“For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
I want to matter. I want for my life to count for something. That desire pulses deep with every beat of my heart. If I were a betting kind of man, I’d bet that you feel this too. While it may manifest itself in different ways, this desire burns at the heart of every single one of us. We want to be able to look back on our lives at some point and be able to say: I accomplished something of value to this world. One of our deepest fears is meaninglessness. Anything that helps at least sort of scratch this itch gets our attention. Given that, what Peter says here should have us rapt with it.
In the verses leading up to this one, Peter opens his second letter by telling us that God’s power has given those who have been called by His grace and goodness into the incredible promises of the Gospel to leave behind the corruption of this world that comes from evil desire everything we need for life and godliness. In other words, He’s given us everything we need to live a life that pleases Him.
Because He has given Jesus followers all this power, we should work our tails off to grow in eight different characteristics: faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, familial affection for one another as God’s children (what Peter calls “brotherly love”), and love. This isn’t exactly the same as Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit, but the effect is the same.
Having said all of this, he follows it up with this verse which has been rolling around in my heart and mind for over a year since I first read it again. It was another of those verses I had read before, but for whatever reason grabbed my attention this time in ways it had not done the previous several times I’d looked at it.
What Peter says here is incredible. As much as I want my life as a whole to matter, I want my life as a follower of Jesus to matter more. The two are actually one and the same. My life doesn’t make sense except as I am a follower of Jesus. That is my life. What I think about Him defines who I am in the most fundamental of ways. A.W. Tozer more famously made the same point. He said that what you think about when you think about God is the most important thing about you. Knowing Jesus (or not) defines who we are.
If we are going to not let that knowledge go to waste, Peter says, the best thing we can do is to grow in these characteristics. Having faith is good, but it’s not enough on its own. We need to add to our faith goodness because our faith should lead us to better reflect the character of God. Reflecting the character of God better should help us know Him better. To our knowledge we add self-control, endurance, godliness, familial kindness, and love after the pattern of Jesus.
As these things develop in us we will become more useful and fruitful in our knowledge of Jesus. That is, we will come to matter more as followers of Jesus. Our knowledge of Him will do both us and the world around us more good. In the end, we find that it is character, not achievement, that leads to usefulness in the kingdom of God. Let’s get growing.