When you want to rebuild your life, where do you begin? I imagine that each one of us has reached a point at which we wanted to turn around, start over, and begin the journey back home. Perhaps you were kicked out of school or out of your home; perhaps you were fired from the best job you ever had; perhaps you found yourself waking up in a hospital after some disastrous drug experience; perhaps you were arrested for theft when the money ran out; or perhaps that pivotal event in your life was as simple, yet life-changing, as an unexpected pregnancy.
The Apostle Peter knew about starting over. He was a follower of Jesus, and he thought himself to be a very spiritual individual. But Peter is well known for his denying that he knew Jesus. Just when things got bad, he failed miserably out of cowardice. Yet, Jesus forgave Peter and welcomed him back. Peter went on to do great and heroic things for the Lord. And Peter wrote a letter to us, telling us how to rebuild our lives in the Lord. Notice what he says in II Peter 1:3-9:
(3) His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (4) Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (5) For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; (6) and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; (7) and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. (8) 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. (9) But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
What a great thing to remember! God gives us life and godliness. He gives us the power to escape the corruption in the world caused by our sinful desires. Think of being given the key to unlock the prison you have gotten yourself into.
We don't accomplish dramatic changes by ourselves. Sometimes people talk about turning their own lives around. Others say, "You have to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps." But that's like taking your car back to the same repair shop that just ruined your transmission. Before you can get in gear and get headed down the right road, you will need an overhaul. Getting things fixed right starts with God's divine power, and it rests on God's great promises.
What is a promise? A promise is a commitment God makes to us that comes from His mercy, love, and grace. It is not something God owes us, and it is not something we deserve or can earn. It is freely given by God and must be freely received. What promises does God give? He promises life forever to those who believe in the Savior Jesus (John 3:16). He promises the privilege of becoming sons and daughters of God to those who receive Jesus Christ (John 1:12). He promises to be with us and never leave us (Hebrews 13:5). In fact, He promises to give us everything we need for life and godliness (I Peter 1:3).
When we recognize our sin and our helplessness, we are in the right place to turn to God through Jesus Christ and find the forgiveness of our sins. Through faith in Christ, we can be confident that God's promises apply to us. That becomes the starting point for a life of faith which begins to rebuild our lives. The Apostle Peter describes that life-rebuilding process. After talking about God's great promises (verse 4), he goes on to talk of the kind of effort we should make in the Christian life. "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, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love" (verses 5-7). Notice how this works in our lives. It is not that we are to add one thing after another, but that we are to add all these things together as part of our life of following Jesus. It begins with faith and ends with love. How great to have a life which is wrapped around with faith and love.
How can you take that first step when you feel so uncertain and weak? It's an act of faith. Since we know of God's great power and promises to us, we step out in faith. When most of us reach rock bottom, we wait until we feel strong enough to take a step. But real faith is expressed at the time that we feel weakest and still decide to step out. We must then put into practice goodness, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. We know our faith is small, we know it is weak, and we know it is awkward. But our confidence is not in our power, but in God's power. We find that each little step builds on the last and prepares us for the next. We find ourselves walking the kind of life that gives God the glory and makes us grow. Our lives are rebuilt by God when we start with His promises and take small steps in faith, knowing He has provided all the power and grace we need.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David O'Leary is married and has four children. He lives in Reading, PA where he is the pastor of Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He holds degrees from Tufts University (B.A.), Westminster Theological Seminary (M.A.R., M.Div.), and Covenant Seminary (D.Min.). He can be reached at email@example.com.