If you know me personally, you’ll know that I’m much funnier in person. I have a joyful nature. I don’t tell jokes. Honestly, I’m just not that good at it. But, I do love making people feel happy and encouraging people to feel good about life and about themselves. I’m an encourager from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. It’s my purpose in life.
If I could sum up my aim in life for as long as I am living on this earth, I would take Paul’s words to the Colossians:
My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. New International Version, Colossians 2: 2-3
I love that!
On Friday, I was given more positive news about my journey as a cancer survivor. It’s been nearly four years since my breast cancer diagnosis at the end of August in 2012. My oncologist affirmed my healing progress as he said, “Everything is still looking good, Heather. I don’t need to see you until June.”
That’s almost a year until I have to have another check-up with my oncologist!
That’s almost a year for me to continue with my encouraging ways with my family, with my friends, and with you!
What a gift!
And I’m more excited than ever to keep growing my relationship with my God, following in the steps of my Savior, and listening intently to the Holy Spirit and acting upon His guidance.
This past year, I have dedicated myself to reading Romans 12 daily and studying the word ‘saint’ in Scripture. In future blog posts, I’ll share more about what a year in Romans 12 has meant to me and how it has impacted my life.
Today, though, I feel especially compelled to write about something that isn’t funny, but rather dead serious. For the past two weeks, I have been camped in the concise and powerful book of Jude. There are just 24 verses in this letter written by the brother of James and the half-brother of Jesus. I just can’t seem to move on from this book into Revelation where more ‘saint’ verses await me.
My saint study has caused me to pause, reflect, pray, and wonder in the book of Jude.
Jude begins his letter with these words:
“Dear friends, although I was eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” New International Version, Jude 1:3
I love the way Jude begins his letter. He had planned to write a letter to everybody as he focused on salvation. However, the Spirit of God spoke into his heart. Jude was compelled to write an altogether different letter to a very specific audience. He turned his attention to Believers. He was given a specific word for the saints of God – that’s you and me. So, if you are reading this blog post, and you are not a follower of Christ, take note: what I am about to write is not for you. (Of course, you can certainly read on, if you like! 🙂 )
Jude’s letter was a wake-up call to the Community of Faith.
Jude began his letter with a challenge:
Contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints
What does Jude mean by contend?
Contend is based upon the Greek transliterated word eÍpagwniðzomai which means to earnestly contend. The word picture Jude had in mind as he wrote were of the Grecian games in which two opponents contend against each other in an athletic contest. The struggle is earnest, difficult, and requires strenuous zeal, determination and even agony, as each opponent seeks victory and an eventual prize.
What was Jude asking that we contend for then?
What is the prize?
Jude is exhorting the Believers of his day and in turn, encouraging the same of us in our time, to defend our faith with love and with truth and in great earnest.
That’s not necessarily an easy thing to do in these times – acknowledging our faith in Christ and following His leading carries a price tag.
The price tag can be costly.
Loss of opportunity, loss of friendship or relationship, loss of work, and even loss of life are at stake when we choose to be known as Christ followers.
Yet, there are even greater costs and losses if we do not.
Now, I am not saying, we yell, attack, demean, or hurt others in our contention for our faith. This is not the way of Christ. If we do this, we fail in showing anyone that Jesus Christ is alive in our souls. For how can someone see the transforming power of Jesus Christ at work in us, if all others hear are our words of condemnation?
Remember, these words of Paul, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” New International Version, Romans 8:1
If we are not condemned in Christ Jesus, then we do not condemn.
We love and invite others into relationship with Christ instead. We were not tasked with the role of Judge, nor jury.
We were tasked with the job of contending!
And to contend means that we do not compromise or allow ourselves to be corrupted.
Remember when I said this blog post was for Believers?
Remember when I said this blog post wouldn’t be funny – but rather, dead serious?
Friends, as I write this blog post, this is just as much for me as for anyone. This is why I have been camped in Jude for two weeks!
I have been asking these questions:
Am I compromising my faith in anyway?
Am I allowing myself to be corrupted by the ways of this world?
Does my compromise or corruption work in opposition to God’s hope and eternal plan?
How would you answer these questions?
Honestly, one of the ways I see our faith lives being compromised and corrupted is by how we have allowed the fears of today and tomorrow to contaminate our trust relationship with Christ.
What are you afraid of?
What happens if your fears do come true?
What happens if every little thing that you dread – happens?
How are your fears contaminating your contention of faith?
Friends in Christ, if these fears materialize, is our God still on His throne? Is our God still in control? Is our Savior still at work? Is the Holy Spirit still speaking and still prompting and still guiding? Does He still love us? Is Jesus still planning to return in Glory?
Okay, before you answer, I’ll make it personal.
What if my cancer comes back – stronger, uglier and deadlier than ever?
I’ve recently received good news regarding my cancer recovery, but that doesn’t mean that I’m free and clear of never-ever-ever being diagnosed again. Cancer doesn’t have rules of engagement. There are things I can do to live as healthy as I can, but that doesn’t mean much if new cancer cells form.
So, does that mean I will live in fear of cancer coming back?
Some people do.
But, I won’t.
I’ve been given more life to live. And I’m going to live it.
I’m not going to let the fear of the unknown compromise or corrupt my faith in God – that He knows me, that He loves me, and that He is guiding me onwards – even if cancer returns.
No, I am going to keep contending for my faith.
This is what Jude is asking of you and me.
He was so serious about it that he changed the focus of his letter to write just to us!
There is a lot more in his letter that is relevant to our times. Take a look in the book of Jude.
Suffice it to say, that we, the saints of God, have been tasked with an incredible opportunity on earth for the length of our days!
Contend for our faith
And as we do, Jude continues to spur us on with these words:
Dear Friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. New International Version, Jude 1: 20-21
There is no room in my life for compromise or corruption. I will not let fear have its way in my life and rob me of hope and purpose. I have the opportunity to keep on encouraging, keep on loving, keep on contending, and I will!
Image retrieved from Google Image Search “contend”