Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.
The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus.
(2 Peter 1.5-9)
I think we all like to believe that our lives can be of benefit to someone, that we are making a positive difference by being here – it gives us a sense of value, of purpose in our daily routine. In fact, the bible tells us that we are designed for a purpose – to know and be known by God, to enjoy the world he has made for us and to share with one another the love he shows us.
Although that original purpose has been frustrated in part by the rebellion of humanity against God’s authority, still as followers of Jesus, with his life quickening our spirits, we are called to live to share the gospel, by word and deed, and to declare God’s glory until Christ comes again.
Peter’s words in the passage at the top of this blog are a challenging piece of instruction for early believers in how they might become more and more equipped to fulfill God’s purpose in their lives – and they apply equally to me today.
It is all very well to be transported through music and meditation into a state of rapture as I worship God, but if my faith only ever produces private pleasures, then it is not something to be proud of. I may be comforted in times of weariness and loss by the knowledge of Jesus love for me, but if that same love is never shared by me with others, then I am being utterly selfish and un-Christlike in my response to His grace.
Yes, indeed, God has been pleased to call me His own, to grant me faith, to forgive and restore me to His family. But the story is so much bigger than that! I am a tiny little part of a great Redemption narrative that includes all of creation and all time, and in which I have a role to play in the lives of many other people. My personal salvation is NOT the end of the story, but only a little sub-paragraph, which should see me joining in with a great multitude of God’s people to fulfill His purposes and ultimately to fall in worship before Him.
I am saved for a purpose; to be – in whatever situation He chooses to place me – the person He calls me to be. I am to accept that what might feel like very hard situations for me personally, will ultimately be for the blessing of others – and I am especially to accept that I may never know how God chooses to use me in those situations.
I am not God, I cannot see all the implications of every situation, and so I cannot possibly see how He is working all things together for His purposes – but I can choose to trust His word when He promises that He is doing that very thing.
And so I come back to the list which Peter wrote, of qualities of Christian character which can be deliberately cultivated, and which will help me to be productive for Jesus – in whatever ways He chooses to use me. I need all of these, need to grow in cheerful perseverance, in knowledge of God and His word, so that I might serve Him faithfully and steadily.
I thank God that it is by His power at work in me, that these qualities are developed – although I certainly need to play my part. I thank God that He sees my desire to be more like Christ, and forgives my frequent failures to do so! I pray for the steadiness of spirit which will allow me to travel on, a pilgrim on a quiet path, trusting Him to be with me and for me at every step of the way. May John Bunyan’s beautiful words be more and more true for each of us in the days ahead:
Who would true valour see? Let him come hither;
One here will constant be, come wind, come weather;
There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent to be a pilgrim.
(John Bunyan 1628-88)