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"Ernestly Contend for the Faith"

(Jude 3,4,17-25)

Lesson 12 -- first quarter 1998
February 22, 1998

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 1997, Christian Light Publications

Drifters or contenders.

Imagine a traveler who, thinking to save much time and effort, decides to travel by river. Our friend purchases a good canoe and stocks it with provisions adequate to the journey. After a final checkup, this individual launches forth. Drifting lazily and effortlessly with the current, the traveler thoroughly enjoys the ride and the scenery. What a lovely way to travel!

Unless the destination is located upstream from the launching point.

What?! Yes, drifting with the current is a lovely way to travel unless your destination is upstream. To my knowledge (which I will admit is limited), nobody has ever succeeded in drifting upstream. If anyone boldly announced his intention to undertake such an enterprise, he would promptly have all manner monikers branded onto him. I'll assure you these labels would not include terms like brilliant, innovative, creative, wise and their kin.

Everybody knows (or at least suspects) that traveling upstream requires the expenditure of great effort. That effort may be human, animal or mechanical in nature, but it is effort nonetheless. Traveling upstream demands work, strain, energy and stress from someone or something.

The options are limited and simple. Drift (if you want to go downstream) or toil (if you aim to get upstream). On a flowing river, all untethered objects move in one direction or another. A canoeist who does nothing must accept the "choices" the river makes for him.

We don't find all this so difficult to understand and accept. But how many people in the church today figure they need expend no spiritual effort to arrive safely at their desired destination! Somehow they imagine themselves drifting toward heaven. Well, let me tell you very plainly that if anyone is drifting spiritually, they are not drifting toward heaven. Heaven is upstream from us!

Today's memory selection exhorts us to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." To get the import of the expression earnestly contend, picture a canoeist paddling furiously against a strong current. The Lord admonishes us to endeavor with strenuous zeal.

If you thought giving your life to the Lord would mean the end of all effort, you got it plumb backwards. Deciding to follow His ways is the beginning of a long, arduous paddling session against a very strong current. How much of yourself will you invest into this effort? Your answer will determine whether you get out of your canoe upstream or downstream.

"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air" (1 Corinthians 9:24-26).

Go, labor on. Spend and be spent. Whatever you do, don't drift! Unless, of course, you are content with a downstream destination.

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