A spiritual health check
When Peter wrote his second epistle he was aware that shortly his service for the Lord on earth would come to an end. There is, therefore, added urgency in his words as he asks his readers to give "all diligence" (1.5), "to have these things always in remembrance" (1.15), to "be mindful" (3.2), and to "be not ignorant" (3.8). To underpin these exhortations there is laid out the great blessings into which believers have been introduced. There has not only been "given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness" (1.3), but there has also been "given unto us exceeding great and precious promises" (1.4). As a consequence of this bountiful giving there ought to be from believers a response in gratitude, expressed by the desire to "add to your faith" the seven choice features of virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. The life of Peter is a remarkable example of spiritual growth. He was asking others to do what he had done as he exhorts, "in your faith have virtue" (1.5, JND). This would not come to pass without effort. It had to be diligently sought with a willing heart!
But what if we fail? What if we have never made any attempt to follow Peters teaching? We are saved but we have not sought spiritual growth. Knowing the goodness of God in salvation has been enough, and beyond that we have never sought to go. The aged Apostle would have experienced declining physical powers. Perhaps that is why he writes to test the spiritual health and vigour of his readers. There are four indicators to which he draws attention.
First, the problem of idleness is addressed. If one is enjoying spiritual health the believer will not be "barren (idle, JND)". The word has the thought of refusing to carry out the labour that ought to be performed. Lack of energy is a symptom of poor health. Spiritual lethargy robs one of spiritual growth. Was Archippus in danger of being affected by this as Paul exhorted him to "Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it" (Col 4.17)?
The second feature is that of being unfruitful, of there being no sign of healthy life. A tree that is unfruitful is clearly in a troubled condition and requires action to remedy the malady. It is either not being fed properly, is suffering from attack, or requires to be pruned. Such is the unfruitful believer - not feeding from the Scriptures, succumbing to the attack of the Adversary, or requiring spiritual pruning. The Galatians suffered from this complaint. The fruit of the Spirit (5.22) was little to be seen, so much so that the Apostle asked, "Who did hinder you ?" (Gal 5.7).
The third indicator is that of dim eyesight. Such an individual "cannot see afar off" (2 Pet 1.9). The end of lifes pathway, and all the joy to be experienced at that time, is no longer in view. What is in close proximity fills the vision. Such a believer is so occupied with the present age, with the things around, that the future is beyond his gaze. Demas seems to have been afflicted with this problem, the symptom being his love for "this present world" (2 Tim 4.10).
The fourth sign is that of failing memory. When the purging from the sins that marked the way of life before salvation has been forgotten, so also will be the necessity of avoiding them. The activities of life before salvation are remembered, but the act of being washed from them and the cleansing effect that this had are forgotten. The link between salvation and sanctification, therefore, has been blurred until it is no longer recognised. Some of the Corinthians had been affected by this complaint and Paul had to remind them, "And such were some of you: but ye are washed" (1 Cor 6.11).
Let us all, therefore, examine ourselves. Time to serve the Lord is short; time to seek Christlikeness is passing quickly! This challenge comes from the pen of the Apostle who, after his failure following the arrest of the Lord Jesus, was re-commissioned with the instruction from the Lord to "Feed my sheep" (Jn 21.16,17). The encouragement is that, should we recognise that we have spiritual health problems, we can take heart from the example of Peter. Recovery is possible! Delay will only make the condition worse.