Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Discovering a Proven Growth Process

Leslie Basham: Everyone who begins a new diet or exercise routine understands the need for discipline. Nancy Leigh DeMoss says, “This kind of thinking needs to last beyond the start of a new year.”

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: This is not the kind of discipline that’s just a good start. It’s the kind of exertion and effort and discipline that is required from here to heaven. You say, “Ugh. I don’t want to do that.” That’s why you need God’s grace.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, January 13.

What are you adding to your faith? The apostle Peter tells his readers to add one quality after another. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been describing the power that you need to do this, and she’s helping us learn what those qualities are.

Let’s continue the series, Adding to Your Faith.

Nancy: How many of you have ever been through childbirth? Let me see your hands. Okay, most everybody in the room. What comes to mind when you hear this word, “Push!”? How do you feel? Some memories come back: pain, tired, stress.

Not too long ago I visited in the hospital with a young mom, she had just 90 minutes before had her first baby. As I walked in the room, I just remember, she looked up at me, and she said, “That is the hardest thing I have ever had to do.” But you know what? She was smiling. She was radiant. She looked beautiful—I mean, she really did—and she had just had a baby. Ninety minutes before she had just been through the hardest physical thing she had ever had to do, but she was radiant. Why? Because all that pushing, all that labor, all that travail had produced the beauty, the blessing, the gift of a new life.

We’re talking about the Christian life in this series starting out the new year, and there’s some pushing involved. There’s some labor; there’s some travail involved.

If you’ve not been with us earlier this week, let me just set this up by reminding us, as we’re studying 2 Peter 1, that Peter starts out this chapter by giving us the encouragement of all that God has done for us.

He’s given us some incredible resources.

  • He’s given us all things pertaining to life and godliness.
  • He’s given us His divine power.
  • He’s given us His divine nature.
  • He’s given us His precious and very great promises.
  • He’s given us all that we need to live the Christian life.

But then we come to verses 5-7, and we find an exhortation that is not God’s part but our part. We have a responsibility. There are some things we need to do.

He says, “For this very reason . . .” because of all that God has done for you, because of all that God has given to you, because God has given you these divine resources, “For this very reason, make every effort . . .” Push! Every effort, or “be diligent,” some of your translations say, “to supplement faith.”

I want us to focus on that phrase today, “make every effort.” The New International says, “Make every effort to add to your faith.” The New King James says, “Giving all diligence, add to your faith.”

That word diligence means “to be eager," "to do one’s best," "to exert one’s self.” It’s not a half-hearted effort. It’s not a lackadaisical attempt. It’s an intense effort. You can’t go through childbirth, unless you’re really unusual, without intense effort. And you can’t go through spiritual growth without intense effort.

So in verses 5-7 we find our human responsibility as children of God to develop these Christian graces, these Christian virtues. You see, we have God’s divine nature in us. We have God’s promises. We have God’s power. But that doesn’t mean that we automatically become godly while we sit there and do nothing.

We have to cooperate with God. We have to exert ourselves on the basis of the power He has given us. It’s His power, His strength, His motivation, but we have to cooperate with that. We have to be diligent to exert effort to live the Christian life in dependence on the divine life that He has placed within us.

And there’s always this tension within the Christian life. Depending on which program you listen to, some people write me or send emails, and I love receiving and reading those emails. But they say, “Some days you make it sound like it’s so much work, like it’s so much we have to do.”

Well, there’s this tension. There’s this balance. If you’re reading verses 5-7, it looks like it’s all on us, but if you back up, and you read verses 3-4, as we’ve talked about this past week, you realize, “It’s all on God, and it’s all on us.” We do it based on His power, on His grace that He gives us, not by sheer human effort or our own strength.

So Peter is saying in this passage, it’s not enough to just have this faith that we said is of equal standing with that of the apostles. It’s not enough to just have that faith.

  • We need to grow spiritually.
  • We need to add to that faith.
  • We need to increase our spiritual lives.
  • We need to safeguard that faith.
  • We need to keep it vigorous and guard against drifting spiritually.

So throughout 2 Peter you read there are some things we have to do to appropriate that life of Christ within us and to make it ours.

We just read in verse 5 that we need to add to our faith, that we need to supplement our faith. Verse 8 of chapter 1 says “if these qualities are yours and are increasing.” You don’t get them just once and for all. You have to be increasing in them.

Chapter 1, verse 10: “Be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities,” work at it, keep working at it, “you will never fall.”

Peter says in verse 13, I want to “stir you up by way of reminder.” That sounds like there’s some action involved there.

And then in chapter 3, verse 14, he says, “Be diligent to be found by him without spot.”

Verse 17: “Take care that you [don’t fall] away,” that you don’t drift.

Verse 18: “Grow in grace.” You see, there’s effort here. There’s ongoing activity. You can’t just sit still and do nothing and expect to be a godly woman.

It doesn’t just happen. No matter how many resources of God you have at your disposal, you need to be cooperating with Him. So to build this life requires diligence, determination, intentionality. It requires conscious effort, wholehearted effort, and a systematic effort to add these necessary components and graces to our lives.

You’ll never become the woman God wants you to be by just haphazardly, aimlessly, wandering through the Christian life. If you do that, you are settling for mediocrity, which is what most Christians do for most of their lives. It’s tragic. It’s unnecessary. Christians could have so much more. There could be so much more vitality, so much more power, so much more fullness of God, but it requires intentional, wholehearted, systematic effort.

What we’re reading in 2 Peter here is consistent with other passages in the New Testament that talk about the Christian life. In fact, the apostle Paul uses the imagery of athletes and soldiers and farmers, and talks about how they have to work hard to win the prize, to win the battle, to have a harvest.

There’s effort involved. Paul says that the successful athlete runs his race diligently. He’s disciplined in all things, and he does it to receive a perishable wreath. But we do it for an eternal prize (see 1 Corinthian 9:24-27). But it requires stretching your muscles, working your muscles, exercising, discipline. We don’t like those words.

And it’s true, isn’t it, that anything of value requires sacrifice? Anything worth having requires effort, exertion. Push! You want that baby? Push! You want that Christian life? Push! You need discipline, not just to get started in the Christian life.

We’re great starters, great sprinters. So a lot of us sprint off the starting blocks in the first of the new year and say, “I’m going to be disciplined this year.” You buy a lot of new exercise equipment and you use it once and it sits in the corner. I’ve done this so many times. Or you sign up for this new diet plan, and you stay on it for three days. Or you say, “I’m going to be spiritual this year. I’m going to be disciplined this year,” and you start this massive program. Then by the end of next week, you’ve forgotten about it.

No, this is not the kind of discipline that’s a good start. It’s the kind of exertion and effort and discipline that is required from here till heaven.

That’s why Proverbs says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance [diligence— NKJV ], for from it flow the springs of life” (4:23). Guard your heart. You can never let down. You can never stop.

First Timothy chapter 4, verse 7: “Discipline yourselves”—exercise yourselves—work out at the gym—sweat—Push!—“Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (NASB). And that’s a worthwhile purpose.

I got an email from a friend a while ago, and we were just interacting about this whole thing of exertion in the Christian life. She said, “I understand that we need to be intentional and that the Christian life requires work, that it’s not all fun and easy, but” (and I think in saying this she spoke for most of us—we’ve all had this feeling at times), “I struggle with the attitude of, ‘Does it really matter that much that I work at this, that I’m intentional about it, as long as I’m moving in the right direction and basically a good person?’”

Do you understand the question there? Have you ever felt like, “Can I just drift a while spiritually?” I feel this after I come off of Revive Our Hearts conferences. I’ve been exerting myself and preparing myself and pushing and in spiritual labor and stretching and working out.

Then I’m exhausted and I think, “Could I just drift for a while, as long as I’m drifting in the right direction? I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to get into the Word. I don’t want to pray. It just seems so hard. I’m tired.”

You’re looking at me like you never have this feeling. The problem is, if we allow ourselves ever to just drift, inevitably we drift in the wrong direction.

I live near a river, the St. Joseph River in Michigan. It’s one of the few rivers in the world that flows primarily north. There are kayaks and canoes that sometimes I’ll see floating up or down that river. If you get out on the river in one of those boats, it’s no problem to go with the flow. If you’re going with the river, you can just drift. That’s okay.

But if you want to go in the opposite direction, if that’s the direction you need to head, you have to work hard. You have to go against the flow. You have to paddle against the flow. If you don’t, if you just sit there, the river is going to take you in a direction you don’t want to go. One thing is for sure: If you stop rowing, you will not stay in one place.

Let me just remind you, as it relates to the Christian life: If you ever let yourself just drift, which is what many of us have been doing maybe for far too long, you’ll find (isn’t it true?) that you’ll head in the wrong direction. Every area of your life starts to show the signs of disrepair and lack of care.

It happens to our bodies. We get flabby. We get lacking energy if we stop exercising. The exercise I did when I was in college isn’t doing me much good today. If I want to stay fit today, I have to exercise today.

If you want to stay spiritually fit today, the exercise spiritually you did ten years ago is not all that you need for today. You need fresh exercise. You need to push. You need to exert yourself. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself going in the wrong direction.

So Peter says, be intentional about your Christian life. Recognize it’s going to require discipline, and it’s going to require effort. There are no shortcuts to godliness—none.

But as you exert yourself, as you push, remember verses 3 and 4. We have the divine power of God. We have the great and precious promises of God. We have all that we need. He has supplied for our life and godliness. And that’s what makes it worth the effort.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back with the second half of that message.

It’s the kind of message that will benefit you over and over, so I hope you’ll get a copy of the series on CD. It’s called Adding to Your Faith. We’ll send you a copy along with the helpful, Making the Most of Your Time. This year could be extraordinary, and these resources could be exactly what you need for the beginning of a full, productive 2010.

We’ll send them to you when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Just call 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Now, let’s get back to Nancy in 2 Peter chapter 1.

Nancy: And now, verse 5, the apostle Peter says, “For this very reason,” because of what God had done for you, because of what He’s given you, “make every effort,” be diligent, “to supplement your faith.” Some of your translations say, “be diligent to add to your faith.” “To supplement your faith with virtue and knowledge and self-control and steadfastness and godliness and brotherly affection and love” (paraphrase).

Now, in this paragraph, verses 5-7, the apostle Peter gives us a process, a pattern for Christian growth. He says, “supplement your faith,” “add to your faith.” That is a word that’s a little tricky.

In the original language, as the word was originally used in the Greek, it was used to reference a benefactor, or a patron of the arts who would subsidize the expenses of a Greek play. He would underwrite the expenses. He would support this effort. The word came "to mean to support something lavishly," "to generously support something."

So Peter is saying here, you need to generously support your faith, to sustain it, to build it up, to add to it. The word has to do with supplying “in copious measure,” one commentator says, “to provide more than is needed, to supply generously.” 1

He’s saying here that in our faith we need to supply it, to support it, with other Christian graces and virtues. Then he lists these seven virtues that we are to add to our faith:

  • virtue
  • knowledge
  • self-control
  • steadfastness
  • godliness
  • brotherly affection
  • love

Warren Wiersbe, in his commentary on this passage, says,

Peter is not suggesting that we "add" these virtues to our faith the way we add beads to a string. Rather, each virtue helps us develop the next one. They are like the sections of a telescope: one leads into the other.2

So he’s saying, as you’re building your faith, expand that into virtue, and as you’re building that virtue, expand that into knowledge, and your knowledge into self-control, and your self-control into steadfastness, and steadfastness into godliness, and godliness into brotherly affection, and brotherly affection into love.

It’s like picturing the building of a house here built on the foundation of faith. That faith is the starting point. We saw earlier that Peter wrote this letter to those who already have obtained faith through the righteousness of Jesus Christ. These are believers. That foundation has been laid in their lives. They obtained that faith from God. This is foundational. It’s your faith that undergirds the whole structure of your Christian life. It’s the starting place for building your Christian life.

You can’t go on to these other virtues. You can’t get love if you don’t have the foundation of faith, faith in God. Hebrews 11, verse 6: if you want to come to God you have to believe “that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Faith in the promises of God, faith in Christ as your substitute and your Savior and your righteousness, faith in the Word of God, the great and precious promises that we’ve read about in 2 Peter. That faith that God has put within your heart, God wants it to grow. He wants it to increase. He says, “Make every effort to supplement your faith.”

Some of you maybe take vitamins—One-a-Day vitamins, supplements. These are kind of some spiritual One-a-Day vitamins. I don’t mean to trivialize it by saying that. It’s not like you just pop them like pills and voila! You’re strong and healthy now. But there’s a sense in which we’re needing to supplement our faith, to strengthen it, to build it out, to build it up, and faith is the starting place. Faith is the foundation. Add to your faith.

But faith is only the starting place. It’s the foundation. You have to go on and build the house or the structure on that foundation.

Imagine if somebody bought a lot next to your house and dug out a foundation and dug a big hole there. And you say, “Wow. They’re going to build. It’s going to be a big house. It’s a big hole. It’s going to be a great big house.” And then they did nothing else. They just left the hole there. I mean, not for days or weeks or months, but years.

You say, “What’s the problem?” They say, “Well, we like that hole.” They don’t have any intention of building a house there. You say, “This is ludicrous Why would someone go around digging a hole in the ground, laying a foundation, if they don’t intend to put a house on it?”

Well, the same question might be asked about our spiritual lives. Why don’t we go on and build the house? It’s foolish.

So Peter is saying, “Add to your faith. Supplement your faith.” Each of these virtues, each of these graces is built on the other. As you develop one, it leads to the other. So we read this passage and we see these things we are to add to our faith. We’re to add virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection. And then we come to the penthouse of this building. What is it? Love. Love. It’s the goal of the process.

Paul says, in 1 Timothy chapter 1: “The goal of our instruction is . . .” that you’d be able to play spiritual trivia, Bible trivia, know all about the Bible? That you’d be able to stump the experts with your knowledge about the Bible? No! “The goal of our instruction is love” (1 Timothy 1:5, NASB). Isn’t that what the true greatest commandments are all about?

Jesus said, how do you sum it all up? Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself (see Luke 10:27). That’s the ultimate. And you’ll never get to that kind of love if you haven’t laid the foundation of faith and then built on your faith.

So as we walk through this series of graces over these next days, I want to stop at the end of each session and ask you some questions for you to ponder, for you to think about, to see where you are in relation to that part of the building process.

So ask yourself, “Do I have genuine faith in Christ?” Who or what are you trusting for your eternal salvation? What evidences are there that you have true faith?

What evidence is there that you have believed in Christ, that you have placed your faith in Christ? James says, “Faith without works is dead” (see James 2:17, 26). Don’t claim to have faith if there’s no evidence of it in your life. What is the evidence that you have a genuine, living faith?

And then, in this whole matter of spiritual growth, are you consciously seeking to grow, to add to your faith, to supplement your faith, to build onto your faith?

  • Are you growing in your spiritual life?
  • Are you maturing as a Christian?
  • Are you growing in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ?
  • Are you developing these qualities in your life?
  • Are you being intentional about it?
  • Are you being earnest?
  • Are you being diligent?

Peter says, “Make every effort.” Are you working at it? Are you being intentional about adding these qualities to your life? How are you doing it? What are you doing to nurture, to cultivate your walk with God, to cultivate your spiritual life?

I’ve shared with you that this time last year, as I looked at my own Christian life, I realized that there were some weak spots, some things that needed to be shored up, some areas of my life where I had slipped into complacency, where I wasn’t building on my faith.

The Lord, through this passage, stirred up my heart to begin to take some steps, to make some changes, to put into place some things in my life that would help me to be more intentional about building these qualities into my life. And what an adventure it has been!

Now, I’m not where I want to be. I’m so far from being like Christ in so many of these areas day after day. Even as I was preparing this series, I found myself blowing it in some of these very graces I was getting ready to teach on. But I’ll tell you one thing: I’m not where I was a year ago. By God’s grace, by God’s provision, His promises, His protection, His grace, and by my making an effort.

I got accountable. I wrote to some friends of mine and said, “I’ve got some spiritual needs. I need you to pray for me, and here are some areas God’s speaking to me. These are some things I think God wants me to change about my schedule and about my day-to-day routines. Would you pray for me? Would you hold me accountable? Would you help me in this process? because I’m serious about not staying where I am.”

Are you serious about not staying where you are? Are you serious about growing spiritually? Are you serious about wanting to be in a different place spiritually a year from now than where you are today? Then make every effort to supplement your faith.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us a pattern of growth in godliness from 2 Peter. It’s a process I hope you’ll begin in 2010 and continue the rest of your life.

This is the type of series that will be helpful for years to come, and we’ll send you a copy when you donate any amount at ReviveOurHearts.com or call 1-800-569-5959. We’ll also include the booklet, Making the Most of Your Time. It will lead you in a more productive year as well.

I do hope you’ll get a copy of these helpful resources, but there’s a resource that is far better, and you probably already have it on your shelf. Nancy will talk about it tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

1 K.S. Wuest. Weust's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader. Eerdman's: Grand Rapids, MI, 1984.

2 W.W. Wiersbe. Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the New Testament. Victor Books: Wheaton, IL, 1992.

 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.