We want assurances that everything will be okay as we grow older; that our children will do all right, that we will find fulfillment in the tasks to which we feel called.  We want a “fail-safe,” an assurance that our efforts will not be wasted.

“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:10-11)

How does one make an effort to confirm an election?  Is not an election final?  Apparently, Peter did not think so!  In the first chapter of his second letter he asserts that even though Father has given us everything we need for a godly life, some would be ineffective, unproductive, nearsighted, blind, and even forget that they had been cleansed from past sins.

The key for Peter laid in the participation in the divine nature by way of our knowledge of Him who has called us.  This knowledge is the “everything” we need for godly living, but it is not knowledge that is alone.  It begins with faith to which we add virtues, one of which is this knowledge.  And the virtues he lists should be added “in increasing measure” (v 8) in order to make us effective, productive, and farsighted.  Then what are these virtues we should be adding in increasing measure?

“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.” (2 Peter 1:5-7)  A wise man once said, “We are saved by faith alone, but not faith that is alone.” (Dr. Ronald Wright)  And here Peter makes that clear.

Faith in God is a wonderful thing, but sadly there are many Christ-followers who are hardly “good.”  They are carnal in their lifestyles, selfish in their choices and attitudes and generally unpleasant people.  We are not supposed to be this way!  If we believe in a good, good God, if we want to be like Jesus who “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38) should we not also be learning to be good?  Should not people see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven? (Matthew 5:16)  Examine your life and consider, “Does anyone think of me as good?  Am I a blessing or a pain in the neck to those with whom I interact?”

You do not have to know a lot of stuff, whether Scripture or scientific facts or logical processes to be good.  A very ignorant person can still be good.  Someone who does not even know John 3:16 can be good.  But having faith and being good is just the start of a life-long process that Father intends to work in us.  He may accept us when we are ignorant and behaving stupidly, but He does not want us to stay that way!

Transfiguration of Jesus.jpgPeter goes on in this chapter to describe the importance of the “prophetic word” that is the Scripture, as being more significant even than his personal experience of witnessing the transfiguration of Jesus (see Matthew 17:1-8).  An ignorant fool can go to Heaven, but not because he is ignorant or foolish, but in spite of these handicaps.  How much better to enter Heaven with a knowledge of the Holy?  A knowledge that is both personal in our experience and confirmed by the Word of God?  A knowledge that includes memorized Bible verses, awareness of how He has worked with His children in the past, and an understanding of the great themes of Scripture?

But do not stop now!!  To knowledge we should add self-control.  Whether by studying Scripture that gives marvelous guidelines for mental health or by consulting with godly counselors and others who have walked a long way with Jesus, we must come to a place where self-control is evident to those around us.  Rudyard Kipling said in his poem, “If: A Father’s Advice,”
Rudyard Kipling.jpg“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too; . . .

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a man, my son!”

If you think this is becoming too difficult, consider the next virtue Peter calls on us to add to our collection: perseverance!  Hang in there!  Do not give up!  Paul and the author of Hebrews both warned we should not grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9).  Our examples are our Father (Isaiah 40:28) and Jesus (Hebrews 12:3).

Which leads us to add godliness.  Godliness, God-like-ness, is the process of our becoming more like our Master.  This is what Jesus called His disciples to when He said, “Be perfect therefore as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)  He seriously could not have been meaning for us to meet God’s standard of eternal, ontological, moral, intellectual and emotional perfection, but rather by Father’s grace to enter into a relationship that purifies us so that we become more like Jesus day by day (1 John 3:3).

The next virtues Peter advises us to add to our faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, and godliness are intended to complete that perfection in us.  To all these we should add mutual affection and agape love.  Here is a tenderness that recognizes another’s struggles and cares for the weak among us.  It is a tolerance for the ignorant and out-of-control.  And beyond this is a love that knows no boundaries, but loves even the unlovely, the outcast, the enemy (See )  This is God’s love for us.

And if we add these things “in increasing measure” we will discover we are fail-safe.


If: A Father’s Advice to His Son
By Rudyard Kipling

“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a man, my son!”

5 thoughts on “Fail-Safe

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