Whether it’s a little baby trying to take its first steps, or a small calf trying to stand up for the first time, or a little sparrow perched on the edge of the nest and looking at the huge drop-off and thinking about trying to fly, growing up is not easy. When it comes to spiritual growth that too is a complicated, sometimes seemingly convoluted experience of trying to become more and become all that God wants you to be.
Peter writes about this in 2 Peter 1. He tells us that we should add to our faith experience of coming to know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Where do you go from there and what do you do beyond that? Well, Peter says add to it and he gives a whole list of additions that need to be in your spiritual life. “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity” (2 Pet. 1:5-7). It’s worth the time and thought process to walk through that incredible list and see where you might be in your spiritual growth for growing up is not an easy thing.
My youngest grandson recently turned five. He was excited about growing up and he was anticipating becoming five. On his actual birthday, we were having lunch with his family and he was the star of the hour. He was enjoying it. At one point, he was sitting at the table and staring down at his feet. He looked to his mom and said, “Now when am I going to be five?” She said, “Today. This is your birthday.” “But when am I going to be five?” “Well, you’re five right now. Today is when you turn five years old.” He looked back down at his feet and you could see a puzzled look on his face of confusion, consternation, and concern. He looked back at his mother and said, “Well my feet still look four.” I glanced over at his feet and sure enough he was right. They looked almost identical to what they did the day before. It’s a reminder to all of us to remember that growth is gradual and usually slow.
Occasionally, you will see someone who has come to a dramatic conversion, and in a matter of weeks seems to be a spiritual giant. It may be true that they quickly acquired a lot of knowledge and information and spiritual insight about some of life’s needs and scriptural expectations, but in time you begin to understand that all of these things quickly remembered have not been fully implemented in all aspects of life. It is not a criticism; it’s just reality that growth is often slow.
In my yard I have some Bradford Pear trees that I planted over twenty years ago. Early on they took off, grew up, branched out, added limbs, sprouted beautiful flowers in the spring, and provided a bunch of leaves in the fall. While Bradford Pear trees grow fast, they also begin to diminish faster than some trees. In the same yard I have some beautiful maple trees that I planted about the same time. They are nice looking trees but grow very slowly and are only a small percentage of the size that the Bradford Pears have become, yet they keep on being strong and increasing in size and beauty when their leaves turn in the fall. Not always, but sometimes the strongest growth is the slow growth.
According to Peter’s instructions, we need to be reminded that growth is often compartmentalized. There are different facets of growth. To grow in virtue or knowledge, temperance or patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, love – they’re all to be added but they’re very different and different in the kind of impact they have on our lives spiritually. While here in 2 Peter 1, Peter is giving us his last word and he is concerned about spiritual growth, it is probably of helpfulness and insight to look at his life as he talks about the spiritual increase. I suppose of all the disciples Peter is the one of which we can be most critical, but I don’t intend this to be criticism but maybe thoughtfulness for us. Two thoughts come to mind about his spiritual growth:
n We may think we’re bigger than we actually are. I think that because when Jesus was going to the cross, Peter took his stand to say he would never deny the Lord. Others may forsake Him but he would be there — dependable, loyal, committed, trustworthy, the last man standing. It did not work out quite that way.
n The other thought is that at other times we see ourselves as far less than we really are and we allow those deficiencies and those disappointments and that stumbling and bumbling way we have sometimes to keep us from moving forward with the Lord. You see, God had in mind for Peter to be tapped as a preacher for the day of Pentecost. While you may have never messed up, you may know some folks who took a wrong turn or said something they shouldn’t have or developed a bad attitude or lived in the cold, cloudy atmosphere of unforgiveness or just dramatically denied Jesus.
None of those places are places where you should stop, park on the side of life’s journey, and never grow any more. Let this day — right now — be the day of new thoughts, new beginnings. Start with your sweet relationship with Jesus and today ask Him to help you grow and add to your faith, virtue and knowledge, temperance and patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. If you can’t handle all of them, pick out one of them and let God do a work in your life today.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.