2 Peter 3:18
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
I. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF GROWTH.
1. The first characteristic of growth that we would notice is its silence. It is of all things the most calm, the most quiet, the most dignified. Whatever else may give rise to agitation and commotion and excitement, it is not spiritual growth. To this the analogy of nature clearly points. This the Great Teacher Himself flatly affirms. "The Kingdom of God," He says, "cometh not with observation." Silently the Spirit of Truth makes use of the instrumentality of the truth in communicating to our nature that life without which we know not what it is to live. Silently the same Spirit helps us to draw from the storehouse of the truth the nourishment that is needful to sustain and strengthen the life that has been given. Thus it is that the process of spiritual growth begins, and thus it is that it is carried onward and forward toward a higher and fuller development.
2. A second characteristic of growth is, that it is a gradual process. People sometimes feel discouraged by the littleness of their attainments in the Christian life and the tardiness of their spiritual growth, and too often there is cause for humiliation on this score; but, for my part, I would prefer the slowest rate of progress that is compatible with growth to that unnatural rapidity of development that is sure to fall into rapid consumption. If the progress of the cornstalk which comes to maturity in a few months be scarcely measurable at the interval of a week, and if the progress of the oak tree which comes to maturity in a century or more be barely observable in a year, what are we to say of that spiritual growth which shall not be consummated and completed until all the cycles and the aeons of eternity have run their course, and become buried in the bosom of the infinite past? If the interval at which progress may be measured and ascertained is to be lengthened in proportion to the period of growth, how long must that interval be in the case of the Christian's advancement in the life divine?
3. There are many other characteristics of growth, but of these we shall mention only one, and that is the tendency of growth whenever found to develop in a definite direction. Nature has a certain model or type to which the growth of the seed must conform. And she keeps that before her, and to the best of her ability she builds up blade and stalk and ear after the fashion of this particular model. So it is with the acorn. It grows after a long lapse of years into an oak. This is the type toward which nature was working all the time. To the filling up of this model the growth of the tree always tended. So it is with everything else in nature. So it is with the Christian. Spiritual growth is in a definite direction. It tends to a perfect type. It advances in the direction of Christ.
II. This brings us naturally to consider in the next place the CONDITIONS OF GROWTH.
1. There is first the condition of previous life. As well expect a corn seed to grow into an oak as expect the man who is destitute of spiritual life to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." How does that life become ours? It is not ours by nature. It is ours only in union with Christ.
2. The other condition of growth to which we would refer is the presence of favourable surroundings, or to put it in the language of modern science, the existence of an appropriate "environment." Spiritual life is what you might call a hardy plant. It will grow in almost any situation, in castle and cottage, under peasant's roof-tree, under monarch's dome, in the shop and the counting-house and the study, in the factory and the market, and the farm. But when all this has been allowed, it must still be admitted that neither soft nor atmosphere in this world is such as to ensure a perfect growth. The perfect type cannot be cultivated in this unsuitable soil and in this unfavourable climate. It needs to be transplanted to another sphere, to a more kindly soil and to a more congenial clime before the perfect ideal can be approached or approximated. Meantime it is our duty and our privilege, by Divine grace, to make the most of the circumstances in which we find ourselves here. But further, we are to grow in the knowledge of Christ. And how do you grow in the knowledge of a person? By associating with him. By attending carefully to the different way. in which he reveals himself. If you would know Christ you must make Him your constant companion and counsellor, you must speak with Him, and above all you must hear Him speak with you.
(W. J. Lowe, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.