When I was four, my family decided we needed to build a tree fort. We bought all the supplies and got to work - and we each had an important role to play to accomplish the world’s greatest tree house. My mom was the money and blueprint designer, my brothers were the muscle and labor, and as a four year old - my role was to just not get in the way and don’t step on any nails. Last week, we discussed God’s role for our spiritual growth is giving us the Spirit and power to be able to live a godly life. It is only by God that we can truly spiritually grow. If that is God’s role in our spiritual growth, what is our role? What role do we play in our own spiritual growth? Let’s pick up where we left off in Second Peter to understand how we contribute to spiritual growth - 2 Peter 1:5-7 says,
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, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.
In our pursuit of growth, Peter says that we must make every effort. We gotta put in the work! If we have genuine faith, and we come to believe in Jesus as our Savior - we can’t just stop there. We must build off that faith to increase in goodness, knowledge, self-control, etc… And btw, Peter says make every effort - not lazy, half-hearted, half-dedicated, God will maybe kinda sorta be a priority in my life type of effort. No, he says, make every effort. Work hard at pursuing excellence in these areas. He continues in verses 8-9 by saying
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. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
If we live out those qualities that Peter listed off, then we will be productive and effective for Jesus! Now… why do we care about being productive and effective for Jesus? Do you care? Why should we care to be effective for Jesus? Well, here’s a good reason: salvation does not depend on good deeds, but it will result in good deeds. If you claim to be saved but remain unchanged, then you do not truly understand faith or what God has done for you. James 2:26 says that faith without deeds is dead. Which means that if you truly are saved, your life will truly be changed - and as a result, you will live out these qualities. Being effective for Jesus is a show that your faith is real and legit, and not fake and meaningless. So, this is important!!
With Peter’s words in mind, what is our role in spiritual growth? Spiritual growth takes work, so do work!! It takes effort to be more like Christ. And the reason it is work, is because that list that Peter gives us - those things do not come naturally to us. We are not naturally righteous in all that we do, we are not born with the Bible downloaded into our brains, and we do not by nature have fantastic self-control. So, what does it practically look like for us do “do work” to spiritually grow? Well, let’s look at that list…
Peter starts with goodness. Choosing right vs. choosing what is wrong. It is making the right decision, when ALL of your friends want to do what is wrong. That is legitimately hard to do, right? It takes work to focus on choosing good. Peter mentions knowledge. Studying (yes, deeply studying not skimming) God’s Word to understand who He is. Studying the character of Jesus to be more like Him. Taking time to memorize Scripture to have it truly imprinted on your heart. That takes effort on your part! Next, we have self-control. Choosing self-control in those moments when you want to lash out with your words. Be self-controlled when you’re alone and tempted to fall into sin. In sports, when it gets competitive and feisty, having self-control to hold back anger. Having self-control takes focus and effort. Perseverance is being able to endure through even the most difficult situations. When times get tough, will you make the effort to stick with your faith? It’s not easy, and certainly will take effort. Godliness, that kind of covers it all, doesn’t it? We are certainly not naturally godly on our own, so will you make the effort to live like Christ? Peter’s list ends here with mutual affection and love. It’s easy to love your friends and family that love you, but what about the people who are jerks to you, who let you down, who backstab you, who are just plain mean - do you truly care about them and love them? That’s hard work.
See how spiritual growth takes effort?? How can we possibly do these things? Well, remember last week - we cannot do any of these things on our own, it is purely relying on God and His power to give us the ability to do this. So we ask God as we read the Bible to reveal knowledge to us. We pray and ask for strength in those moments when we need self-control, to live godly, to love others when it’s tough. We come to our Father for the strength we need to persevere in tough times, because we cannot do it on our own. God will give us all that we need to live a godly life, but He also gives us the responsibility to put in the effort.
So the question is: are you willing to put in the effort? If your answer is yes, that shows genuine faith. And you’ll make mistakes, Peter doesn’t say be perfecta and God doesn’t expect perfection from us, but genuinely caring about your faith and putting in the work shows you are changed. If your answer is no, not really willing, and just plain don’t care - that shows a lazy, don’t care kind of faith that is essentially meaningless and unchanged by the Gospel of Jesus. Where are you at? What is your answer? Are you willing to make every effort to live a godly life and spiritually grow?