Contending Amidst Difficulty
It happens in the life of every believer at some point or another. A knock on the door, a ring on the phone, or perhaps a meeting in a coffee shop. They find themselves suddenly in a situation with someone they know where they must contend for the faith. Maybe it is a wayward young person caught in sin or being led astray by fanciful false teachers. It could be the middle-aged couple whose marriage is in shambles and they must be reminded of the covenantal vows they made before God to keep. The lost co-worker could be asking questions about the Gospel necessitating a robust conversation applying the central truth of salvation. Oftentimes, these scenarios do not arise in pristine seasons when they are simple to navigate. Routinely, they occur at funeral homes, gravesides, or long down the way of some devastating path a soul has taken.
Our call as believers in such moments is to be ready to both speak and live out the truth. We must not only fight the good fight and run the race, we must do so according to the rules given to us by God (2 Timothy 2:5). When these situations arise in our life we must maintain an attitude, teaching, and heart disposition that is faithful to the Lord. How are we to accomplish such a task? What can we as fallen human beings do to contend for such a beautiful faith as the one we have been given? Thankfully, the very Word of God instructs us sufficiently on this point!
Jude writes his letter calling on the saints to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (vs. 3).” I think our minds immediately drift to some heroic stand that needs to be taken for doctrinal truth . . . a monumental championship like moment. Given the context of Jude dealing with false teachers over his letter, that point is certainly not inapplicable. There are certain times when Christians and pastors need to stand valiantly for the truth at a huge crossroads of history. Countless believers have done so over the ages. Yet, it strikes me there is another aspect to “contending” that we all too often glance over. We can be solid in our doctrine but if we are unbiblical in our hearts and attitudes then we will not be able to contend for the faith with excellence. A pastor guiding an immature believer into biblical doctrine needs to exercise patience as he strives for the truth. If he treats their lack of knowledge with contemptuous irritation instead of humbly pointing to Scripture again and again he will find himself as unfit for the task as an athlete throwing a temper tantrum. Contrastingly, should the man give timidity a path to such a degree that he neglects to even converse with the individual in need of growth, he shall lack effectiveness as well.
Contending for the faith is a doctrinal reality, yet it is also one which calls on us to check our hearts. We need sound doctrine to fight the good fight, but we need it to also change our souls guarding us in Christ. A man or woman who contends needs to not only know the truth but also to live it. Pride, impatience, brashness, anger, bitterness, and selfishness can be just as deceptively deadly as false doctrine. When dealing with false teachers Jude not only highlights their perverting of the gospel (vs. 4), but also their sensuality (vs. 4), defiling of the flesh, rejection of authority, blasphemy (vs. 8), ungodliness (vs. 15), grumbling, complaining, sinful desires boasting, and favoritism (vs. 16). The issue with the false teachers was both their false doctrine and their sinful life. If we are to contend well we must not only believe rightly in our heads, but we must also exercise faithfulness to the Lord in our lives.
Discipline To Contend
I have known many individuals who had extraordinary abilities and the knowledge to be able to be successful in one way or another. Yet, their frustration, nervousness, impatience, or inability to deal with adversity caused them to fall flat on their face. In many ways, this reality came down to a simple lack of discipline to focus on each step. How many of us in life have spoken a brash word only to regret it? Have not we all at one point or another been impatient or unkind in an interaction? Let us instead learn from what Jude teaches and highlights regarding the false teachers. We need not only the grace of God to know the truth, but to be changed by it. Our hearts and eyes need to be opened as to how we need to grow and advance if we are to contend well. Christ needs to change our minds and hearts to be more like Him so that we have a deep knowledge of the truth while also living it out moment by moment. There is a reason why when listing the pastoral qualifications Paul not only includes sound doctrine but also the importance of holy living (1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9). It is because of the reality that it takes both of these by God’s grace and power to live in submission to His will.
Contending for the faith is about doctrine, theology, and beliefs, but may God give us the grace to see the character necessary to contend well. May we not smack the immature sheep over the head when a more patient approach is appropriate. Let us at the same time never fail to draw our swords when the wolves are on the prowl. I pray that Christ will keep us humble in Himself during those seasons when people are praising us. We need His grace to be guarded against false doctrine and sinful snares of every kind. His Word is our sufficient guide, His Gospel our only hope, and His glory are our sole objective. Let us trust in Him as we contend for the faith each day to the honor of His name!
Leave a Reply