"...Make Every Effort to Add to Your Faith Goodness..."

A wonderfully encouraging passage that stresses the primacy of the believer’s relationship “knowledge” of Jesus Christ – as opposed to picturing the Christian life in terms of religion or rules or rituals – is 2 Peter 1:1 – 11. After suggesting that relationship knowledge of the Lord provides grace and peace “in abundance” for the believer, Peter goes on to point out that God’s power “has given us everything we need for life and godliness” through that same deep, intimate, relationship knowledge of God. Finally, Peter challenges us to “make every effort” to pursue the spiritual growth that will keep us from being “ineffective and unproductive” in our “knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The pattern of spiritual growth that Peter outlines might be seen as a meaningful and effective “curriculum” for our Christian lives, and for our “training and instruction” (nurture and admonition) of our children. The “curriculum” begins with “faith”, therefore, it begins with God. As verse one says, “have received a faith as precious as ours.” The words, “have received” point out that this faith is not of ourselves. It is not something we have stirred up or initiated or even found within ourselves. It has come to us from outside of ourselves. It has come to us as a “gift of God.” (Eph. 2:8, 9) We have received it from a loving heavenly Father, the God of grace and peace.

Peter admonishes his readers to “add to (their) faith goodness”. It is goodness that is first in the “curriculum” as far as our efforts are concerned. This is a logical step in the progression of spiritual growth biblically and practically. Scriptural support for this idea may be seen in the previous letter that Peter wrote. In 1 Peter 2:2, 3 we read, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

Even the unregenerate have some affinity for goodness though it may be selfishly motivated. We are more inclined to those who are “good” to us than we are to those who mistreat us. This is even more uncorrupted in a child. For regenerate children, among the first results of the Spirit’s work in their lives is the “taste” of the goodness of the Lord in His loving provision of forgiveness and salvation. We continue from this “taste” to begin to feed upon that which is good as we learn more and more about what is good. This love of goodness and feeding upon what is good – and learning what is good – continues throughout our spiritual lives, but it seems to make sense that it is among the first steps in the process of our spiritual growth.

At the practical level, how then can we stir up the love and knowledge of goodness in ourselves and in our children?

There is an old story that tells of a conversation that a missionary has with a native chief. Speaking about his struggles with spiritual temptation, the native chief pictures the conflict he feels within himself as a dogfight between what he describes as a great huge, vicious, mangy, ill-tempered dog (which seeks to get him to do that which is evil) and a large, pure bred, well mannered dog (which seeks to encourage him to do that which is good). The missionary asks the chief, “Which one of the dogs wins?” The chief replies, “The one that I feed the most.”

What an insightful punchline! It seems logical that the love and knowledge of goodness will grow in accordance with our “feeding” upon that which is good. Of course, the Word of God declares itself to be spiritual food for us, and Jesus spoke (controversially) about feeding upon Him. (This certainly reflects the same idea of relationship with Christ that is spoken of at the beginning of 2 Peter.) The Word of God and the worship of the Living God must be the “main course” in our feasting upon goodness. But there are other complementary sources of “good” food.

“Stones of Remembrance”

Deuteronomy 6:20 – 25 and Psalm 78:1 – 8 are just two examples among many from Scripture which present to us a very practical strategy for feeding upon goodness. These passages reveal the importance of family testimonies of God’s grace and faithfulness as a source of nourishing, “good” food. It is so important for families to tell and retell the stories of God’s working in the lives of individual family members and the family as a whole. Children need to be exposed to the history of their family and its relationship with God through the best of times and the most difficult of times. They need to be reminded of the events where they watched their parents put their hope in God and of how God answered and provided and delivered them. They also need to hear their parents affirm their confidence in God even when God’s answers and provision and deliverance were not discernible to the finiteness of human understanding.

We all need these reminders. We need to put up “stones of remembrance” as Joshua did, or “Ebenezers” as Samuel did for God’s people. These were literal stone pillars that were erected that reminded the people, “With the help of the Lord, we have come thusfar.” I know a couple that has a shadowbox on their wall that contains their “Ebenezers.” They have placed things in the shadowbox that were chosen to remind them and their children of specific evidences of God’s care and power in their family.

My wife and I have established a tradition in our family to accomplish a similar purpose. Prior to the end of each year, Darby and I write letters to each of our children in special memory books kept for each child just for this occasion. As the children have become able, they have also written letters to each other in these memory books. In these letters, we reflect on things that have taken place in each life in the previous year. We seek to affirm one another and to express our love and gratitude for each other. Most importantly, we try to record the story of God’s work in our family and in each of us individually. On New Year’s Eve, we wake the children and welcome in the New Year by reading these letters to one another and enjoying a midnight breakfast. When the children are grown and establish their own families and traditions, they will be able to take these memory books with them and have a record of the faithfulness and goodness of God and a testament of our love for each other as a family.

Good Books

Stories that display goodness as appealing, that present a clear distinction between what is good and what is not good, are among the best sources - apart from the Word of God and Jesus Himself – that will whet the appetite of the believer and the believing child or the child of believing parents for goodness. Christian biographies; missionary stories; books by writer’s such as Horatio Alger, Jr., Oliver Optic, Martha Finley, Paul Hutchens, Ralph Connor, and C. S. Lewis; “living books”, as Charlotte Mason referred to them, like Charlotte’s Web and Johnny Tremain and Robinson Crusoe ; all these are wonderful grazing pasture for us and our children to “feed” upon goodness.

It is not just any book that fits this description. Many books that may be well written fail to represent good and evil as contrasting values. The modern “hero” is often portrayed (in books, television, and films) as a confusing - and confused – contradiction. He may be a capable police officer, for example, but he is also a philandering husband. Such stories can often desensitize us to the compromise of goodness, and this is especially problematic for young readers (and viewers). However, even as we get older, making accommodations to sin and corruption is a danger to spiritual growth. Hebrews 5:14 describes the spiritually mature as those “who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” Confusing, or compromising the goodness of goodness will not help prepare us for maturity

“And God saw that it was good.”

In shopping for “good” food, it seems that another obvious source can be found in God’s creation. Concluding each of the brief accounts of God’s creation in its various parts, Genesis chapter one tells us that God declared it to be good. It makes sense that learning about and enjoying creation as an expression of the majesty and power of God is a marvelous feast on goodness.

Parents might find a great opportunity to expose themselves and their children to goodness by not leaving the study of nature to the trained science teacher. Get outside, look and listen. Take a walk. Pick up a leaf and study it. Lift a rock and see what is under it. Take a trip just to see some spectacular scenery. Ask questions about how things work. Explore someplace you have never been before. Watch some clouds instead of a computer screen. Lie under the stars and look for meteors instead of renting a movie. Develop a sense of wonder again as you foster the sense of wonder in your children.

Do Good

Feeding on goodness is not just an aesthetic or merely intellectual exercise. Neither is it an individual pursuit simply for personal benefit. Preparing and having a meal involves activity, and truly enjoying a meal involves sharing it with others. Likewise, feeding on goodness should lead us to action and should motivate us to respond to others in a godly way.

Hebrews 13:15 and 16 reads,

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

A very meaningful way to receive the nourishment of goodness is when we do what is good for others. There is clear instruction all throughout the Scriptures that identifies the goodness of doing justice, loving mercy, taking up the cause of the poor and the needy, caring for widows and orphans in their distress. Perhaps one of the best ways we can help to feed our children on this goodness is to seek those opportunities to serve people as a family. Participating in a mission trip; volunteering at a soup kitchen or clothes pantry; distributing blankets to the homeless on a cold night; visiting in the hospital; getting involved with our older children in a prison ministry; there are many good entrees from which to choose on this menu.


We need to make informed and intentional choices regarding this “diet” of goodness. To be uninformed and unintentional about it does not mean that we and our children will go unfed, but we will go hungry. The world and our own sinful natures will force feed us from the menu of corruption and ungodliness despite our best attempts to resist it or protect against it. But the smorgasbord of the world offers nothing that will satisfy.

On the other hand, as 1 Peter 2:2 suggests, once we have tasted that the Lord is good, the logical response is that we continue to crave what is best for us. And we will be filled.

The study of 2 Peter 1:5 – 8 will continue in the next e-pistle entry.