When chronic illness came into my life at the beginning of this year, initially I was tempted to ask “Why?”, but as days turned into weeks, and weeks into months with my health worsening and as the things I could do were declining, a new question began to emerge. The “why” has turned into “what” and especially now, more than ever, I just want to know what the Lord wants me to be doing with the little strength that remains in this body of mine. “How do you want me to serve you, Lord? What should I be doing?”
I think these questions are ones many of us ask at this time of year as summer ends, the kids go back to school, and ministry schedules ramp up for the fall. Things are different this year though. We, the church, have been shaken up and there is a nagging awareness that even if things could return to “normal”, should we really want them to? For me, asking what God wants me to be doing from this place of ill health has forced this follower of Jesus to really ask and truly seek. You know… not the kind of asking where I already know what I am going to do and fully plan on just falling back into the usual routine of my calendar. No! Extreme weakness has shaken me free of the usual and leaves no doubt that I am not the one in control of my days! If I am going to honour Christ with the little energy and time that remains, I know I need to humbly and faithfully seek my Lord, and focus on His plans for my life, not mine.
The book of Jude has something to teach us about what we should be doing in times like these. In his letter written to exhort the church to contend for the faith and warn of false teaching, Jude draws a very stark contrast between the sins of those false teachers who have crept in, and what the true followers of Christ should be doing to stand in faith and keep from being influenced by those around them:
In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions. It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. ~ Jude 18-21
What should the beloved faithful be doing according to Jude? The main point of this exhortation is in verse 21:
“Keep yourselves in the love of God”.
How are the children of God supposed to do this? By doing the three things listed in verses 20 and 21:
1. “Build yourselves up in the most holy faith” ~ grow strong in your knowledge of the Word by studying, by surrounding yourself with the kind of fellowship with other faithful believers who challenge and sharpen you, so that you will know the Truth that sets you free.
2. “Pray in the Holy Spirit” ~ pray for the will of God to be done, for His kingdom to come, for His glory above all else, for repentance, and for freedom from praying for and seeking our own agendas.
3. “Waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” ~ when we are in the position of humbly focusing on, worshipping, and waiting for our Lord Jesus, His faithfulness keeps us there. He has promised to lead us and keep us on the right path as we wait for Him.
It is one of the mysteries of God’s Kingdom that we both keep ourselves in God’s love and at the same time are kept there by the sovereignty and faithfulness of our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. It is good to pray and ask what God wants us to do with our time this year, but it is also the perfect time to repent, surrender, and follow the teaching of His Word as laid out in Jude. Will your calendar in September illustrate your priority for praying, building yourself up in the faith, and waiting for Jesus so that you will be kept in God’s love? I sure hope mine will. I know that putting the things of the kingdom first is God’s highest priority for what I should be doing. Even as I ask for His guidance, seek His will and make plans, I already know the answers are laid out in His Word. The only question is will I humbly receive them with thanks and give God the glory?
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever.