The Everyday Decisions
When my husband and I were in our early twenties, we decided to run a half marathon. It seemed reasonable to us that two couch potatoes could become runners during the twelve weeks of training, but that was an assumption built on the idea that we would actually complete all of the training. In truth, we completed less than half of it. (What can I say? It was 2006, and we had just discovered Netflix.) The race was a disaster. We dealt with muscle cramps, knee pain, low blood sugar, stomach problems, and more. My toes were bleeding by the time we limped across the finish line, and my husband promised he would never agree to such madness again.
Runners run. They don’t hope one day they’ll wake up and feel like running. They run when they feel like it, and more importantly, when they don’t. Anything we want to learn and grow in doesn’t happen in one big decision but in thousands of little ones. I could have been a marathon runner if I’d made the everyday decisions to run and train on all the days between sign-up day and race day. It wasn’t enough to sign up for the race and hope I’d eventually drift toward athleticism.
We have similar expectations about our spiritual health sometimes, don’t we? I’ve found it to be a common sentiment among harried, busy Christians that the next season of life will find them more disciplined, more faithful, more devoted to Christ simply because they’ll be older and wiser with the passage of time. If only they can just get through these next few hectic years on a string of emergency prayers and a smattering of verse-of-the-day emails!
I’ve had those expectations, and I’ll be the first to tell you it simply doesn’t work that way. Stumbling across the finish line with bloody feet taught me the value of daily investment for a desired outcome. Our perseverance in spiritual growth requires daily decisions of investment, and the good news is that God has given us everything we need.
Everything We Need for Life and Godliness
Knowing that God has promised to complete the work he began in us, we are well equipped to practice perseverance, as Peter explains in his second epistle:
“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. 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 1:3–7)
Because God has given us his “precious and very great promises,” Peter encourages believers to supplement faith with godliness, knowledge, steadfastness, and self-control—all of which have a direct impact on our relationships with other believers. He underscores his exhortation with a warning:
“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)
If you are making every effort to grow in the knowledge of Christ and in godliness, then you are bearing the fruit of true faith in him, and you will “never fall.” However, if you are not eager to diligently “confirm your calling,” then you may be blind to your true spiritual condition. While many of us endure seasons of spiritual dryness, the long-term patterns of neglect should give us pause about our spiritual condition.
If we spend much of our lives resistant to pursuing godliness in the ways God has given us, then we might be deceiving ourselves as to whether we have been cleansed from our sins through Christ. If we have been cleansed, then we should long to become like the one who did the cleansing! The power of God within us aids us in our endeavors to grow in godliness, and through the habits of grace we can supplement our faith, building it up with effectiveness and fruitfulness.
Habits of Grace
With the help and investment of God, the path to spiritual maturity and growth begins and travels through the pages of Scripture and prayer, both individually and within the community of faith. The apostle Paul said that every word of Scripture is breathed out by God, divinely inspired by him and without error. His Word is wisdom unto salvation, and after that, for sanctification (see 2 Timothy 3:16). To follow Jesus on day one, look to him in the Word. To follow Jesus on day 9,412, look to him in the Word. The words of the Lord are for both our salvation and our sanctification.
In his book on spiritual disciplines, Donald Whitney says, “We find in Scripture how to live in a way that is pleasing to God as well as best and most fulfilling for ourselves. None of this eternally essential information can be found anywhere else except the Bible. Therefore if we would know God and be godly, we must know the Word of God—intimately.”1 And Paul tells us godliness comes by being trained in God’s Word:
“If you put these [teachings] before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:6–8)
Do you see how faithfulness is tied to godliness? And how godliness is tied to God’s Word? Being trained by the words and good doctrine of the Lord requires being rooted in those words and doctrine. The resulting benefits aren’t just for this life but for the one to come. Discipline for the purpose of godliness keeps us faithful on all the days between the first day of following Christ and the day we see him face-to-face, ensuring us that we will see him face-to-face. Those are very long-term benefits! Christ’s finished work on the cross is sure, but our perseverance in knowing God through his Word and prayer reveals and refines our genuine faith.
Footnote: Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 28.
Today we are giving away three copies of Glenna's new book! You can win a copy by simply commenting on this post. Let us know your favorite verse of Scripture, something you're learning lately, or truth you cling to consistently in a comment below. We'll pick three women to mail a copy of Everyday Faithfulness. (Available only for residents in the contiguous United States.)