Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. 2 Peter 3:17-18
When Peter came to the end of writing the second book which bears his name, he gave some very practical advice. He ended by saying, "Be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men…" and "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Notice the two words: guard and grow. That was the practical advice of a fisherman who knew that he had to defend his fishing grounds, but he couldn't spend all of his time keeping others out of what he felt belonged to him. He had to fish. He had to grow.
Some people spend so much time guarding things, they never have time to grow anything. They are the holy defenders of the faith, denouncing anyone and everyone who disagrees with them.
No, Peter was not suggesting that you constantly view everyone with suspicion. He said, "Keep up your guard so that you won't fall away from your secure position," and then added--perhaps as a balance, "Grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
Have you ever noticed that you don't tell a child, "Look, in the next twelve months, I want you to grow five inches and gain 15 pounds. Now GROW." You may set quotas for salespeople and goals for the next year, but your children don't respond to your growth goals. Why? Growth is the result of several factors: proper nutrition, exercise, enough sleep; and then, certainly without their consciously thinking about it, growth takes place.
How do you grow in grace as Peter suggested—no, commanded? Spiritual growth is often the result of adverse situations--no less than real pain which you face, usually situations that you would never choose to go through. Sometimes it's an illness, or a business failure; sometimes it is period of financial or personal turmoil: a spouse dies, your best friend abandons you. You either taste of the sufficiency of God or you wither and die.
How do you know that you are growing in grace, as opposed to just getting on with your life? Growth in grace is reflected in the following:
- You accept circumstances, understanding that God can bring order out of chaos. No, it doesn't mean you like them, but you refuse to give in to despair, asking God to intervene. It's the attitude of Paul, who wrote to the Corinthians saying he forgave "in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes" (2 Corinthians 2:11).
- You are growing in grace when you come to understand that God is sufficient to meet you. You will never test the resources and grace of God apart from hitting bottom. "My grace is sufficient for you," God told Paul. If you listen carefully, you will hear the same echo in your life.
- You are growing in grace when you cultivate a voice of praise instead of complaining about the circumstances. This is what Paul meant when he wrote, "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
- You are growing in grace when you have a desire to do the will of God, no matter what others do. The problem is that at times our will is in conflict with what we know God wills. We want revenge; God says forgive. We remember; God says forget. When you say, "God, I put this in your hands; you deal with it," you are growing in God's grace.
- Finally, growth in grace is characterized by a willingness to wait on the Lord, knowing that His timetable is different from yours.
Resource reading: 2 Peter 3:14-18