There are always things we can add to our character, are there not? Some of us are quite "polished", but we still have some rough edges no matter how much "polishing" we do or allow. In order to grow, a tree needs a healthy root system (much like us), but even good roots are nothing if the soil is rocky or the watering is infrequent. Even if we find ourselves rooted in "good stuff", the growth which comes in our lives is incremental - not all at once. Even if you look at an "evergreen" tree - you know, the ones which never seem to lose their leaves - you will find sloughed bark, fallen leaves, and an occasional dead branch. Growth requires both movement toward that which produces life and the shedding of that which embodies death in our lives.
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. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books. (2 Peter 1:5-9 MSG)
Peter is quite determined to tell us what it takes to really be "polished" or growing in the right way. We each get a "start-up" root system at the moment of salvation. We are transplanted, from soil which was resulting in nothing but death, into soil rich with life-giving possibility. In order to grow, we have to "set our roots" into the soil. In other words, we have to anchor ourselves. The strength of our roots determines the stability of our growth. Yet, even in the stability of a good root system, our lives still show signs of stuff which resembles death, don't they? Things like selfish attitudes, critical spirits, or even potty-mouths. These are like the dead bark on the tree - the bark must be shed in order for the tree to expand and grow to its full capacity.
Peter gives some insight into how we shed the dead stuff and begin to exhibit the healthiness of the new growth within. His point is one of replacing the old with the new - shedding the dead, allowing the new to shine through. Easier said than done, huh? Maybe this is why God has created such forces as wind, rain, and even the hot sun. The wind whips the branches, causing the dead leaves to drop and be carried away. The wind has a way of separating the lifeless, does it not? The rain not only nourishes, but it removes the built-up dirt and strips away the things caught in the deep crevices of the branches. The hot sun has a way of putting the new growth to the test - if it endures the scorching, it will stand strong.
There are times when we think of growth as only being the result of the "positive" things in life - like the good soil, the refreshing rains, or the tender hands of the caretaker. Yet, it may just be the less "positive" things which help us to shed the "dead wood" in our lives! There are sometimes gentle winds, other times almost gale force - each serving to detach that which no longer produces life. Winds have a way of "bending" and "whipping" the branches of a tree - stressing it almost to the point of breaking. The "greenest" tree will bend with the forces, but will yield to the wind that which is not important to its growth. We might just take a lesson from the tree! Maybe we'd do a whole lot more growing if we yielded to the winds in our lives those things which are no longer important to our growth!
The rains sometimes are gentle - at others, torrential. The gentle rains might bring out the beauty of the new growth - urging the tender sprouts to take hold. The torrential have a way of working into the crevices where old debris lies hidden - carrying it away under its force. The debris, left to its own devices, would become the breeding ground for harmful critters, and engulfing disease or decay. So, although the rains are forceful, their force provides the "deep-cleaning" the tree so desperately needs. When the rains come, we focus more on the soil than we do what is above the soil, don't we? We think about the good soaking the soil is getting, all the while forgetting the good "cleaning" the "above ground parts" are also enjoying! The rain has some positive effects - inwardly and outwardly - just as the wind.
The heat of the sun may seem a little scorching at times, but without it, our growth would be stunted. It is the sun which causes us to expand our growth. We put off new leaves, not out in the heat of the sun's scorching blasts, but under the cover of the "tested" and larger leaves. Until they take hold a little, they are sheltered under the leaves with greater maturity. The larger leaves are often deeper green, with a firm attachment to the tree. The warmth of the sun's rays urges the tiny new growth forth - allowing the buds of "hoped for" growth to open up under its radiant glow. There is stunted and "anemic" growth apart from the sun. Any part of the tree not well-connected to the root system, or the vibrant growth of the "alive" parts, will not endure the heat of the sun's scorching. In time, it will wither and fall off. Maybe this is the purpose behind some of the "sun-scorching" trials of our lives - just sayin!
Peter puts it well: Complement your faith with...
Growth is not simply sending off new leaves. It is a complementing of each step in the process with the next and the next, until growth is complete. To the small bud on a tree, the value of the wind, rain or sun may not be known, just as we may not know the very things we will need to "complement our faith" in order to make our growth strong and lasting. God controls the wind, rain, and sun - amazingly enough, he controls exactly what we need for the healthy growth in our lives! Just sayin!