Yours and Increasing

Christians grow. Growing is a regular part of a Christian’s life. We want to see our faith supplemented so that we can love others well.

In 2 Peter 1:5, Peter calls us to give attention to this: “make every effort…supplement your faith…” But, to be clear, what does this involve? What does “supplementing our faith” mean?

“For if these qualities are yours and increasing…” 2 Peter 1:8

It means that we make “these qualities yours.” And it means that “these qualities…are increasing” in our lives. Because Christians grow.

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18)
What does it mean to “make it yours”? It means that we own our need for that attribute.  For example, do you have an idea what specific traits the Spirit is working to produce in you? What do the people around you pray for you? Patience? Self-control? Steadfastness? Kindness?

To make “these things yours” means that we take the time to recognize what we need. And we accept it; we own the fact that we lack it. And then, we “make every effort” to supplement our faith with it. We pray about it. We study it. We get accountability. We prayerfully set goals, if applicable. We track it. And when it becomes ours, we give thanks for it.

But it doesn’t stop there. “These qualities are yours and increasing.” This is a polite, holy apostle-way, to say: you need more than you think you do. “I’ve only punched three holes in the drywall this month as opposed to seven last month! I’m like a Super-Patient-Man!” (slow clap)

Keep growing. Christians grow. They pray for “increasing.” It’s not enough to be “not-jerks”; we want to be kind, patient, and generous souls.

Here’s a good place to address a problem. What is the difference between this—growing in Christ-like holiness—and “self-improvement”?

We are awash in self-improvement—from Tony Robbins to Tim Ferriss, from Oprah Winfrey to Marie Kondo. Gurus help us “imagine a better you” and Technicians help us tweak our way there. Is this what Peter has in mind? Is he saying, “Yes, the Bible and stuff, but don’t forget about all the positive-thought energy in the universe and how you can claim it for an actualized future.”

This passage gives us some big differences. But first, let’s admit to some contact between holiness and self-help. There’s a reason why it’s so confusing.

For example, both discipleship and lifehacking are aiming for a more fully present “you.” There is a sense in which “actualization” is biblical: as Irenaeus is quoted as saying, “the glory of God is man fully alive.” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12-14 that we all have the Spirit and unique gifts in order to make a unique contribution to Christ’s people. In short, you matter, as you. It’s not that we “need more bodies.” No, we need you.

Likewise, both things involve discipline—“self-control” appears in Peter’s list (v. 6). As Jocko Willink repeats ad nauseum, “discipline equals freedom.” The Spirit of Jesus will love through us as “self-control” helps get our sinful-selves out of the way.

So there is some overlap. But there are deep and all-important differences.

First, Christian spiritual-growth comes from faith. We “make every effort” because of what we have been given in Christ and are promised by the Father in the Spirit. Pride and greed, or fear and anxiety, are the primary drivers for “self-improvement.” The Grace of God and the gift of the Spirit are the primary drivers for holiness.

Second, Christian spiritual-growth is aimed at love: “The goal of our instruction is love…” (1 Tim 1:5) To be clear: that means loving other people. People other than our selves. “Self-help” is focused on self-love. “Self-help” only serves others for the positive self-esteem that results. But we love because we have been loved. We love our neighbors because we love our God, not because we love ourselves.

Third, Christian spiritual-growth is natural. The self-improvement app-industry says that growth is the result of unceasing vigilance and effort. Blurg. The Bible is not neurotic. Growing is a natural part of Christian living. But regular is different than constant. “It bringeth forth its fruit in its season.” (Psalm 1)

So what we do, why we do it, and how, are different from self-help. There is some overlap in the area of technique—kind of like how both Christians and Muslims close their eyes when they pray—but we are different in all-important ways.

Paul says in Philippians 3:14, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way.” In other words, it’s those who are most mature who most desire to grow. It’s a mark of immaturity to resist growth.

I love tree illustrations. Did you know that the fastest growing trees are the oldest? They produce more “board feet” by far. The little trees grow quickly up, but they are fragile and unproductive. Old trees thicken, branch out, and produce fruit, all at a rate no younger trees can touch.

Christians grow. Growing is a regular part of a Christian’s life. So make these qualities yours. See that they’re increasing.

“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18)

To Consider and Discuss:

What is your view on spiritual growth? What are you doing to grow spiritually?

Where does your faith, or your love, need to grow? What is the Holy Spirit working on in your life? What are the people who know you best praying for in you?

Photo by John Westrock  on Unsplash