn’t it be great to know the Bible and be able to pray and lead people to Christ and exhibit joy and peace and goodness and knowledge and self-control and perseverance and godliness and kindness and love? Most of us want instant growth, forgetting that what is behind a godly life is a person who has persevered through pain and problems. Spiritual development only comes through practicing spiritual disciplines like time in the Word, prayer, fellowship, fasting, giving, witnessing and serving.
2 truths to keep in balance -
God is committed to our growth. 1 Corinthians 3: 6, 7: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” God is committed to our growth because He’s the one who planted us. Isaiah 60: 21: “They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendour.” When we grow we show His splendour.
We must be committed to our growth. 2 Peter 3:18: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Paul applauded the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 1: 3: “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.”
Listen. It’s not all up to God and it’s not all up to us. God has designed it so that we work in partnership with Him. Philippians 2: 12, 13 captures our responsibility and God’s role very clearly: “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling [that’s our part]; for it is God who works in you [that’s God’s part] both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
But having said that, it’s not a 50/50 arrangement but a 100/100 deal. We are 100% responsible to grow in discipleship and we are 100% dependent on the Holy Spirit who dwells within us and gives us the grace to grow.
“The choices we make every day program our minds, either for godliness or ungodliness.”Peter is calling us to make 3 choices right now.
1. Add to your faith v. 5 - 7
It’s interesting to me that Peter, who is known from the gospels as a very impetuous man, is here laying out a deliberate and disciplined approach to spiritual maturity. “Faith doesn’t just stand around with its hands in its pockets.”
It’s an attitude of expectancy that leads to immediate action. It’s having diligence that executes decisions with swiftness and priority. It’s the opposite of being a lazy believer or a sleepy spiritual slacker. Let’s remember this: Spiritual growth is intentional, not automatic. These Christian qualities won’t develop accidentally or spontaneously. There’s no way to grow spiritually without deliberately working at it. Jesus is not just an app to download.
We’re to “add” these 7 elements in order to create a harmony of holy living, not grudgingly but generously. Before we look at each one, let me make some observations:
These qualities are character traits of God. This is not a list to keep in order to be saved but qualities that come about as we work out our salvation. We can’t skip the ones we don’t like. We’re called to a diligent and disciplined life. These qualities build on one another - like making a cake. You need all the ingredients and they need to be added in the correct order. We add and God does the multiplying. This is a list of inward character qualities, not outward performance-based activities. This list is different and yet has some similarities to the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. Faith is the foundation. If you don’t have faith, you won’t be able to build on anything of value.
As we go through each one give yourself a “thumbs-up” or a “thumbs-down” for how you’re doing.
Virtue. This can be translated as moral excellence and the courage to do what is right. Someone put it this way: “Your ideal is what you wish you were. Your reputation is what people say you are. Your character is what you really are.” Your character is who you are when no one is looking. How are you doing in growing in virtue? Thumbs up or thumbs down?
Knowledge. Hosea 4:6: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” “What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God. What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment, than anything else? Knowledge of God.” It’s important to know God if you want to grow in God. Are you increasing in knowledge of God?
Self-control. Literally -“To hold one’s self in.” It’s the opposite of self-indulgence. Proverbs 25: 28: “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.” We need to practice self-control with our tongues, our tempers and our temptations.
Perseverance. The idea of enduring when circumstances are difficult. We must work at endurance and remain constant over time so that we persist in the pursuit of godly character. If self-control has to do with physical pleasures, perseverance has to do with pain. This is a challenge because our natural tendency is to pursue pleasure and flee from problems. Are you hanging in there or have you bailed?
Godliness. This refers to practical religion - to have a spirit of reverence and respect for God in all matters so that we walk in view of His greatness. Means to live before the face of God always. How would you grade yourself on godliness?
Brotherly kindness. Love for fellow lovers of God. It’s been said: “To dwell above with saints we love, that will be our glory. To dwell below with saints we know, well that’s another story!” 1 Peter 1: 22 “Love one another deeply, from the heart.” Are you growing in this or headed south?
Love. While we’re to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, we’re also to love everyone. Agape love may involve emotion, but it must always involve action. Love doesn’t say, “I’ll love you if…” or “I’ll love you when…” Love says, “I love you. Full stop.” We don’t wait to “feel” love before loving; we’re to love no matter how we feel. How about it? Thumbs-up or thumbs-down?
Here’s the question. Will you decide to go after these things? And here’s the harder question. Will you discipline yourself to do so?
“How badly do you want to grow in grace? What are you going to stop doing and what are you going to start doing?” Spiritual growth is neither automatic nor inevitable—we must dream and then decide and finally be disciplined and devoted. Here’s some good news. You can grow because you’ve been given all that you need. Now it’s a matter of using all that you have. Be diligent and be disciplined and you will grow by the power of the Holy Spirit.
2. Abound in fruitfulness. v. 8, 9
Peter uses the phrase “these things” twice. What things? The 7 character qualities listed. We’re to “abound” in these things - “to have more than enough; to have a surplus.” When we abound in fruitfulness - 3 things will happen –
We’ll go forward. No believer should be barren. We don’t have to grow colder as we grow older. Do you know if you’re not moving forward with your faith, you’re actually going backward?
We’ll be fruitful. This is not just knowing about Jesus, but actually knowing Him personally. The word “knowledge” here refers to becoming thoroughly acquainted with someone. Jesus put it this way in John 15:5: “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit.”
We’ll be focused. When we’re spiritually sleepy and stagnant we can become “shortsighted,” able only to focus on what’s right in front of us. That can lead to becoming “blind” to what really matters and then we can end up “forgetting” that we’ve been set free from the baggage of our old sins. When these seven character qualities increase, we will be able to see our salvation more clearly.
Add to your faith. Abound in fruitfulness. There’s one more ingredient…
3. Assurance of forever. v. 10, 11
Peter wants us to make sure we’ve really been saved. This is so important that you don’t want to hope or guess or wonder. If you’re not sure you’re saved, you need to settle that right now.
The trapped baggage handler also made a frantic 911 call from his cell phone. When someone picked up he exclaimed, “I’m trapped in a plane.” The stunned dispatcher replied, “You’re where?” The man, with his voice shaking amid the roar of the engines in the background, screamed, “I’m inside a plane and I feel like it’s moving in the air. Flight 448. Can you please get somebody to stop it?” Amazingly, the baggage handler is doing fine and is back on the job.
Friend, call out to God if you’re trapped today. Make the call and He will rescue you and put you back to work. No matter where you are right now, it’s time to take the next step. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been spiritually asleep up until now. Take the next step. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been bogged down with baggage. Take the next step. It doesn’t matter if you feel like your faith has been grounded. We can take steps because Jesus stepped toward us and gave us salvation. And we can do it because He’s given us everything we need for life and godliness.
Spiritual growth is intentional, not automatic. When we add to our faith we will abound in fruitfulness and have the assurance of forever. We have all we need and when we use all that we have we will grow…and it will show.