DO YOU REALIZE THE NEED TO CONTEND FOR YOUR FAITH?
- The worst enemies of Christian doctrine are professing Christians who do not hold to the faith once for all delivered to the saints (John Piper).
- How we live our everyday lives is part of this contending for the faith (April Motl).
- Music is part of worshiping God, but it was never meant to be the heart of it (Bob Kaufflin)
- People who are insecure about themselves suffer in their mind and emotions, as well as in their social and spiritual lives. Self-rejection and even self-hatred are the root causes of many relationship problems (Joyce Meyer)
- When we shift the way we see our suffering and trust the heart of God, we can let go of fear and be filled with peace because we know that He is working even if we don’t understand (Jennifer Tucker)
- When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace (Gavin Adams).
TEXT: Jude: 3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. 5 Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.
As life continues to unfold, there is contestation of faith. There are so many things to contend with, such as political outcomes, growing older, changing tides of life, prayers answered differently from what was expected that discourage, and drain life out of what we hoped would be the thrill of life, etc. Contending for the faith is striving or making an intentional effort regarding the faith and is not the same as defending the faith. Defending the faith is explaining behavior as Apostle Peter explained to the believers. ‘But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have’ 1 Peter 3:15). Contending with faith is allowing the mind to have awareness that there are forces that oppose or create doubts about the faith.
WHAT IS NOT CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH
Grumbling, complaining, assigning blame and fault finding are some of the pointers of the need to examine the state of one’s faith. The children of Israel, though delivered from Egypt by the Mighty Hand of God, continually doubted His ability to take care of them in the wilderness (Numbers 13, 14, 15). They grumbled and complained. Taking God’s provisions for granted and even attempting to overthrow Him is dangerous. ‘They gathered around Aaron and said to him, “Come on! Make us gods who can lead us. As for this man Moses who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we don’t have a clue what has happened to him. . .’” (Exodus 32:1). To turn God’s grace into permission to willfully make one’s path is to damage the faith, not contending for the faith.
Arrogance, pride or flattery that place trust and effort on self rather than God is to be out of tune with the faith that was once delivered. The human desire to want to get some praise and so feel important can easily sneak in and undermine and rival God. To be used by God to utter words that come true or have prayer answered the way one desires can easily rob one of humility. ‘For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you’ (Romans 12:3).
How one responds to the ‘God narrative’ by those who get what they desired and by those who did not get what they earnestly prayed for is an issue that calls for the contending of the faith. Any thought acted on that exalts our actions and ideas is degrading the efficacy of our walk with God and our witness of God’s saving grace. That thought must be fought.
CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH
Contending for the faith begins with recognition of the faith. The way you contend is as important as the content of your arguments. Faith is the conviction or belief. The object of the faith matters. The faith worth contending for is one that is a result of God’s grace. ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast’ (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The faith the believer is contending for is not earned, or a result of one’s goodness, or commitment, rather, it is because of God’s grace, love and mercy. Faith is not a good work in and of itself that God rewards. It is the response of unworthy sinners to God’s gracious mercy and forgiveness. It is important to be sure that is the faith that one has. That is the faith that was passed on to apostles. Every genuine believer has a duty to make strenuous effort to keep that faith. It is not just for some specialized people, but every believer’s responsibility.
The faith that is not earned, but God’s gift, is worth contending for. This trust in God’s provision rather than self must be maintained despite every temptation to do otherwise. The failure to battle for the faith avoid sliding into the world’s way of thinking. The fruit of not battling these issues will be divisions, worldly-mindedness, and a lack of the manifestation of the power of God in the lives and gatherings of believers. Why the believer must contend for the faith is because it is repeatedly threatened from within the believer, by the devil, and by the world systems.
Why a believer should contend for that faith is because if the faith is at stake, salvation is also at stake. If the truth is lost, salvation is lost. That is the faith that many martyrs, beginning with Stephen, apostles and believers throughout history have died for. That faith that was passed on is what has preserved the message to this day. To fail to defend the faith is to cause a break or cut in the message that enjoins believers to the work of God.
HOW TO CONTEND FOR THE FAITH
Taking thoughts captive – A thought that gets biased in the wrong direction is likely to lead to a totally different destination. A doubt, ‘did God really say’ (Genesis 1:1) was suggested by the serpent and that led to doubting the instructions given and actions that led in a totally different direction. Thinking that a political candidate who is confident is therefore also a conman who is intelligent and competent will lead to action that is either misinformed. ‘We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Thoughts need to be examined, sorted out and guided while others are discarded. Every thought, feeling, word, should be examined and acted on according to the authority of God’s word under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. ‘For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart’ (Hebrews 4:12). Know and reflect on the word of God and then use it as a lens through which all other thoughts are viewed. Remember even one degree offline will lead to a different destination.
Live the faith – Living by faith is allowing the mind to see the relationship between thought, action, and the outcome. ‘If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all’ (Isaiah 7:9). To live by faith is to act according to God’s voice and choose to remain within the boundaries of God’s love (Jude verse 21) and that is what enables forgiving one another, loving even those who hate you, blessing those who curse you and refusing the popularly held beliefs that overwhelmingly contradict God’s voice. Have self-control, which is the ability to regulate thoughts and responses to what happens around a person. A good listener is one who can hold thoughts, allow the other to complete their talk before responding and so enrich a conversation. The best way to contend for the faith is to live a life that is so obedient to God’s word that people ask you for an explanation. ‘But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect’ (Peter 3:15).
Contending for the faith is revealed as believers respond to the successes and struggles of life, and the desire for power. Desire to be in charge must be clearly thought through. The depth and quality of a person’s own relationship with Jesus Christ is what determine how they contend with faith. What makes up the inside of a person is more important than what the outside appears to be. Unfortunate tendency in evangelical circles is to evaluate candidates’ fitness for ministry solely based on their doctrinal understanding and commitments. In the beginning God created them male and female with the mission of taking dominion, power over creation. Unfortunately, listening to another power led to that intrinsic desire to rule to be marred by selfishness. That same story continues all around us and inside of us. Watch out before you are caught up in a celebrity mindset that often looks more at gifting or philosophical agreement than at character, ‘The love of power has caused our political pursuits to overwhelm our Christian beliefs for far too many Christians’ (Gavin Adams). The book of law must be read and meditated upon so that it provides light for the journey. To suck up to political powers and so be looking down on others or being sarcastic points to the need to contend for the faith. Contending for the faith requires one to remain their position. It is demeaning and harmful to self and to the faith when one maintains a godly appearance in public while in the mind and privately one takes the shape of the majority. Apostle Paul challenges Christians to finish the race and to run the race aware of their destination, eternity with Christ. We can only do that if we stand fast and contend for the faith. Do you realize that contending for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people leads to conforming to the image of Jesus Christ- the essence of the message of the Bible?
‘Contending for the faith doesn’t just pertain to lofty theological matters or apologetics, it also pertains to the practical purity of God’s people’ (April Motl).