Note: This Sunday is Launch Sunday at Westside. That means a BBQ lunch on the lawn following each celebration, special fun for kids and youth, and other surprises. Its time to reconnect after the summer holiday season. Celebrations at 10 and 11:30 am. We now enter the busy season. In our practiced cultural rhythm, its time to get back to school and the job. And that's good. Sure, carefree summer days are hard to give up, but I have to admit I have always loved the fall: the colours, the cooling air, the sports, and yes, the renewed energy and purpose for work. How do you feel about it?
Fall is the season of serious intent. Its the time we tend to focus on getting things done, educating our children, building our communities. With this in mind, I would like to suggest that this is also a good time in the year to focus on personal spiritual growth. That is what I am doing this fall. While I have been at this Jesus-life for a long time now, I still carry within me some spiritual ambitions. There are some areas of my life I still want to grow in.
I have been thinking about the apostle Peter’s invitation to growth at the beginning of his second letter. Eugene Peterson renders the text this way:
... don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. [2 Peter 1:5-8, MSG]
Here are some of my personal reflections on this text as I enter this fall:
First, I want to be immersed in a proper view of reality, not in my skewed imagination, nor in the faulty thinking of my present culture. I want what this text calls basic faith. I want to build my life on simple trust in God. Faith is ultimately a worldview issue, not a positive mental attitude. Yes, faith is confidence, but it is not so much personal confidence as it is God confidence. Faith is a way of seeing how things really are. And God is the center of that vision.
Second, I want to build upon my faith, or as this text suggests, to build on what I’ve already been given. Other translations suggest we should “add effort” to faith. This is not to suggest that the grace of God is somehow deficient, or that grace needs effort to perfect it. Quite the opposite. But somehow, because of grace, our efforts, while they are our own, become more than our own. The grace of God makes our effort effective.
Third, I want to protect my faith. And that means learning boundaries, and the need to say no at times. But more than the necessary “no”, I want God’s big “Yes”. I want the agenda for living that God gives, his free and most deeply joyous life.
And finally, I want to persevere in this, or as my old basketball coach us to say, to “keep on keepin’ on”. There is an everyday-ness to the life of faith, a common and often unspectacular normality to it all. I have lived long enough to know that there is such a thing as spiritual hype, the ungrounded unreality of too much religion. I know full well there are ups and downs, encouragements and discouragements, joys and drudgeries. But that’s OK: it is through sustained everydayness that we are led into life. In the journey with God we become, slowly for the most part, but consistently, more than what we are now. And if we are becoming more than what we are now, it matters deeply that we are headed in a good direction. “I have set the Lord before me” (Psalm 16:8).
I think it was Martin Luther who said that God does nothing in us without us. In some mysterious way, when we choose to get in sync with God’s tremendous plan for our lives, we open up to the many gracious gifts and abilities which he gives. We discover that grace is the power for change, not just his acceptance of us. I never did mention, did I, the key statement which precedes our text. Before Peter gives his appeal to build on what we have been given, to “add effort” to grace, he says this: that God has already “given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).
There is nothing we lack except the intent, the purpose, the desire for real growth. For some reason, and I can only call it a grace, I am being called back that serious intent.
See you on Sunday.