Contending For The Faith

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord…

In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

In the very same way, on the strength of their dreams these ungodly people pollute their own bodies…

Jude 1:3-4, 7-8

Jude wanted to write to the church a message about the salvation that we share in Christ. Instead, because he saw an insidious kind of corruption and theology seeping into the church, he encouraged the believers to contend for the faith that had been handed down to them.

He saw a teaching slipping into the church community through people who were perverting God’s grace into a license for immorality. They were also rejecting Jesus alone as Christ and Lord. Sound familiar? It seems as though the same false teachings just get repackaged and reused in future generations. The enemy isn’t creative.

Jude mentions that the perversion of homosexuality and the sexual immorality of promiscuity and rape that made Sodom and Gomorrah infamous were the kinds of things that these false teachers were getting into. This is how they were abusing grace to be a license for immorality. They were spreading the lie that grace allowed them to participate in such things. Jude makes clear, however, that this sexual license was polluting their bodies.

Jude has a lot of colorful metaphors to describe these false teachers:

shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.

Jude 1:12-13

Unfortunately, today we are much more accepting of these sorts of teachings in the church. We don’t have such colorful metaphors describing this sort of teaching and people who promote these ideas. We simply call it liberal protestant theology.

The truth is that grace empowers us to be set free from sin; it doesn’t keep us trapped in sin with a bonus get-out-of-jail-free card. The truth is that Jesus alone is Lord! He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. This is the Christian faith that was once and for all entrusted to us by the earliest believers. This is the faith we hold to despite the cultural milieu of our day.

Wrestling in Prayer

Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.

Colossians 4:12

Epaphras was a fellow servant of the gospel with the apostle Paul and was considered to be one of the Colossians. So when Paul concluded his letter to the Colossians, he was sure to let them know that Epaphras was always wrestling in prayer for them. The word for “wrestling” here in the Greek is the word agonizomai. I’ve already mentioned in a previous post that Paul used this word to describe his own ministry in Colossians 1. It means “to labor, struggle, fight, or contend like someone engaged in an intense athletic contest or warfare.” It’s where we get our English word agonize.

This passage shows us that sometimes in prayer we must contend for what we are asking for. We must fight for it in prayer. There is warfare going on around us and we must wrestle in prayer for others. We are not wrestling something out of God’s hands, but we are contending against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms and prayer is one of our weapons, our spear. God is not resisting us but the enemy is, so we must contend.

Paul makes this clear in Ephesians 6:

For 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 realms. 

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Ephesians 6:12, 18

So who are you wrestling for in prayer? Who are you contending for in your daily prayer life? Answers may not come instantly, but know that your prayers will affect the war raging around us in the heavenly realms (Read Daniel 10 if you need reassurance of this, especially verses 12-14).

Faith for Healing

To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

Colossians 1:29

Paul describes his ministry as “strenuously contending,” or some translations say “laboring,” “striving,” or “struggling.” The root word in the Greek here is agonizomai, where we get the English word agonize. It’s the same word Paul uses in his letters to Timothy when he talks about fighting the good fight.

But Paul doesn’t strive or contend with his own power. Instead, he contends with the energy of Christ that works so powerfully in him. This verse is a great example of how ministry is a co-laboring with Christ. There is a synergism here that requires the power of Jesus and our continual contending. It’s a both/and situation, not an either/or. Both component parts are necessary.

Understanding this truth is helpful when trying to understand why we must contend for healings in healing prayer. Too many people misunderstand God’s sovereignty and assume, “If God is going to heal, He will. If not, He won’t.” This simplistic understanding of God’s sovereignty doesn’t account for our participation in being the hands and feet of Jesus in the world.

We co-labor with Christ to bring about His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Yes, it is the power of God that heals, but it is most often the power of God through us. Just as God’s primary way to share the gospel is through us, His Body, the same is true for physical healing. Just as Jesus sent out the disciples in Matthew 10:8 to heal the sick, He sends us.

Yet, we will soon discover our faith go through a process–a journey of sorts. We begin with the question of whether Jesus can heal the thing we need healed. We usually believe Jesus can heal, generally speaking, but we’re not sure He heals the thing we need healed. Does God even heal this sort of thing? We’re just like the father who brought his demonized boy to Jesus and said, “if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us”(Mark 9:22). Jesus replied, “If you can? Everything is possible for one who believes”(Mark 9:23).

When our faith grows and we begin to believe Jesus can heal, we’re still not sure he is willing to heal. “Maybe it’s not God’s will to heal this,” we wonder to ourselves. Maybe he’s not willing. We approach Jesus the same way the man with leprosy did who said, “If you are willing, you can make me clean”(Mark 1:40). Notice Jesus’s response. Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Jesus was indignant that anyone would ever assume He wouldn’t be willing. He’s always willing to heal. It is in the very nature of God to heal. One of God’s names in the Old Testament is “the Lord who heals you”(Exodus 15:26).

When we become convinced that Jesus can heal and is willing to heal, we realize that the problem is not on His end of the equation. If healing requires a co-laboring with God, it begins to dawn on us that healing often occurs when God’s power flows through us. The problem isn’t God’s power but the through us part. The woman who had been bleeding for 12 years understood this. Notice what she thought to herself, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed”(Mark 5:28). It wasn’t about if Jesus could heal her or if he was willing. She knew Jesus was willing and able. It was about what she was going to do to contend for her healing. “If I…”

What if I were to tell you that Jesus is healing autism around the country? Notice the process our minds go through. Can Jesus heal autism? Is that something He heals? Yes. But do you think Jesus is willing to heal autism? Yes. Below are some video testimonies of Jesus doing just that.