Sunday, June 12, 2011

Attitude Check

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
Jude 1:3 NKJV

Something I have often wondered when studying scripture , especially the New Testament, is the possibility that the closer we get to the book of Revelation as we read, we are getting specific advice addressed to those who live in the time closest to the fulfillment of those prophecies. Now understand, I fully believe that as the Bible says; all scripture is “profitable”, but I can't help but wonder as I read the book of Jude, is he speaking about the time which immediately precedes the tribulation? Are we being told something we really need to hear and understand? Is Jude describing what life will be like immediately before Christ returns for His church?

When my children were small, I can remember times when I especially wanted to make a point I would say something like “you really, really, really, need to listen to me now!” Have you ever used that type of language to get someone's attention? This is exactly what I thought of when I first read this verse from Jude. So as always, the first thing I did was do a word search trying to understand exactly what point Jude was trying to make here. The words that stood out to me were “exhort” and “earnestly contend”.

exhort: parakaleō... to beg, entreat, beseech

earnestly contend: epagōnizomai...two words, epi and agōnizomai which used together means to take a deep breath, to endeavour with strenuous zeal, strive: to obtain something.

Now I don't know about you, but when I had to “exhort” my children to do something, it was because whatever I asked them to do in a normal tone of voice wasn't getting done. So the result was resorting to other methods of persuasion in order to convince them of the necessity of performing the task given to them. The subject in this passage is obviously sharing the gospel message with an unbelieving world, and apparently we are being told that first of all, Jude had to resort to “exhorting” believers to do this. What a sad commentary of the times when believers for whatever reason are having to be “begged” to share the gospel!

I think most of us as well, understand that the natural reaction of the body before attempting to perform a strenuous task is to take a deep breath. Unfortunately for me, as I get older I notice myself taking deep breaths before doing just about anything! But I think you understand what Jude is trying to say here. The time has apparently come where sharing the gospel is a difficult, strenuous undertaking, and believers are obviously becoming hesitant to share their faith with an unbelieving world! So a situation has appeared where Jude must resort to begging believers to perform their responsibility to share the gospel because it has become a difficult, if not discouraging thing to try and do.

Last week God used a situation in my life to illustrate this passage to me in a way that even I could understand. I have mentioned before that I like to fish, and although not very good at it, fishing is the sort of sport where you don't necessarily have to be successful to enjoy it. Fortunately for me I have a good friend who is very good at it, and likes to take me along with him in his boat and show me the right way to do it. ( I actually think he takes me along so he can laugh but that's another story. ) So there we were trying to catch bass during spawning season and while he was pounding them I was getting skunked.

After awhile he asked me exactly how was I retrieving my lure? I thought that was a funny question because don't you just throw it out there and pull it back? His answer was that during the spawn, the fish are on the bottom guarding their nests, and in order to get a strike I needed to let the lure go to the bottom and drag it along so the bass considered it a threat. Now my answer was that was a good way to snag and lose a good lure, but his answer was if I fished where the fish weren't, I wasn't going to catch anything anyway.

So admitting to myself he knew what he was talking about, I tossed my lure out and began to drag it across the bottom, and wouldn't you know it, first cast and bang! In fact, guess who caught the most fish? That's right, he did, but I was a close second. The point God made to me was this; how often do we continue to try and share the gospel in a way that seems “safe” to us? If it becomes difficult do we take a deep breath and do what needs to be done, or do we retreat and put ourselves in a position where God must “exhort” us to do what He needs us to do?

Now more than ever, we see the world becoming hostile towards the gospel of Jesus Christ. Rejection, scorn, and even persecution are the orders of the day when trying to spread the good news. Many are becoming discouraged with all that life is throwing at us right now, and how easy it is in circumstances like these that we tend to retreat rather than press on. Jude gives all believers what I would call an “attitude check” in this passage. What exactly is your mindset right now as the world approaches the return of Christ for His church? Are the difficulties causing you to back off, or become more aggressive? God, through His servant Jude, gives us the direction and advice we need as believers living in these troubled times.

Our goal is to take a deep breath and press on with the knowledge that very, very soon we will have our reward. Rather than sitting back and doing what we have always done, let's all try to find new ways and new places to share the Gospel that was “delivered” to us.

Keep watching.