Attainment Vs. Growth
Updated: Aug 21, 2019
Chan Gin Kai
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. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. (2 Peter 1:5-9)
The Bible calls us to add more and more godly qualities into our lives. You’ve already got “faith”? Now add “goodness”. And while you’re at it, let’s add “knowledge” too. But let’s not stop there; let’s try “self-control”. And we certainly shouldn’t forget “perseverance” too. The list goes on and on. Peter could have listed many more godly qualities, but you’ve got the picture. We must not stop adding godly qualities to our lives.
Peter did not only exhort the importance of growing our diversity of godly qualities, he called for these qualities to grow in quantity too, “in increasing measure”. You enjoy your closeness to God? You can draw even closer. You’ve been lifted up for caring for the poor? Embark on more new projects. You’re a role model for great parenting? Don’t rest on your laurels.
Not Attainment, But Growth
There’s no nirvana in Christianity. There’s no ‘special stage’ that we can attain, no moment when we’ve arrived. We can never be good enough to earn our salvation, or righteous enough to deserve the blessings that God generously gives us. Christianity is about growth, not attainment. We recognise how weak and far we are, and we try our hardest to change. And we don’t stop trying.
We reached our ‘special stage’ when our sins were washed away through baptism (Acts 2:38). That’s not through our merit, but by the grace of God. It’s not through our achievements, but Jesus’ death on the cross. It is our gratitude for God’s incredible love that spurs us to desire growth. That’s why Peter describes those who stop growing as “nearsighted and blind, forgetting they have been cleansed from their past sins”.
Practice of Godliness Helps Us Understand Christ
Do you want to know Christ better? Add more godly qualities to your life.
Yes, we’ve got to read our Bible, attend classes, read supplementary books and ask for advice. But there’s nothing like knowing Jesus through practicing godliness. To really know someone, we need more than just intellectual knowledge. We get to know someone on a deeper level when we experience what he has gone through.
Learning to persevere through hardships helps you understand Jesus’ struggle on Gethsemane better. Learning to love your enemies helps you know better the immensity of Christ’s love. These godly qualities “keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
Complacency Amongst Leaders
For those amongst us who serve in leadership roles, we are often assumed to be doing fine spiritually. People look up to us, and do not point out our weaknesses as much. We may even compare ourselves with others and think we are OK too.
So you know your Bible well. Is it because of the years of diligence you’ve put in a decade ago? Are you still as passionate in digging into the Scriptures now? So you’ve done a lot of philanthropic work. But is it because you really care about the poor? Or are you just following a well-run program? So you’re leading the church in worship. But do you sing from your heart in praise of God? Or are you more concerned with how you voice sounds?
It is easy for leaders to do the right things with the wrong hearts. It is tempting to rest on our laurels, and even bask in people’s praise and appreciation. It is dangerous to think we’ve arrived, to regard our leadership role as a form of attainment.
We need to remember that we are judged more strictly as leaders (James 3:1). Let’s not get complacent, and remember we need a continuing desire for growth.
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. In church, he serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry. He describes himself as "just a sinner who wants to get right with God".