Everyone wants to be successful – or at least I have yet to meet a person who said they dreamed of being a failure. But what is success? If it is fame and fortune, very few have the ability achieve it. For the follower of Jesus, however, success is measured quite differently. Real success is measured not by worldly standards, but by becoming like Christ. This is achieved by growing spiritually, both in our character and in our relationships. This is something that anyone can attain; it requires no special gifts or abilities.
2 Peter 1:5-7 gives us a recipe for success in the Christian life – a blueprint for spiritual growth. I call this the seven habits of a growing disciple. Peter lists seven things that we are to add to our faith in order to keep moving forward spiritually and to bear fruit for God. They are: virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Peter says that if we keep increasing in these things, we will not be unfruitful as believers (2 Pet. 1:8). On the other hand, if we are lacking in these vital characteristics, we are short-sighted and blind, and in danger of stumbling (2 Pet. 1:9-10).
What, then, are we supposed to do? Peter writes, “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence . . .” So first we are to be diligent, to try our very best. We can’t be half-hearted or lackadaisical in our spiritual lives and expect to grow. Also, notice that what Peter gives is a command: “add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge . . .” etc. But what exactly are these things, and what can we do to add them to our faith? These are important questions, and the focus of this study is to help us find answers to them. My hope is that we can develop habits that will build all of these characteristics into our lives so that we can grow and be fruitful for God. It doesn’t mean that we will achieve anything that the world would count as success, but instead something far greater: that our lives will be pleasing to God.
Finally, it is important to note that spiritual growth is not something we achieve by our own efforts alone. While it does require something from us, it is based upon what God has provided and promised to us. Peter writes that God’s power “has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). He has given us wonderful promises in order that we can partake of his very nature, and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires (2 Pet. 1:4). So we are not “pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps,” but rather we are using the spiritual resources that God has provided through the finished work of Christ and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
In the next post we will look at the foundation of these seven habits, which is faith. It is vital to understand what faith is and how it works in helping us grow spiritually.
Questions for reflection: how successful would you say you are in your spiritual life? How might others who know you well answer that question? How might God answer it?