Prior to entering Bible College I’d been a labourer in a small light steel, fabrication factory. I was part of a team that primarily erected railings, gates, balustrades, fences. We worked on houses, high rise apartments and office blocks. There was no need for me to join a health and fitness centre. On hearing my decision to enter the ministry my non-churched workmates chided me I was accused of taking the soft option to earn a living.
Soft Option! Compared to the demands of the ministry, it was easier to carry steel panels up flights of stairs. Physical muscle power is easily seen. Spiritual muscle is out of sight, especially to men and women similar to the ones with whom I’d worked. The New Testament writers didn’t use terms such as ‘soldier, bond-slave, wrestler and athlete’ lightly in regards to the ministry. Within each description there’s the demand for self-discipline and obedience. This may be as a Coach, General or Master who seek to prepare the disciple with the rules of engagement.
Consider the following quotes and try and work out where the ‘soft option’ is hiding. ‘Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.’ 1 Corinthians 9:25–26.
‘Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm.’ Ephesians 6:12
‘Timothy, my son…fight the good fight holding onto faith and a good conscience.’ 1 Timothy 1:18, 19.
‘Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care.’ 1Timothy 6:20.
This is a feature much required today. There are systematic attempts to pervert the teachings of God's Word. There are subtle undermining of Scripture's authority over the Church and the believer. Individual believers need to know and uphold its message and lifestyle. Those commissioned to positions of service need to guard the Truth once and for all time delivered.
In the short letter of Jude this servant of Jesus Christ called upon Christians to contend for the faith entrusted once and for all time to the saints. If the ordinary member of the Body of Christ is so called what is expected of the men and women called into ministry? Jude is a call to intolerance. There is a cut off point for patience and ‘being nice.’ What is that point? When the Name of the Lord Jesus is being used as a cover for greed and perversion; when the disciples of Christ are being corrupted; when worship and communion are being desecrated, that’s when!
This doesn’t allow the servant of Jesus to act ungraciously, viciously or intemperately. It means standing firm for the Truth and Holiness of Jesus. It means defending the integrity of His calling. It means unmasking those who have slithered into leadership positions whilst denying the Lordship of Jesus. History past and present reveals such a stand is costly. Such godless characters use their cunning, charisma and corruption to resist the Truth and cower the opposition.
Jude’s advice is simple and sublime. He informed the reader about protection from the infectious plague carried by the devil’s disciples. ‘Build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.’ Verses 20, 21. Only then can the true man and woman of God be equipped to confront the peddlers of lies, corruption and deceit.
Among Paul’s last recorded words to Timothy is a reminder that ministry is no soft option. There is also a triumphant declaration worthy of any tombstone inscription. ‘But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have finished the race, I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness…’ 2 Timothy 4:5–8.