(2 Peter 1: 5-11, NLT) 5 In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. 8 The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins. 10 So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. 11 Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We’ve all been to school. We all know that at some point during our careers as students, we must to respond to our teachers. But what does it mean to respond? Is a response simply a feeling we get from hearing or seeing something? Webster’s Dictionary defines the word respond as, “to say something in return; to react in response; to be answerable.” To respond to something, one must take action. In school this constitutes raising your hand, following directions, writing or saying something significant…in a nutshell, you are engaging (in some active way) in the life of the classroom.
Our lives are our classrooms. When we are immersed in the act of living, we experience growth. As Christians we should be seeing growth in our spiritual lives. I think sometimes it is easy to get frustrated and discouraged with this aspect of our walks with Christ, because we seem to be operating under the misconception that spiritual growth sort of just happens organically. Somewhere along the way, we have come to believe that simply reading and hearing God’s word, and having feelings or interpretations about it, are enough to stimulate growth. Wrong! James 1: 22-25 tells us plainly, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”
A response requires that we do. It is active. It’s like a group project at school…each member has to do his/her own part in order to have a completed mission. Well…God has done, and continues to do, His part. He created us, He sent His son to die as a sacrifice for our sins and failures, and He continually provides for us, blesses us, and spreads his grace like a thick, healing balm over every aspect of our lives. He’s given us His word, and the one thing He requires from us is that we RESPOND to it. We must respond by supplementing our faith with actions, and by working hard to prove that we are indeed called and chosen.
Just as it does in any part of life, hard work put forth in our spiritual lives can and will only produce positive things. God has given us His word, but we have to do the work that is required in order to benefit from it. As a result, we become disciplined, developed, mature and wise. Our weaknesses are built into strengths. Our minds and spirits, filled with the word of God, become useful and productive.
I think, for the most part, we all want to be useful. It feels good to know you helped someone out, or that you were able to be a productive part of something great in life. When my son was about three years old, we would often begin our mornings to the tune of Thomas the Tank Engine, a resourceful and good-intentioned little blue steam engine, whose sole desire is to be useful. There is even an entire song dedicated to his usefulness called, “He’s a Really Useful Engine!” (No kidding!) Thomas sometimes makes mistakes and creates a mess of things, but his intentions are always honorable, he always works hard to find a way to fix the problem of the day, and he learns from his mistakes. It might seem like a silly comparison, but we ought to be like Thomas the Tank Engine. We all have a purpose and the ability to be useful, but we have to grow into it and learn how to fulfill it.
In Jeremiah 29: 11, God promises us: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Our hope and the future that God sees for each of our lives, are both built on His word, but also on the foundation that our actions and responses to His word provide. Without that foundation, we sink into the sludge of complacency and immaturity. We stay blind. Worse still, we forget our salvation! I remember when I was a kid, every night I would go to bed and say the same prayer, asking the Lord to forgive me of my sins and to please not send me to hell if I happened to die in my sleep. Essentially, in my spiritual immaturity, I was praying for salvation over and over again. I didn’t yet have any wisdom or knowledge to give me the confidence and blessed assurance that comes from a deeper understanding of God’s grace in Christ. I had to mature in my faith, through active participation and response to God’s word. As a result, I grew past my insecurities and daily failures, which enabled me to focus more on the bigger picture of my purpose and future.
You see, when we are actively pursuing spiritual growth in Christ, we no longer have to worry about our salvation. It just isn’t an issue. We don’t ever have to wonder, because God has promised that if we have faith and back that faith with hard work, “Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:11)
So sit up, pay attention, work hard and (like Thomas the Tank Engine) grow and seek to be a “really useful engine.”
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I recognize that I can always do better when it comes to taking responsibility for my own spiritual growth. Help me to have the endurance and fortitude to move forward when I am complacent. Help me to be open to Your word and to actively respond to it. Amen.