Why should we contend for the faith? – Part 1

There are things in life that are not all that important, and then there are those things that are worth fighting for. Our health is one of those things, it is worth the fight. But many Americans are losing the battle. Not only do we overeat, but we eat a lot of bad food. A recent article I read reported that 1 out of every 3 Americans eat fast food on any given day. To put that into perspective, close to 85 million people eat fast food every single day. What makes that so bad for our health is that:

“Fast foods tend to be high in calories, fat, salt and sugar, which — when consumed in excess — can be associated with obesity, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, among other health risks.” [1]

But if we are going to fight for our health, and I think most of us would agree that our health is worth fighting for, we have to cut back on how much we eat and what we eat. For some of you, that might be a new revelation. But most of you that we shouldn’t eat as much as we do and we shouldn’t be eating the food we eat, at least not on a regular basis.

It is easy for us to grow apathetic and allow foods to creep into our diet that isn’t healthy for us. That is especially true when we get busy with the daily grind of life. The last thing we are thinking about when we are trying to get to a meeting, accomplish a deadline, or get our kids to their third practice that week is how healthy the food is we are eating. But we can’t let our guard down if we are going to contend for our health.

That is not only true of our physical health but of our own spiritual health as well. If we are going to keep ourselves spiritually healthy, then we have to constantly be on guard, we have to constantly fight for our spiritual health just like we have to constantly fight for our physical health. One way we keep ourselves spiritually healthy is by contending for the faith. This is what Jude tells the church in verse 3,

“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jud 3)

Jude is concerned for this church. He wants them to contend for the faith. His letter is not accidental. It’s not like Jude picked up his iPhone to respond to an email, and the next thing he knew he was carefully crafting his next Facebook story or Instagram message that he was going to tag this church in. We often get distracted by our phone. But that is not the case for Jude. He didn’t get distracted. He had a real concern that drove him to write an urgent letter to the church telling them to contend for the faith.

Why is that? Why the urgency? Why the change of plans? Why are they to contend for the faith? Why should we contend for the faith?

In order to answer that question, we first need to know what it means to contend.

What does it mean to contend?

A couple of months ago Laura Mazur and Jessica Robertson — two women who had never met before — reached the 14-mile marker of the Dick’s Sporting Good’s marathon in Pittsburg at the same time. While there were plenty of people who reached that mark in tandem with others, this pair was unique because they were in dead last. Laura was a seasoned marathoner, but Jessica wasn’t. This was actually her first marathon. She was in last place and exhausted. Knowing that she still had 12 miles to go, she felt completely defeated.

The two began chatting. Once Laura found out how Jessica felt, she told her, “If you stay with me, I’ll stay with you and we will finish this race together.” That is exactly what they did. A while later they crossed the finish line together, holding hands. As they struggled to the end, hands clutched, a spectator took a picture of them, posted it on social media, and it has since gone viral.

The struggle they felt and the energy they expended to finish that marathon is the idea that Jude is communicating through this word “contend”. Contending for the faith, then, is not an easy thing. It is not something you do casually or occasionally. It is not a sprint. Or a jog we take a few times a week. It is a marathon. It’s a daily fight. A daily struggle. It involves us daily putting forth effort and energy as we engage in a conflict for the faith.

Hearing that, you might be thinking, “All this contending is going to require a lot of effort on my part. So why do it? Why put forth the effort?” Why do I need to contend for the faith?

Next Time

I’ll continue to answer the question: why do I need to contend for the faith? next time.

Resources

[1] https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/03/health/fast-food-consumption-cdc-study/index.html

Post developed from my sermon: Why do I need to contend for the faith?

What must believers do to persevere through persecution? – Part 2

Almost every night the boys and I wrestle with one another. Apart from trying to beat me down to the ground, one of the things they like to do is run full speed down the hall, into the living room, and right into me. Thankfully, at least for now, I’m able to resist them from knocking me over by standing firm. Just as I stand firm against the kids blows, Peter tells us we must stand firm against the devil, resisting his roar of persecution.

(3) Believers must resist the devil by remaining firm in their faith

In contrast to me wrestling the kids, we learn that we aren’t to resist the devil in our own strength. Instead, we resist him by faith. In other words, resisting Satan doesn’t involve herculean acts of strength on our part. It involves continued faith in God’s mighty hand.

Admittedly, continuing in faith is easier said than done, especially when you’re staring a lion down. Peter knows which is why in the next two and a half verses he works to provide the motivation we need to stand firm. He begins in verse 9 by telling us that: Persecution is a common occurrence for the Christian. Look at what he says in the second half of the verse,

“knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” (1 Pe 5:9b)

While we might feel isolated when we are standing before the mighty roaring lion of persecution, Peter tells us that we aren’t alone. There are others all over the world experiencing persecution. The implied idea seems to be that they are standing firm, resisting Satan’s attack. If they can do it, so can we. Not in our own strength, but by humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God, trusting that He will provide us what we need in order to persevere.

After telling us we aren’t alone, Peter continues to motivate us to persevere by telling us that: Persecution will not last forever. Look at verse 10,

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Pe 5:10)

One of the ways I like to get my exercise is to run. While the part of Texas in which I live is generally flat, the area right around my house. There aren’t any mountains, but the hills right around my house are deceivingly steep. When I’m out running, I like to push myself to run those hills as fast as I can. Starting out its easy, but there is always this point about half way through where I’m ready to throw in the towel and slow down. While the struggle is real, what allows me to push through and make it up the hill is knowing that the end is near. Peter wants us to see the same. He wants us to see that suffering, though painful at the time, isn’t going to last forever. It’s going to end. We might experience the end at some point in the future.Or we might not experience it until Jesus returns. Either way, persecution is not going to last forever. God will finally and fully deal with it at Jesus’ return where we will be vindicated.

But until that time comes, God will cause to persevere. That’s what Peter is getting at with the four rapid fire verbs he uses at the end of verse 10. While each are slightly different, they all combine to make the same point — God will strengthen and fortify us so that we persevere until the end. We not only learn that in verse 10, but we also learn the same at the beginning of the letter. Starting in verse 3 of chapter 1, we read:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, [and here is what I want you to see] who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Pe 1:3–5)

Notice that God causes us to persevere through faith. Faith, He mightily works in us. That’s an important point to get because it tells us that we don’t persevere in our own strength, but through God’s strength as He works the faith needed for perseverance in us.

God is able to cause us to persevere because: God has dominion and control over this world. Look at verse 11,

“To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Pe 5:11)

This verse is a doxology — a written praise to the Lord — but Peter includes it here as a means to strengthen our faith. Knowing that God is sovereign and in control of this world, that nothing happens outside of His sovereign control, that He is not blindsided or overpowered when we face persecution, should give us the confidence we need to press on in resisting the devil by exercising faith in God.

Conclusion

So we see that persevering through persecution requires us to: humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, remain clear-headed and alert to the devil’s plan, and resist the devil by standing firm in our faith. If we do those things, we will be successful in persevering through persecution.