Lists and more lists

  • Potatoes - check!
  • Eggs - check!
  • Milk - check!
  • Bread - check!
  • Toilet paper - whoops…

Lists are what make the world go ‘round! Well, for someone like me that’s pretty true. The truth is that lists can be awfully helpful when trying to accomplish something: a successful grocery shopping trip, a thorough spring house cleaning, and even our spiritual growth. I bet you didn’t see that one coming! However, when we’re lacking an important component from our list, we may feel frustrated or even held back from moving forward in our efforts.

Getting nowhere

Danelle shared with us this week about how spinning our wheels often leads us to examine what’s really going on. After graduating from college, it took her several years to finally be on her own in the real, everyday life sense. Having recently moved into her own apartment, it seemed like the perfect time for her to really have it all together. And yet, she continued to struggle balancing work, relationships, and time spent studying Scripture. She had all the physical space she needed to accomplish some of her goals as well as the spiritual space to use her time as she wanted. And yet work asked more of her, her responsibilities didn’t go away, and even her apartment needed things from her that she hadn’t anticipated. Sticky cabinets? True story! Danelle couldn’t help but ask herself, “Am I missing something? Why isn’t this getting easier?” Perhaps the most frustrating piece was that Danelle had the desire to spend time studying and reading God’s Word but felt unproductive in her efforts.

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.
— 2 Peter 1:5-8

Effectiveness and productivity 

As we read through 2 Peter 1, we stopped to spend time in verses 5-8. At first glance we might assume this list of spiritual qualities is something to be achieved one at a time. Once you achieve faith, then add goodness, and after goodness add knowledge. And so on. The truth is that we already possess these qualities and verse 8 clues us into that fact, encouraging us to possess them in “increasing measure” to help keep us from “being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Notice it does NOT say: possess those in increasing measure and you will be effective and productive and successful and wealthy and have all the free time you need. Oh and without opposition from the devil. We should be wise enough to know that our human perspective will desire those things and compel us to pursue those doggedly. And yet, there’s no mention of those things here. Instead, the author refocuses us on an eternal perspective, one that values a knowledge of Jesus and our salvation. Which, he concludes, will be effective as a direct result of the character traits (listed in verses 5 through 7) increasing in us.

The big picture

To be real for a moment, we live in a physical world, with our spirit warring against our flesh and we might also have a boss, or children (or bossy children), or responsibilities or all of those things always asking more of us. We struggle to see the big picture so we start plugging in different pieces to see what fits, what works, or what temporarily makes things better for us. Danelle had this very experience, which is why this week’s chapters really helped her dig deep to understand the truth in her circumstances and in Scripture.

The picture that came to her was a puzzle piece, which she gave to each one of us. We talked together about how sometimes we have to fit one piece at a time, or we get so hung up on the corner of the puzzle that we don’t see the bigger picture. Or like that list in 2 Peter 1, we search and search for the big picture, forgetting we already have the pieces right in front of us. Likewise, we must be careful to not try and fit a piece from another puzzle, thinking we are capable of just making it work for our benefit.

Will there be times when things are easy and the pieces slip into their spots effortlessly? Certainly! Will there be times when you spend a lot of time and effort  to just get one piece into place? You can bet on it. Our pursuit of “the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” will be much the same. At times, we make great strides in our growth, and at other times we struggle against time, circumstances, and responsibilities.

Thankfully, as believers we already have all the pieces for a godly life. We have the instructions and the big picture in front of us, straight from God’s own Word.