When I have a busy, long day, sometimes the last thing I want to do is open my Bible. It’s not that I’m running away from God, but it takes more thought when I’m already tired. And it’s yet another thing getting in the way of just doing what I want to do. I spend all day doing everything for everyone else–by the time I have a few minutes to myself, I want to just do what I feel like doing.
However, I’ve noticed a pattern: when I’m more consistent about turning my focus on God, rather than myself, I make better choices: I snack less, I’m more active, I go to bed earlier. And it spills into other areas of my life: I’m more patient with my family, show more empathy to my kids, spend the time I have with them more wisely, etc.
You’d think I’d learn. And I think I am learning, little by little. It feels like two steps forward, one step back, but I try to remind myself it’s still forward progress so I don’t get too discouraged.
Life is Like a Down Escalator
I liked the analogy Priscilla Shirer used during the Going Beyond Simulcast she did earlier this year. She talked about how life is like an escalator you’re trying to climb up. It takes consistency and discipline to keep going. But if you stop, you start to coast down–there is no neutral.
I’ve seen the same thing in my own life. When I stop turning to God regularly, I slip backwards: I start to become self-centered; I become more insecure, forgetting that my value comes from Him; I stop taking the time to really listen to my kids and focus on just feeding them and getting them to sleep, thinking about how I’ll spend “my time” once they’re in bed instead of being grateful for the time I have with them.
So often I feel like I have too much going on or I’m more interested in other things to continue to turn my focus to God. But as Priscilla pointed out, “Salvation is free, but growth requires effort…the enemy will make us too busy, distracted, and disinterested to stay focused.” Wow. I definitely feel seen.
How to Go Up the Down Escalator
So where should I put my focus? How do I work on growing forward, making my way up the down escalator instead of coasting down? During the Simulcast, Priscilla shared how 2 Peter 1:5-8 provides a guide for us:
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.
Make every effort
First of all, we’re supposed to make every effort. That means when we feel tired or busy, we still do everything we can to prioritize what comes next in the passage.
Add to your faith goodness
Priscilla called this moral excellence or virtue. I’m not sure which translation she was reading from, but she stopped to talk about the word virtue here: it means fulfilling the purpose it was created for. She also pulled in 1 Corinthians 10:31 here: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
So we need to do what we’re created to do, and through that we’re supposed to do it to display or highlight God.
What does this look like for you? How do you show what God’s doing in your life?
Personally, I struggle with this. At work, I don’t always see opportunities to give Him the glory for the skills he’s given me and the way I depend on Him to direct my path. At home, it’s hard to remember I’m washing dishes and picking up toys for the millionth time for the glory of God. But I think whatever you’re doing, if you’re doing it with a heart of trying to serve God you’re on the right track. At least that’s the way I try to approach it. I’m open to your thoughts on this too, though!
And to goodness, knowledge
How well do you know who God is?
I really liked the analogy Priscilla Shirer talked about here. She explained that when baby zebras (foals) are born, “Mothers often separate from the herd a short distance so that their foals can imprint on them. Once the foal can readily identify its mother, the mare and her foal return to the herd for protection” (San Diego Zoo). The foal needs to know its mother’s stripes so it can distinguish her from the other zebras.
The same is true when it comes to God’s truth. It’s important we really know it so when we’re confronted with the world’s “truth,” we can tell the difference. We can know those stripes the world is presenting aren’t quite right.
How are you working on knowing God better? During the pandemic, I’ve been reading my Bible more, studying various sections with my mom, and listening to podcasts from preachers I know focus on biblical truth. I definitely don’t claim to know it all, but I can see how much my knowledge has increased in the past year and a half. I’ve noticed myself reacting more to the confused messages I hear from the world, realizing the “truth” within the messages aren’t true at all.
And to knowledge, self control
This is definitely counter-cultural. We’re told things like, “Do what feels right,” and “Do whatever you want–as long as you’re happy.” Self control isn’t a priority in this culture.
It sounds backwards, but the truth is there’s freedom in self control. As Priscilla explained it, when we learn self control, we still have those desires, but they don’t boss us around anymore.
I struggle with self control. Sometimes I do a great job restraining myself, choosing not to give into whatever I want in the moment (that I don’t really need). But other times, my feelings take over and I just want to do what I want to do.
I think this is something I need to do a better job of asking God for. He wants us to have self control. I don’t think we’ll just magically receive it one day, but if we continue to ask for it, He’ll help us grow in our self control little-by-little.
And to self control, perseverance
Adulting is hard. Being Mom is hard. Life in general is hard.
But this life is a marathon. Sometimes it’s just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other, asking God for strength and direction as we strive to overcome.
And to perseverance, godliness
Priscilla gave a great analogy here! She talked about how sometimes we wear “religious spanx.” We go to church, act godly while we’re there, and then as soon as we’re done we take them off and go back to relaxing and letting loose in our “normal life.”
But as she pointed out, a life of godliness isn’t an event–it’s a lifestyle. It reflects an awareness of His presence no matter what you’re doing or who you’re with. It’s not about being perfect, but rather living with your focus centered on God.
And to godliness, mutual affection
Priscilla said the translation for mutual affection here has the root word phileo, which means brotherly love. It’s a familial sort of love. After all, we are a family! We’re to show kindness to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
I appreciated that she pointed out you can be kind without agreeing. There are so many perspectives, there’s no way we can all always agree! But as Priscilla said, a mean-spirited saint is a saint who isn’t being fed. If you’re focused on Christ, you can be kind to your brothers and sisters, despite differences of opinion.
I also liked that she pointed out kindness is an action word: it’s a state of doing; it’s proactive. When we’re kind to each other, it helps our own hearts grow–in addition to helping someone else, you’re helping yourself, too.
As my kids squabble with each other, I find myself asking them, “Are you being kind to your brother or sister?” But I think that’s a good question for myself, too. A big part of this starts right here at home. Am I being kind to my husband? To my kids?
And to mutual affection, love
Love is all over the Bible. It’s clearly important.
I think it’s important to point out that love isn’t just how we feel–it’s a reflection of our heart towards each other, and is often based on choices we make. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a says:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
We’re naturally impatient, self-seeking, and angry. But this is another area where, if we ask God for help, He’ll help us. As 1 Corinthians 13:13 goes on to say, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Possess these qualities in increasing measure
This is a really hard list of things to work on. What I love is that we don’t need to do it alone, though. It’s not all on me to add goodness, knowledge, self control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love. Yes, I want to keep working on those things, but I can ask God to help me–and He will.
I love how Brant and Sherri have put it on the Brant & Sherri Oddcast: God’s a dad. He wants to give us things and bless us, so ask for them!