Big Idea: We grow by relying on what God has given us, and then taking steps to grow.
It’s the classic question: How can I get from here to there?
- How can I get from couch potato to the best shape of my life?
- How do I get from broke student with no job to the corner suite?
- How do we get from an idea — say, a dream vacation to Hawaii — to actually sitting on Waikiki Beach?
I don’t think there’s a person here who is satisfied with life as it is right now. We all want to go from where we are right now to some desired state in the future. We want better health, relationships, and to be closer to God.
The real question: How do we get from where we are right now to where God wants us to be?
Why This Is Important
That’s the question I want to ask today. Let’s face it: a lot of us are in the before side of the equation and don’t know how to move forward.
Oh sure. We know the theory. Is there anyone who doesn’t know that the secret to getting in shape is to eat better and to work out more? Or that the secret to taking that dream vacation is to plan it out, and then to spend less and save some of our money for our trip?
The problem isn’t that we lack knowledge. The problem is that we seem to lack the power to do what we need to do. We want to grow, and we need more than just steps. We need help so that we can actually do what we know we should be doing.
And that’s where today’s passage is going to help us.
The passage we just read answers the question: How do we grow? I’m not just talking about how to grow spiritually. I’m talking about how to grow in every area of our lives, because God cares about every part of your life. God cares about your soul, and he also cares about your emotions, your relationships, your work life, your family, and your physical health. God cares about it all. God doesn’t just want part of your life. He wants all of it.
So there’s the question: How do we grow in every part of our lives?
Peter answers that question. And I’m so grateful for how he answers, because he doesn’t just give us a list of things to do. Peter’s answers provide clear, practical advice and the power we need to do what we know we should.
How do we grow in every part of our lives? Two answers.
God gives us everything we need to grow (1:3-4).
I’m so glad that Peter doesn’t begin with something that we need to do. Instead, Peter begins with what God has already done for us.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3-4)
Peter was a close friend and follower of Jesus. He was an eyewitness of Jesus’ life and ministry. Now, near the end of his life, he writes to Christian friends to remind them of some truths that they are likely to forget.
And without fanfare, he launches into one of the most important truths that we need to know: God gives us everything we need to grow. Peter makes it clear: the foundation for our growth is God’s power and grace. God gives us everything we need to grow.
Let’s break this down a little.
- “His divine power” — What kind of power gives us what we need? I’m always running into people who run out of power. “I called you. Why didn’t you pick up your phone?” “My battery ran out.” Or, we experience what’s become the story of my life. We set out to accomplish a whole bunch of things, but before we can get through the list we find ourselves depleted, and we have to save the rest of what we had planned for another day. That’s not what Peter is talking about. He’s not talking about our puny power. Peter says that we have a limitless power supply available to us. We have access to God’s own power, a power that never runs out. God never gets tired. His power never gets depleted. God’s limitless power is available to help us grow.
- “has granted to us” — How do we get this power? Well, it’s like when a student fills out an application for student aid. If they qualify, they’re given a grant. They don’t earn it. They never have to repay it. It’s simply given to them free of charge. That’s exactly how we get God’s power. We don’t deserve it. We don’t earn it. God simply grants it to us. Our only qualification is need.
- “all things” — This is pretty cool. How much of what we need does God give us? Does God say, “I’ll give you 80%, but then the rest of it is up to you?” No. Peter says that God gives us all things. God doesn’t hold back. There is nothing we need that God doesn’t give to us. He gives us absolutely everything we need.
- “that pertain to life and godliness” — I love how comprehensive this is. There is nothing in your life that this does not cover. God gives us everything we need for every part of our earthly lives, and he also gives us everything we need to grow in our love for him and our holiness. He offers transformation in every part of your life right now, and hope for the age to come. God doesn’t just help us to grow spiritually. He helps us to grow in every part of our lives.
God gives us everything we need to grow in every part of our lives. We don’t have to earn it. It’s available to all of us. We don’t need to rely on our power; we need to rely on God’s power, because it will give you everything that you need.
How do we all of this? Peter tells us in verse 3: “through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” How do we get what we need to grow? By knowing God.
What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God. What is the eternal life that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God. “This is life eternal, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment than anything else? Knowledge of God. “Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me” (Jeremiah 9:23). What, of all the states God ever sees man in, gives him most pleasure? Knowledge of himself. “I desire … the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings,” says God (Hosea 6:6).… Once you have become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord. (J.I. Packer, Knowing God)
Here’s what you need to know about learning how to grow.
You don’t grow by trying to grow. You grow by getting to know God.
If you try to grow on your own, you will be stuck trying to grow on your own power. The problem with your power is that it’s limited. You won’t get very far before you run out.
When you focus instead on knowing God — on making him the priority of your life, making sure you’re in relationship with him, relying on him, and getting to know him better — then he will unleash his power in your life, and you will grow.
We don’t need to rely on our own power to grow. That never works in the long run. The key to growth is knowing God. When he know him, he gives us everything we need to grow.
Which is why I need to ask you: Do you know God? I don’t assume that, just because you’re here today, that you know him. You can go to church for years and not really know him.
Here’s what I want to ask. Are you in relationship with him? Have you thrown yourself on what Jesus has done for you in giving his life for your sins? Do you daily depend on him? Would you say that you know Jesus — not just about him, but that you really know him like you know a friend? Are you growing in your knowledge of him by reading what he’s revealed, and spending time with him?
Make sure that you do. You were made to know God and to live in relationship with him. Don’t leave today without knowing God and trusting in what Jesus has done. Knowing God is the most important thing you could do with your life. Come to him today. Ask him to receive you. He will welcome you. He will invite you into the lifelong adventure of knowing him.
How do we grow? God gives us everything we need, so we don’t have to rely on ourselves.
But that’s not all. Peter gives us another answer to how we can grow.
We can take small steps to grow (1:5-11).
What I’ve just said is so important. If you don’t know God, if you don’t rely on everything that he gives us, then you will never grow like he wants you to. God gives us everything we need, so we don’t have to rely on ourselves.
But that doesn’t mean we’re passive.
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)
Peter gives us a series of steps that we need to take if we’re going to grow. It’s going to take effort, Peter says, but with God’s help we can take these steps.
What are they?
Peter says we’re to supplement our faith. What he means is this: If we really are depending on God’s power to give us everything we need, then this must work itself out in some very practical ways. We must rely on God’s resources if we’re going to grow. And when we rely on these resources, we’ll take some steps to grow.
Peter lists some of those steps here. He lists them like a chain. It’s really a sketch of the character God produces in us as we grow. He lists eight virtues that will be true of us as we grow:
- Faith — trusting God, which is where it all begins; this is where all the other virtues come from
- Virtue — moral excellence, which means that we change from the inside out
- Knowledge — growth in our knowledge of God
- Self-control — the ability to restrain ourselves from sinful desires
- Steadfastness — to stay faithful not just for a short time, but over the long haul
- Godliness — living a godly life
- Brotherly affection — which ties in closely to the last virtue
- Love — the virtue that sums up all other virtues
Peter tells us to take steps to add these to our lives. “Make every effort…” But we don’t need to be overwhelmed. We need to keep deepening our knowledge of God, and then with the resources he gives, we can gradually grow these virtues in our lives.
I love how Peter concludes:
For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.
Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:8-11)
These qualities are essential. Without them, we can’t really say that we belong to Jesus. But they’re gradual. Peter mentions that they can be ours and increasing. We don’t need to be perfect. We just need to stay close to Jesus, and then to make every effort to add these virtues to our lives.
I love this tension. How do we grow? We don’t grow on our own. That could never work! We grow by relying on the resources that God makes available to us. But then we make every effort to add virtue to our lives, to take small steps to grow.
How do we grow? By relying on Jesus, or by working hard? Yes. Both. We grow by relying on what God has given us, and then taking steps to grow.
So let’s revisit the question we started with. How do we get from here to there? How do we get from our current state — whatever that is — to become the people that God wants us to be?
There are two answers:
- God gives us everything we need — so we don’t have to rely on ourselves.
- We can take small steps to grow — so we don’t need to feel overwhelmed.
Some people think we grow simply by relying on God. Others think we grow by trying harder. Peter says we need both. Both go really So how do we grow? We grow by relying on what God has given us, and then taking steps to grow.
Do you want to grow? I believe you do.
Don’t try to grow on your own power. It will never work. Rely on what God has given us. He’s given us everything we need for life and godliness. He has an infinite supply of what you need to grow. Throw yourself today on Jesus who promises to give you everything that you need.
Based on that power, take steps to grow. Make every effort. Work at things like becoming godly, knowing God more, and loving others. Use the resources that God provides to make changes in your life. It will be a gradual process, but remember that you’re not alone. He will give you everything that you need.
The result, according to Peter: they will keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of God, and you will never fail, and “there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”