On most mornings, I grab my breakfast and a cup of tea, open my Bible, and start the day with God… so it happened that last week I, while munching on scrambled eggs and toast, I read 2 Peter 1:3, 5-8.
[Jesus’] divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness….
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.
I immediately fixated on that last sentence. Who wants to be ineffective and unproductive? The chart-topping sales of The Purpose-Driven Life tells us that this is a Big Deal for us believers. It is certainly a concern of mine. In fact, after our kids grew up and moved out I spent a lot of years wondering and praying about what God would have me do with the rest of my life. I felt very ineffective and unproductive, and it was quite depressing.
I should have spent more time hearing what Peter (and God through him) had to say here.
What particularly stood out to me as I sipped my tea was that Peter’s advice is so contrary to the world’s advice. He isn’t telling us to get a good education, start a business, or even go to seminary. He even one-ups Stephen R. Covey with eight habits of highly effective people—and it’s a much different list (Covey’s is fine, but it’s all self-driven, not God-driven) .
For most people, “effective and productive” spells “success.” A quick Google search turned up almost a million hits for “steps to success” on every topic from homework to politics. Before I start in on all those articles (I do want to be successful), it makes sense to pay attention to God’s steps to effectiveness and productivity. He outlines them all here: faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love.
I can’t possibly cover all eight attributes in one blog post. God starts with faith, so I will too. (Hopefully, I’ll be coming back to the rest of the list as God teaches me what He has in mind.)
What kind of faith is Peter talking about? For starters, it takes faith to even believe God exists. While there is plenty of basis for belief, there is still that final leap where we decide to trust Him and submit to His authority.
Then it takes more faith to rely on God for our success. He is the ultimate judge of our efforts. Are we working hand in hand with Him, or striking out on our own? Are our branches attached to his vine?
It is impossible to please God without faith (see Hebrews 11:16), and for a believer pleasing God is of utmost importance. Without submitting to God’s planning and step-by-step guidance, we are building straw and rubble, and it’s all going to burn.
Realize that what God calls effective and productive may not at all look like the world’s definition. While Mother Teresa happened to become famous, there are many, many Christian workers around the world who are anonymous—poor and unappreciated. Am I willing to have my “success” be seen only by God’s eyes?
One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 3: 5-6—“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.” (NKJV)
Pete (my husband, not the one who wrote the Bible books!) got curious about this verse a few weeks ago and looked up the Hebrew word that most Bibles translate as “acknowledge.” He got a shock. It’s “yada”—the same verb used in Genesis to describe Adam’s intimate “knowing” of Eve—the “knowing” that resulted in Cain! We aren’t to just acknowledge God in the same way that Academy Award winners acknowledge all the people who contributed to their achievement. Rather, we are to be intimately connected to Him throughout the whole process.
After thinking all this over, it dawned on me. It’s no wonder faith is the first step to success. If we are actually letting God work through us to accomplish His goals, of course we’ll be effective and productive! How can God ever be anything other than successful?