That was one of the famous lines from the movie “On the Waterfront” starring Marlon Brando. Sometimes we may find ourselves looking back at a season or struggle and perhaps think that we could have been a contender; that perhaps we could have been more or done more. Today is a new day…today is the day we can choose to be a contender. But what are you going to contend for?
Contending…it is a strange word, not used very often, but powerful in it’s meaning. Often associated with sporting events, the word brings to mind the image of a prolonged battle or struggle. In the letter of Jude in the Bible, Jude has a change of focus with regards to the content of the letter and changes from a focus on the topic of his shared salvation with the readers, to a plea, an exhortation for their contending for the faith that they share.
“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
What does it mean to contend earnestly for the faith? The Greek word for “contend earnestly” is the word epagónizomai from which we get the word agonize. We are to agonize earnestly, contend with all we have, for the faith. Jude was not writing about contending with boxing gloves either. Jude is writing because there were enemies in the church and the best thing that they could do is to contend earnestly for the faith…for the gospel truth of Jesus Christ. What is amazing about Jude’s instructions is that he does not encourage them to do what we might expect…to fight. Rather he is going to give several instructions to them which are still just as applicable today as we battle false teachers, persecution, and attacks on the truth of the gospel.
In Jude 1:20-21 it says: “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.“
The original Greek language only has one imperative in this sentence and it is found in the command to “keep yourselves in the love of God”. Jude provides three ways that they and we are to keep ourselves in the love of God.
First, we are to be “building yourselves up on your most holy faith”. That “most holy faith” is the Word of God…the collection of truths that make up the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is most holy because it is from a most holy God. This verse looks back at verse three and reinforces that that this is what we are to be contending for…this most holy faith that has been given to them. We are to be building ourselves up…to be growing and maturing in our understanding and knowledge of the those most holy teachings…that most holy faith.
The second way by which we remain in the love of God is by “praying in the Holy Spirit”. If we are not praying constantly as individuals, our small groups, and in our churches, how are we to be keeping in the love of God? As spirit filled believers we should long to pray and to be close to our Lord. In Ephesians 6 Paul writes regarding the armor of God. He says there “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.”
The third way that Jude gives by which we continue in God’s love is to be ” looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” That is our hope and our longing. It is both our temporal desire to be close to our Lord, but it is also our eternal desire to spend an eternity in the glorious presence of our Savior. Keeping that eternal perspective, looking forward expectantly and anxiously for the ultimate act of mercy from Jesus Christ, our eternal salvation being realized in the presence of Christ himself, that truth helps us to continue in God’s love. That truth gives us assurance of the hope that is in us to get through those difficult times in our lives. How powerful is the hope of our salvation…the truth of a future outpouring of the mercy of Jesus Christ on those that are His children.
Are you contending earnestly for the faith? Are you contending daily to keep yourself in the love of God by by digging into His word, by praying in the Holy Spirit to the one true God that hears and answers, and are you looking expectantly for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life? These are the ways we keep ourselves, they way we abide in the love of God, and by doing so it is how we can endure the trials and persecution of this world as we await His glorious return.
Be a contender for the faith! Agonize to abide in the love of God.