For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5–8 ESV)
Two of those phrases in particular have stood out: (1) For this very reason, make every effort and (2) For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful. Based on the fact that God has provided everything I need for godly living (vv. 3-4), I am to meet His provision with my cooperation - adding all diligence to increase these virtues in my life (vv. 5-7). The result is that I will be effective & productive in my spiritual walk (v. 8). Paul states it similarly in Philippians 2:12-13 - that we are to “work out” our salvation “for it is God who works in [us].”
Spiritual growth, therefore, is to be intentional. Without effort, discipline, diligence, and intentionally applying & doing what God has told you to do, it won’t happen. Like physical exercise, your spiritual muscles won’t grow stronger unless you “work out.”
At the same time, spiritual growth is mysterious. You can’t track your results like physical exercise. Physically your body changes the more you work out: weight loss, increased strength, longer stamina, faster recovery time, etc. You can track each milestone you hit, or threshhold you break, with a physical workout.
But spiritual growth is different. There is no formula. You cannot input ‘x’ calories, burn ‘y’ calories, and see a guaranteed difference in a matter of weeks. The growth happens over time & through different seasons. Sometimes growth seems easy and obvious. Other times, during a dry spell, it’s not as evident. Then when the season changes, you realize the drought strengthened your roots, and you grew even when your soul felt dormant. Perhaps this is why Jesus used agricultural metaphors to communicate spiritual truths. For example:
“The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.” (Mark 4:26–28 ESV)
Just like a farmer, we put in “every effort” to grow. We scatter the seed of the Word in our lives through Bible reading, through prayer, through corporate worship, through biblical community. We build in normal routines, putting in every effort to do so. Then growth happens and we “know not how.” That’s because behind our “every effort” it is really “only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6–7).
Are you putting in “every effort?” Do you have regular routines & disciplines in which growth can occur? God has already given you all you need for life & godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Therefore, do your part & watch for growth.
- Pastor Jonathan