A Spiritual Additive for Life's Highway

Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton



 For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual[a] affection, and mutual[b] affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For anyone who lacks these things is short-sighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins.

--2 Peter 1:5-9 (NRSV)
A few months ago our youngest son Nick surprised us by purchasing a car. It is a clunker, to be sure.  Within a few weeks, the inevitable started to happen. Nick’s “new” car started to fall apart.  The back spoiler unexpectedly fell off in the middle of the road, the hatchback window cracked and splintered, and the engine started to burn oil.
Last week, I bought Nick a can of STP Oil Additive.  It is, in effect, a sealant and a booster for engines that burn a lot of oil.  This additive might get him a little farther down the road.
Now, I mean no disrespect to anyone, myself included, but there are some bodies in our churches that have a lot of miles on them.  Aging is no fun and none of us has any guarantees how long our engines are going to run.  Every day is a gift and we should cherish the opportunity to be a part of this God-given day.  The older we get, the more challenging our physical journey becomes.
The same could be said for our spiritual lives.  Many of us have claimed and used the name “Christian” for many years now.  Each of us can recall a day, often a specific one, when the light bulb came on, we accepted Christ as our Savior, and began a spiritual ride that was filled with grace and love.  At significant points on this journey, there have been challenges that confronted your spiritual life and tested the depth of your faith.  But perhaps the greatest challenge to our spiritual journey is sustainability.  Perhaps the greatest challenge we face in keeping our spiritual lives fresh and alive is longevity.  How can we keep the fire for Christ burning within us when the engine gets old and starts burning a lot of spiritual oil?
There are three roads we can travel along the way of discovering how to keep our spiritual engines running:
  1.  “The I Can Do it On My Own Highway.”  All along the journey, we are significantly tempted to believe that we can find and maintain our spiritual lives with our own efforts.  We are always trying to “DO” something to get to heaven. But there are all kinds of cars that have broken down on the side of this road. 
  2. “The Let’s Just Enjoy the Ride Scenic Highway.”  On this road are all sorts of good-intentioned people who just want to ease on down the highway.  They love calling themselves Christian and assume that with the title comes plenty of gas for the tank and oil for the engine.  The opposite of the “I-can-do-it-myself” crew, those on this road think, “Surely God will take care of me regardless of how fast I drive or whether or not I stay on the highway.”  But it doesn’t work that way. All along this highway are cars that have simply run out of gas because they believed that God would fill their tank automatically.
  3. The third highway is “The Straight and Narrow Path.”  On this highway there are clearly marked signs; the GPS is always in range, the rest stops are plentiful, and the filling stations are always running a sale on additive – that extra boost that keeps you from burning too much oil as you head down the road. That’s what the writer of II Peter was trying to get across in his message to the church.  This is the highway you are to travel and these are the additives that will help you reach the destination of your journey.
Peter says, “Add to your Faith VIRTUE and KNOWLEDGE.”  Everything in the life of a Christian goes back to faith.  Through faith, grace has been extended to us as a gift from God.  We are to add to what we have been given and cultivate what we have.
You can go down to the auto parts store and buy a case of oil additive, but it will do you no good if you don’t know where to put it.  God has given us the vehicle and the engine in the vehicle to get to our destination.  But we need to care for that which we have been given so that we can get there. 
Take care of your spiritual self.  Add to your faith.  Put the additive in your engine and watch your gauges carefully for any drop in oil pressure. 
Add to your faith virtue – some call it courage -- so that you can have operative excellence.  A virtuous person is a good citizen, one who stands for what is right and does what is right.  There is a way to go about things – you don’t put water in the gas tank and gas in the radiator.  You put things in right order and, as a result, the spiritual engine runs smoother.
Add to your faith knowledge  -- biblical, historical, theological and experiential knowledge is able to distinguish between good and evil.  But to do this we need to open the owner’s manual and look for the right directions. 
Peter says, Add to your faith Temperance, Patience, and Godliness.
Temperance means self-control.  How do you respond when the road conditions change?  Do you brake, downshift, and steer in the direction of your slide or do you put on the gas and attempt to plow on through?  In your spiritual life, when confronted with a challenging circumstance, do you pray, listen, and reflect the image of Jesus or do you blow off, tell people what you think, and cause more harm than good?  The true test of how you drive the spiritual vehicle you have been given is not how you act but how you re-act.  Do you have the mind and heart of Jesus at all times and in all places?
Patience is all about endurance.  When I come across a blowing snowstorm in my travels, I often find myself praying, “Lord, get me to the other side of the storm.”  Patience is the ability to endure when the going gets tough.  If my prayer would become, “Okay Tom, you only go around once, let’s see what you can do,” my vehicle would either slide off the highway or collide with another vehicle.  Friends, there is a fine line between having it and losing it all together.  One of our greatest additives is patience, for the journey is long and hard and fraught with many challenges.  Be Patient.
To be Godly is to have God with you at all times.  The old phrase may apply here:  God is my co-pilot.  If God were indeed in the car on the journey of life what would God say to you, how would God direct you, where would God lead you?  To say, I am going to add godliness to my engine will surely result in more miles of pleasant driving on the straight and narrow highway.
And Peter says, add to your life Kindness and Charity
As I drive up and down Western Pa. highways I have growing concern over many who drive tractor-trailers and pick-up trucks.  These drivers seem to believe that they own the highway.   They tailgate, flash their lights and cut in front of you.  Sadly, I have met a few of these drivers on the spiritual highway too.  It seems as if there is a spirit of entitlement among them and, for some reason, they believe they need to set the pace for everyone and that they have some inherent knowledge of God’s will that others lack. They don’t, but they completely fool themselves into thinking that their way is the only way and that there are no restrictions on how they drive on the highway called life.
Friends, we are to love one another with a sincere love, look out for one another on the straight and narrow highway and add to our engines a spirit of love and charity for everyone else on the road, even if they don’t drive the same speed or dwell in the same lane.
When that happens, kindness turns into charity just like a caterpillar turns into a butterfly.  Charity is deep love, sacrificial love, love without any expectation of anything in return.  This love sees people stranded on the highway of life and, without hesitation, stops and provides a helping hand.  This love sees the need of saint and sinner alike and is do deep that lives are blessed by the Christ that dwells within.
Friends, the journey is not an easy one.  Our spiritual lives get numb and we lose our cutting edge and passion so very easily.  Yet, on this straight and narrow highway, our Lord offers us a divine lube job, one that opens the bottle of an additive that will enable you to do, as the writer of Ephesians states, exceedingly, abundantly more than you could ever dream of or imagine.
It’s a simple additive.  It doesn’t take much action, just a willingness to receive it.  It is a free gift on the roadside of life.  It is a gift offered today and every day by the grace of God.
I don’t know how long Nick’s car will run.  But I do know that with this additive, our spiritual vehicle will make it the entire course of our lives.  What is this additive?  His name is Jesus.


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