And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:11-12
As we’ve covered Hebrews 6 the last couple of Sundays, we’ve seen that the genuineness of our salvation is proved by fruit. God doesn’t save an individual, and then leave them unchanged. In saving them, he dwells in and with them by the Spirit, and begins to bear good fruit: conviction of sin, growth in love and knowledge of God, strength and desire to obey and honor God, perseverance through difficulties.
Using a word from the passage above, we should have an “earnestness” to bear fruit, and through that to gain greater assurance that we are truly his, and have the eternal hope that is in him.
And yet, it is possible to ignore the role of God’s providence in this, and put undue pressure on ourselves to produce fruit. For example, to learn patience, we often are dependent not only on God working on our inner thoughts, beliefs, emotions and temperament, but also God bringing about external situations for our patience to be tried and demonstrated. To learn forgiveness, we need not only God’s grace to take hold in our inner being, but his providence to provide the context where forgiveness is needed. The same could be said about self-control, rejoicing in the Lord at all times (Phil. 4:4), perseverance, etc.
While we must “make every effort” to grow in godliness (2 Pet. 1:5), must “work out (our) own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12), we can trust God to bring about the needed opportunities and contexts in which to do this. He cares about the fruit of our lives, and we can trust his timing and good will to lead us in that.
It is a great comfort to know that he will give us just what we need, at just the right time to lead us to greater maturity. The question is, how will we respond when he brings such opportunities into our lives?
Richard Loveless, in his book Dynamics of Spiritual Life, spoke of this:
“The process of sanctification is broader and more subtle than our conscious efforts to mortify (kill) known patterns of sin in our lives. Much of our growth in grace is quietly affected by events and conditions God brings into our lives to perfect his work in us. We are faced by sacrificial choices, like Abram’s call to leave Ur and the later command to offer up Isaac, and our positive response to such choices deepens the purity of our intention to follow Christ. We undergo painful losses and illness, or attack and persecution, and our trust and obedience in these circumstances enlarge our character and conform us to the image of Christ….
If we interrupt the process of sanctification by procrastinating in meeting an issue that God has set before us or be reverting to a posture of backsliding unbelief, God in his love will inevitably bring our lives into circumstances of failure, frustration or suffering which will drive us back to sobriety.
The progress of our spiritual growth is not a matter of our own initiative and designing; it is under the control and direction of God who has begun a good work in us and will work patiently to perfect it until the day of Christ” (117-118).
God’s all-encompassing providence is a great comfort not only in that he knows what we face, not only in that he has approved what we face, but that he intends to use what we face for our growth in his grace.