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 1:5-8)
If you have ever started a 'project', then realize it sits unfinished some months later, you are not likely alone in that 'project completion' cycle. Many of us are great at 'making starts', but then somewhere down the road it all fizzles out. Why? We began with all the gusto in the world, but somehow that gusto didn't carry us along to the finish line. We wearied, got distracted, lost interest - whatever the 'excuse' - there is sits in that 'unfinished state'. It might not be all that bad if we were restoring an old table, but when it comes to 'restoring' this old sinful life of ours, we cannot let that project fall into the 'unfinished state'! We have to keep at it.
Our faith has to reach the place of 'completion' - not that I have any idea what that will look like for me, let alone you, but I present Christ as an example we can ALL follow. As he walked this earth, what did we see exhibited in him? We certainly saw repeated record of his good character, didn't we? He was spat upon, whipped, beaten, skin torn to shreds, and do you know his response? "Father, forgive them." He was ridiculed for healing on the Sabbath, misunderstood as a son of Satan, and do you know his response? He continued to heal, embraced the sinners, and never wavered. Why? He was a man of 'solid character'. He expressed tremendously generous love in all he did - even when he needed to encounter sin head on.
We all likely want some greater amount of spiritual understanding. We might even believe owning a leather bound Bible, carrying it to church on Sundays, opening it while the sermon is preached, and taking a few notes to boot will help us develop that 'understanding'. I think we might think we will somehow get this understanding in the passages we read, but trust me on this one - it isn't what we read - it is what we study, apply, study again, and reapply that helps develop our spiritual understanding. We don't get deeper understanding by casual acquaintance with the Word of God - we get it by deliberate effort.
My daughter told me she prayed for patience - I asked her why? She said she needed it to deal with a couple of head-strong young men growing up under her roof - my grandsons. I reminded her to pray for patience is to welcome something she may not have wanted - tribulation. She paused for a moment while I explained that is what scripture proclaims as what produces patience in our lives, so she may not want to pray for patience as much as she prays for a spirit of endurance. God will help her endure the challenges of parenting teens - by helping her to develop spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, and even generous love. Endurance is the ability to stand without compromise - what more could a parent ask for from God?
We somehow equate spiritual growth to those 'great moments' when we experience those huge changes in our lives, but I want to point us toward the daily 'grind' of 'finishing the project' at hand. Those 'finished projects' within our lives lead to the next project and then the next. As we grow in small ways we are growing in larger ways than we might imagine. Grow, learn, grow again, and then relearn it all anew. We aren't going to ever be finished with this spiritual growth until Jesus comes and takes us home with him! Just sayin!