An Eight Rung Ladder

Santa Teresa under sail in San Diego

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.


Peter promises us in the next verse, “if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, if you want to be an effective, fruitful Christian, we need to garner these eight virtues. Think of them as an eight rung ladder. In the weeks to come, in this column, we’ll spend some time focusing on each of them.


The first step to take on the path to discipleship is faith. The word “faith” simply means “belief” and we need to be very careful because there are many different things to believe in and many different expressions of belief. For example, James says, “Even the demons believe – and shudder!” Their faith doesn’t do them any good at all! Why? Because their belief doesn’t lead to proper action.

So what kinds of belief are there? In Rubel Shelly’s wonderful book, Prepare to Answer, he describes some of them:

  1. A credulous belief has little to commend it. Some people believe the earth is flat, but that seems silly to most of us.
  2. Mere belief rests on flimsy evidence. As much as I hate to admit it, belief that the Padres will win the World Series seems like a mere belief.
  3. A substantive belief would take strong contrary evidence to change what we believe. “I believe George Washington was the first president of the United States” seems substantive. My belief rests on strong evidence.
  4. Of course there are mistaken beliefs. I’ve walked up to red Jeeps in the parking lot and put my key in the door only to discover, it wasn’t my car. I was mistaken.
  5. Finally, there are statements of personal faith. “I believe in Jan.” That statement is based on years of personal experience and trust.

So when you say, “I believe in Jesus” is that just wishful thinking (1 or 2)? Is it just a statement of fact as in “I believe Jesus really lived 2,000 years ago” (3)? Could it be a statement of misplaced faith (4)? No, Paul calls this the “Good Confession” (1 Timothy 6:12, 13). It is the realization that God has reached out to us in love and that belief opens a whole new world to us.

Faith is the first step. Let’s keep climbing the ladder together in the weeks to come.

Sailing Lessons: Trust

Jan and I just returned from a vacation in Mexico on our beloved sailboat, Santa Teresa. We’ve owned Teresa for many years. She was built in 1969 from 16 tons of Mahogany and, as Captain Jack Aubrey said in the movie Master and Commander “There is enough of our blood in the wood to make her a near-relative!”

Santa Teresa at Sail

As we sailed, Jan and I tried to think of lessons the experience was teaching us about the Christian life. For example, I can’t think of a better lesson on faith than to check your chart and your compass and then sail “over the horizon.” You believe there is an island waiting for you out there. It will have a wonderful anchorage and delights for us to enjoy but to get there we have to sail out of sight of land. We trust the compass to show us the way but there is a very serious moment when the coast disappears and all you can see is an uninterrupted horizon of blue all around you. You keep sailing by faith and then there is a moment of magical joy when that fuzzy cloud on the horizon grows sharper and reveals the island you have been sailing for. It is one thing to sail from point to point but quite another to let go and step out on faith.

During the first week of our trip we had clear blue skies but the winds and the waves drove us on. We reached Isla Coronado Sur in record time. At one point our 16 tons reached 8 knots driven by the wind alone! That was glorious but when it came time to anchor for the night, the island didn’t protect us very much. All night long Teresa bucked and rocked at times threatening to throw us out of our bunks. Just a few yards away were dark, ugly rocks bathed in white foam. The shore seemed to be smacking her lips wanting to devour our little wooden boat. The only thing holding us in safety was a thirty-five pound anchor, a hundred feet of chain and two hundred feet of half-inch nylon.

That gives you a lot to think about as you lay in your bunk through the night. Is the bottom hard-packed sand or soupy mud? Does the anchor have a good bite or has it become fouled in the chain? Are the shackles tight or slowly coming unscrewed with each jerk on the chain? Is the rope chaffing against the hull or a rock? Are we fast or are we slowly inching towards those jagged rocks? Many times I sang the old hymn that asks, “Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?” Jan reached across the v-berth and took my hand. Even as the wind sang in the rigging, she smiled in the darkness and said, “I’m glad we used the best anchor!”

Faith in the chart and faith in the anchor are important but how much more important is our faith in a loving heavenly Father? Trim your sails and let’s continue the adventure!