Growth. We all want it. At least in certain areas. The girth of the mid-section is not necessarily the place that we need it, and for some of us, it puts an undue strain on the vacuum-suction-function of the pulmonary organs every time the camera is about to flash!
Many would confess to being unnecessarily concerned about the growth (or lack thereof) of their bank accounts and retirement investment funds. Recent world financial conditions have likely made many of us re-examine the plain yet hard-to-accept teaching of our Lord in Matthew 6:19-20, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Uncertain riches have certainly been increasingly uncertain in recent days.
Every concerned parent rightly monitors the growth of his/her children. We know their age,we remember the day they were born, their first faltering steps, their first distinguishable words. These are all precious memories, but as the months and years pass, we carefully monitor their physical, mental, and social growth. We want healthy, happy children. Stunted growth or perceived deficiencies would alarm us, and a thorough examination of the child would be hastily arranged. But while external problems are readily noticed and evaluated, internal dysfunction requires greater expertise, more careful examination, and more intimate inspection.
Peter had learned by bitter experience that the apparent strength and rigor of outer form in no way guaranteed inner stability and steadfastness of the heart. Even outwardly confessed love for his Lord would be no preservative against the ravages of an inner deceitful heart. Among many memorable experiences in the apostle’s life, few would have burned so deeply into his psyche as the cool, pre-dawn morning, when his distant gaze met that of his loving Lord’s. In a moment, the outer form came crashing down, and the reality of an inner void became painfully clear. The contrast between a cold heart and hot bitter tears had never been so great. And to think that Peter had not even seen it coming!
Could I be unwittingly passing by Peter’s path? Is it possible that my sense of spiritual security and stability has more to do with the polished glass mirror in my closet, than the time spent in my closet with the mirror of the Word of God? Am I growing in the grace and in the knowledge of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Is my desire like that of Paul’s, to know Him (Phil 3:10)?
While growth can be stunted and hindered, it cannot be forced. Thankfully, it can be nurtured and encouraged. Peter began his second epistle underscoring the need for spiritual growth of the inner man. He moves to provide his readers with warnings regarding the dangers without, and at the close he comes full circle and concludes the letter stressing the need for watchfulness within, that they be not carried away. And what was the recipe to avoid instability? It was continued growth in the grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus. He longed for their continued growth. Their new life in Christ could not be static. For stability there must be progress, and it would be evidenced by their mental apprehension and heart appreciation of the lovely person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Peter had thought that he was rock solid. “I can’t say much for the rest, but I’m as solid as they get!” If an answer was needed, Peter had it. He had indeed grown … in self-confidence, in external form, in his ability to critique others … but not in the grace and knowledge of his Lord. His stated knowledge of his brethren apparently surpassed his knowledge of himself. And so it is that some lessons come at a great price and with many tears, but they are always worth the pain when they yield peaceable fruit. Peter evidently learned his lessons, and as he puts his Spirit-led pen to paper for the last time and writes to believers who were going to face false teachers and false brethren, scoffers and tumultuous times, he gives them the secret to stability in their Christian experience and tells them, “Don’t lose your stability, but rather grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” How can we resist the urge to elevate self, critique others, and avoid the inevitable self-revealing eye-to-eye meeting with our Lord that Peter had on that fateful day when his confidence lay in an outer form, and not the growth of an inner reality?
Let’s keep our eye on Him in every moment; let our love for Him increase and may we yearn to know and imitate Him more.