When I was young, my parents did what many parents do. They forced me to take piano lessons. As I watched my friends playing basketball and football outside, I sat angrily with a 30 minute timer as I practiced the piano. Three years and thousands of dollars later, I was not much further ahead than when I started. I hated it and though I put in the time, I didn’t put in much effort. I was just dabbling.
Writing toward the end of his life and his experiences, Peter encourages those who have faith in Jesus Christ to do more than just dabble with their faith:
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-11
Peter says those who are devoted to Jesus Christ need to make every effort to add to faith – to give it everything you have. Once you’ve established faith Jesus Christ, out-do yourself to add to your faith. But people often just dabble in their faith when it’s convenient to them and suits their needs. American Pastor A.W. Tozer made this observation about those who are casual in their approach to spiritual matters:
Probably the most widespread and persistent problem to be found among Christians is the problem of retarded spiritual progress. Why, after years of Christian profession, do so many persons find themselves no farther along than when they first believed?… Every man is as close to God as he wants to be; he is as holy and as full of the Spirit as he wills to be.
Peter tells us to add to our faith – a faith that Jesus Christ, as the Son of God, died on a cross for your sins and, as a sinful person, you need a Savior. Here is the list of building virtues that Peter shares in verses 5-7:
- “Goodness” was the same word used for God in verse 3. It means excellence. This was a virtue to contribute to human good and flourishing in every aspect of this world.
- “Knowledge” is defined as wisdom and discernment for a virtuous life. Researcher George Barna came to this conclusion “60% of people today can’t name a single commandment of the 10 commandments. One out of three people who call themselves church-going Christians cannot name the four Gospels. 75% of people think that ‘God helps those who help themselves’ is in the Bible. 12% of people believe that Joan of Ark was Noah’s wife.” Doing good in the world is not enough. In addition to being invested in this world, you must also have a knowledge that you are controlled by the Word of God.
- “Self-control” is the ability to take control of oneself to avoid temptation. Once you know God’s way, you won’t give in to things that are contrary to what God desires. It’s important to resist temptation in the first place because are brains are chemically wired in a way that once we give in to an action, it is easier to do it the next time. If we excuse sinful things, it becomes easier each time we give in. Whether it’s the path to lust or fantasy or a different path of verbally running down others, your own heart shrinks for people and your own self-justification gets stronger and stronger.
- “Perseverance” is a patient endurance, the willingness to endure in hard times or courage in hardship. When facing illness, broken relationships, or financial pressure, you don’t give up.
- “Godliness” refers to reverence, piety, and awe. This isn’t a facade, but a real reverence for the things of God. This means examining what thrills you in this life and being more excited about the things of God than the things of this world. 2 Timothy 2:16 says, “Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.” In other words, the more you talk about inane things, the further from godliness and the more inane you will become.
- “Mutual affection” is a thoughtful consideration of others. It’s prioritizing others needs above your own. We often put our own feelings first and choose to assume the worst of others. We move from facts to presuming stories behind the facts. We add a ‘because.’ to reality. She didn’t call me back because… He didn’t go with us because… Once we add a story to the facts, we assume the worst about another. Mutual affection chooses to treat others with affection and not expect the worst.
- “Love” is seeking welfare of others above ourselves. This is not the last virtue. It is the most important one that encompasses all the other virtues that Peter identifies.
“Make every effort” may sound like a lot of work. Peter compels us by giving specific reasons that you would want to add to your faith:
You Will Be Productive
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:8
You will be unproductive if you don’t add to your spiritual life. You won’t grow in your experience. You may grow in your years of faith, but marking time is not growing in faith. You won’t really know who God is unless you “make every effort to add to your faith.”
You Will Be Discerning
But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. 2 Peter 1:9
Peter offers three images in this verse: nearsighted, blind, and forgetting. Nearsighted is an ability to see a hopeful future. Blind refers to an inability to see currently and having discernment. Forgetting is an inability to look back and see the significance of what has happened in the past. If you aren’t growing spiritually, you won’t be able to see things clearly.
You Will Never Stumble
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:10-11
Beyond an assurance of eternity, if you make every effort to add to your faith, you will be stable in your life. You will be rewarded in how you are welcomed into the Kingdom.
If you’re going to make every effort to add to your faith, you must have a vision for what God has done. He has given you everything you need and He has called us by His own goodness. When you see and embrace the goodness of Jesus Christ, it will transform and change you. When you add to your faith, you will do it because you have started to see the beauty of Jesus Christ.
If you try to get in physical shape and get into a physical discipline, there are two approaches. One is a checkbox approach to just check off the list to make sure you get specific activities down. The other is a maintaining a vision for where you want to go and doing whatever it will take to get there. The difference between these two approaches is in the second, you maximize your effort because you know what you will gain in the end. Spiritual dabbling is just checking the box for church, Bible, prayer, and study. Adding to your faith is putting your whole heart and soul into each moment because you have seen the beauty of who God is and what Jesus Christ has done on the cross on your behalf. You are so taken by His glory that you want more of Him in your life.
When you are in the early days of a dating relationship, you do more than schedule time to get together and talk things through. You do things together over an extended period of time to get to know the heart of the person. You are all in because you are captivated by who that person is.
Adding to our faith isn’t about doing things to get God. It’s doing things to discover the beauty of God. When you dabble spiritually, you turn it into a technique. Instead, your heart should be captivated by who God is and what He has done. Once that’s true, you won’t be able to do anything else but add to your faith. You will no longer feel compelled to do these things as part of a checkbox list. You will be compelled to be recaptured by the glory of God.