If you have ever had a job, or a difficult project to complete, the hardest moments are the best times to focus on a much anticipated end goal. As a kid growing up in Wisconsin, I had a paper route. Not a super fun job, especially in the winter when I had to deliver 80 papers in 3.5 feet of snow. It was in those difficult moments that I focused on my end goal: I was going to receive a paycheck, and then I would be able to go to the movies with my friends and save up for my first guitar. Spiritual growth, from what we’ve been talking about, takes some serious effort and hard work. And in the times when things are spiritually tough, what is the end goal that we can focus on and be reminded of? What is the point of all this spiritual growth?
To recap briefly, the last two weeks we have looked at 2 Peter 1:3-9, and we have learned that we can only spiritually grow on God’s strength. We just do not have the ability to defeat sin and become more like Christ on our own - we need God’s power for that. We also discussed that although we can only grow on God’s strength, God does however give us the responsibility to put in some serious effort by putting in the effort to build on godly character. We know that God gives us everything we need to live a godly life and we have some effort to put in to live godly, so what is our end goal? What is the point of growth? Let’s continue with 2 Peter 1:10-11, which says this:
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Peter repeats this phrase “make every effort” -- really letting us know the significance of spiritually growing, and he says to do it to “confirm your calling and election.” In other words, Peter says that if you truly belong to the Lord, your hard work will prove it. If you play sports and you want to be the best player on the field, your hard work will prove it. If you want to excel in school and get into a top university, your hard work will prove it. If you want to be a Christian and serve Christ, your hard work and diligence living a godly life will be the proof of that. It's necessary to put in that hard work if your faith is truly important to you.
The last three weeks of studying spiritual growth culminates in verse 11 -- Peter says that if we do these things, we will receive a rich welcome into Heaven. Visualize what that will be like. Literally, right now, close your eyes (well, don’t just yet, keep reading… but visualize when you’re done reading this). Think about what that will be like, when your heart beat stops, and you are approaching a place of perfect paradise - that not everyone is accepted into… And you approach Jesus, and He looks at you with arms open to give you a huge hug, and He says, “I love you so much, well done good and faithful, come on in!” I mean, c’mon, that’s going to be incredible!
What is the end goal of putting in all this effort to spiritually grow? Work towards a warm welcome! That warm welcome into an eternal paradise with a God who loves you more than you could ever know - that is what we are working towards! That’s what all the effort and hard work is leading to. And that makes the hard work and effort totally worth it (if you don’t know what hard work I am talking about, read last week’s blog — we have effort to put in, trust me!
Now, what does this mean for our everyday life, to “work towards a warm welcome”? Well, I think when things are going good, these reminders are totally necessary for inspiration and motivation. And when I say “good,” I mean spiritually good - you’re spending time with Jesus in His Word and in prayer, you’re loving Him, loving others, living self-control, making wise decisions, etc. It’s when times are tough, when spiritually growing feels like really hard, next to impossible kind of work, and you feel distant from God — that’s when this end goal reminder is super motivating. I’d suggest making 2 Peter 1:10-11 your champion verse. When you know you’re in a valley, bust out this verse - read it, memorize it, focus on it. Read the phrase “receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” and visualize it, remember that is a reward that you are working towards.
Spiritual growth is important. If you expect to be welcomed into God’s eternal kingdom, you must pursue spiritual maturity. Faith cannot be a decision you make with zero life change - that is not genuine faith at all. No one is expected to be perfect, yes we will all continue to make mistakes — but are you putting in effort to spiritually grow? Don’t let your faith be one that is a flippant decision that’s left in the past — it is a lifelong process of becoming more and more like Christ, dying to self, living for Him the best you can. That is my hope and prayer for everyone who reads this passage, has been coming on Sunday mornings, and who reads this blog - because I want to enjoy that end goal - that eternity in God’s Kingdom - with all of you!