But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

Jude 20, 21

 

Jude is dealing with the fact that there were people inside of the church who were not following the teachings of Jesus as they were taking people in a direction that was dangerous to their souls and that was destructive to the life of the church at that time. So, Jude counsels the people of the church in how to remain true to Christ and to stay on the path that leads to salvation. These are the sorts of issues that have existed throughout the history of the church, and they continue to trouble us today. Staying true to Christ has never been easy. There will always be people who believe that they have a better way or that there is an alternate doctrine that will make life more enjoyable and less challenging to live than does the rigid doctrine that comes out of a strict reading of God’s Word and a dogmatic following after of what Jesus taught and demonstrated.

 

Thus, Jude instructs us to stay engaged in and with God’s Word. This is the primary way in which we build ourselves up in our faith. God’s Word is dynamic and alive with truth that has no boundaries of time or place attached to it. The more that we encounter it in the course of living out our days, the more of the content of those days that will be spoken to by that living word. Through it God supplies wisdom, counsel, guidance, and the capacity to apply it all to living well in the time, place, and situation where we have been placed by God to dwell. Everyone who knows Christ has a place and a purpose in the church and in this world that we are to fulfill. God has useful and important plans for every life, and His will is often found and is always more fully comprehended through study of His Word and by virtue of meditation upon its content and meaning.

 

In addition to study and contemplation of God’s Word, Jude tells us to pray. Talking it all over with God and listening to the ways that the Lord speaks into us and responds to us is a vital part of living out our days as a follower of Christ. The Holy Spirit imparts that same wisdom, counsel, guidance, and application to us and helps us see all that is contained in God’s Word and guides us in applying it to our own situation and circumstances. The Spirit also comforts us when we are troubled and distressed, and He gives us the gift of courage when it is needed and pours strength into us when we are facing challenges of all types and causes. God’s love is found in His will, and it is expressed by us by embracing that will with all of our being. This is accomplished by entering fully into the truth of God’s Word as we communicate with God in prayerful submission to Christ in all things. The path through this life can be hard and the journey is filled with challenges and trials, but Christ has promised us His presence for every step of the way, and eternity with Him at the end of our travels.

I will remember the deeds of the LORD;

yes, I will remember your wonders of old.

Psalm 77: 11

 

Asaph was looking back to a time when things were clearer and when trouble didn’t present the same degree of challenge as it was in his contemporary world. But his point wasn’t one of nostalgic retreat or imaginative yearning for those better days. He had a very practical and useful point in mind as he thought about the engagement of the people of his nation with God and about the way that God was their strength and their guide for living. Now there were at least two true things to take away from that backward look, the first is that God was unwaiveringly faithful and ever present; the second is that the people were not fully committed to following and to serving God.

 

We seem to live in the times of Asaph, and the history that we have to look back over is now far longer and even richer than the one that he could view. In challenging times it is good to follow the example of this ancient poet and take the time to consider and to meditate upon the nature and the character of God while searching His Word and our own stories for examples of the Lord’s presence, grace, and love. For me these words are powerful and provocative. They lead me to realize how little of my day is truly spent in reflection and prayer, and they cause me to rethink the priorities of my life as lived out in the rhythms of practicing the faith that I claim.

 

Even in my distracted and too busy to be present state, the Lord is with me and surrounds me with reminders and expressions of His faithful love and His righteous truth. As I do turn my eyes toward God’s Word and seek His face in those pages and consider how He has been my strength and my provision throughout the days of my life, my heart is broken by the realization of my wandering ways. However, God is gracious and He is not taken by surprise by anything that people say or do. As I open my heart to Him and listen to His voice as He responds to my concerns and desires, the Lord speaks wise words of encouragement, direction, and purpose for me to take in and to follow. These times of contemplation of the ways that God has written my story are enlightening and empowering as He prepares me to take on the next steps in my journey of faith.