“So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others.” – 2 Peter 1:5-7 (from The Message)
I remember a few summers back, while making some new signs for our camp in Maine – one for the mouth of the driveway, two more to place at key places along the camp road – Lisa asked her father if he had anything we might be able to use for a signpost. She imagined that he might have an old fence post lying around somewhere; but what he came up with instead was this seven-foot-plus rusty iron pipe that was 50 pounds if it weighed an ounce!
Needless to say, it was much more than we needed! Nonetheless, I was fascinated with this old hunk of rusty iron – it turned out that at one time it had been used as a property line marker, denoting the corner of a house lot somewhere. So this long, heavy pipe had once been sunk deeply into the ground, and as far as anyone who ever saw it knew, it was only about five or six inches high – because that was all you could see of it. But of course, looks are deceiving, and anyone who tried to pull it from the ground would find that this post was ever strong and unyielding.
It’s always seemed to me that this served as a pretty good parable – for while we don’t always know everything God is doing, and we’re not always aware of God’s presence and strength when we are in the midst of trouble, God is still there for us with a kind of depth that we cannot even begin to see. Ultimately, all we know is that when the earth shakes beneath our feet – as it will for each of us, sooner or later – we remain steady and sure, for we are firmly anchored to the solid rock of God’s truth in Jesus Christ, truth that runs very deep indeed. So hold on tight, says Peter in the Epistle quoted above, and “participate in the life of God.” (vs. 4)
And yet, faith is not merely about holding on to what we know, is it? It’s also about growing in that knowledge, building our very lives upon the anchor that keeps us secure. To nurture qualities of goodness, knowledge, self-control and love within us can only serve to enhance and deepen our faith. These virtues make us more effective and productive Christians in the world, and hey, let’s face it; they make us better people, fully alive and joyfully aware in every moment of who and whose we are. As Peter puts it, “With these qualities active and growing in your lives…no day will pass without reward;” conversely, without them “you can’t see what’s right before you.”
That’s good for us to remember, because the hard truth is that there are a great many Christians who become so deeply anchored as to become immobilized! By that I mean that there are those who truly believe and understand the rudiments of our faith, and who sincerely seek to live out of that faith in a meaningful way – but who, sadly, are unable or unwilling to allow for any real spiritual growth, which only happens when we are open enough to let God’s Spirit move in and through us.
Therein lies the danger: you and I might well be pillars of faith, but if we are not actively and continually about the business of learning and relearning what it means to live that faith, seeking out ways to apply faith to life’s challenges and our relationships with others; if you and I are not about spiritual growth, then we run the very real risk of drifting far away from that anchor to which we should be clinging.
Don’t get me wrong; most days it is more than enough for us to simply “stand firm in the Lord.” But then there are days when the storms of life hit hard, and we will need to find the means to withstand everything that comes. Likewise there are the many unexpected situations that arise that force us to reorder our priorities and reevaluate everything else we’ve always held to be true, and we will need help in keeping proper focus as we move forward – and that comes from actively and sincerely seeking to grow in our knowledge of the Lord and the practice of his teachings, that we might find the strength we need to stand firm, developing holy and godly lives as we do.
It does happen by God’s grace and the movement of his Spirit; yet admittedly, this isn’t altogether easy. As with all with all good things, true spiritual growth takes time: a lifetime, in fact. It takes study and prayer for you and I to find the kind of spiritual depth that helps live with faith and integrity, along with the flexibility required to move how and where God would move us. But we need to begin – in fact, these days of summer might well be a perfect moment of opportunity for us to renew ourselves to the effort!
Because make no mistake, the end result is worth it: “Do this,” Peter concludes, “and you’ll have your life on a firm footing, the streets paved and the way wide open into the eternal kingdom of our Master and Savior Jesus Christ.” (vs. 10-11) So might it be for all of us!