In Aesop’s famed fable, the arrogant hare loses a foot race to the humble tortoise because, confident of his superior speed, he takes a mid-race nap. The moral of the story? “Slow and steady wins the race.” Persistent, consistent, and diligent progress, even if it is somewhat slow, will usually produce better results than rushing to achieve something. In our haste, we frequently make unforced errors. Steadiness often trumps speed.
Peter’s readers were assaulted by various teachings and, perhaps because they were novel and exciting, were tempted to embrace them. The apostle warned them against embracing false teaching to their destruction. In the process, he gave them the key they needed to avoid this. The false teachers, he said, “entice unsteady souls” (2:14). Warning of the character of the heretics (2:10b–16), he assured them that steadiness was the key to winning the race. The false teachers relied on “unsteady souls” to promote their teaching. Denied unsteady souls, their ministry would wither.
If we will make meaningful progress in our walk with the Lord, it will require steadiness. J. C. Ryle gets to the heart of the matter: “You live in a world where your soul is in constant danger. Enemies are around you on every side. Your own heart is deceitful. Bad examples are numerous. Satan is always labouring to lead you astray.”
Ryle points to the three great enemies of the Christian church: the world, the flesh, and the devil. These three conspire together to derail Christian obedience. If we are caught napping with the hare, we will find ourselves shamed by the tortoise.
Ryle goes on to describe the danger posed by false teaching: “Above all, false doctrine and false teachers of every kind abound. This is your great danger.” Like Peter’s readers, we are surrounded by unbiblical worldviews that want to knock us off the narrow path to life. But God has given us strategies and weapons to use in the fight.
Foremost among those weapons is the Bible itself. The key to identifying and avoiding error is not to study error but to study the truth. A mind intoxicated by God’s truth will easily spot error. Learn truth. Study truth. Memorise truth. Meditate on truth. “Neglect your Bible and nothing that I know of can prevent you from error if a plausible advocate of false teaching shall happen to meet you,” says Ryle. “I shall not be surprised to hear that you are troubled with doubts and questions about assurance, grace, faith, perseverance, etc. I shall not wonder if I am told that you have problems in your marriage, problems with your children, problems about the conduct of your family and about the company you keep.” If we do not take up the sword of the Spirit, we should not wonder when we are caught up in destructive behaviour.
In addition to the Bible itself, we have the gift of the church, which is “a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). We frequently give attention to the need to protect the church from error, but perhaps we need to give more attention to how the church protects us from error. Since the enemy is always looking to destroy us, we must know where to go for refuge. Through Isaiah, Yahweh encouraged his people, “The LORD has founded Zion, and in her the afflicted of his people find refuge” (14:32). We should find refuge in New Jerusalem. We neglect the church to our own detriment, and it should not surprise us that we fall prey to false teaching and godless philosophies if we don’t find steadiness in the church.
Ultimately, of course, we must realise that our steadiness must be built on Christ. The foundation of our faith is not the church. The foundation of our faith is not the Bible. These gifts point to the foundation, which is Jesus Christ. “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11). If we are not rooted in him, we will be unsteady and will be swept away by every wave that crashes against us. Lasting stability is found only in Christ and his gospel.
As you meditate this morning on 2 Peter 2:10b–16, ask God for the grace you need to stand steady in the storms of life. Build your steadiness on Christ. Inform your steadiness by Scripture. Live out your steadiness in the church.