Building Yourselves Up


Building yourselves up

Written by ANDRÉE SEU


March 1, 10:13 AM

“Building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit. . . .” (Jude 20).

Jude is a pretty cool book. First of all, the number of the verse is all you need. Secondly, Jesus’ brother wrote it: How cool is that? Thirdly, it has that wonderful doxology at the end, which is worth the price of admission.

But today I was arrested by verse 20—“building yourselves up” in “faith.” How do you “build yourself up”? Well, I think the words immediately following give a clue: “praying.” The ESV I quoted above puts an “and” between “building” and “praying,” as if there was a conjunction there. But I read it in the original Greek, and it goes something like this: “. . . in your most holy faith building yourselves, in the Holy Spirit praying. . . .” So the second part (praying) looks like an appositive to me, not an additional idea. That is, the “praying in the Holy Spirit” seems to be telling us how to do the “building.” (The NKJV has it that way.)

It should not surprise us that the way we “build” up our faith is by “praying.” I’m sure you have noticed this yourself. To commence praying is to instantly realign your thinking with truth. Hardly anyone lies when he is praying. (It is possible, of course. There was that Pharisee Jesus pointed out, who stood at the temple and thanked God that he was not bad like other men.) By and large, in the moments that we are praying, we are simultaneously rehearsing and feeding our minds on ultimate reality.

We may have renegade thoughts all day, but then we stop and pray and we say things like: “Thank you, Lord, that you are God and that you love me.” That one sentence is as chock-full of self-correcting doctrine as a drop of water is full of molecules. Just to say “thank you” is huge. It is an instant acknowledgement of the source of all your good. The word “Lord” reminds you who your Master is—of your time, your marriage, your money, your entertainments. Ditto with “you are God.” “You love me” is three words that will quiet any heart that believes it.

Thus, in five minutes of praying you have already given your mind a needed realignment, and you have commenced “building yourselves up in your most holy faith.” Now the “yourselves” part strikes me: this reflexive pronoun is plural. It seems that you may need other people to help you build your faith, and you can help them build theirs too.

“Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God” (1 Samuel 23:16).

Jonathan went all that way not to “strengthen” David with weapons or with military tactics, but to remind him of the real deal. (See the following verses.)

Of course, there are not always “Jonathans” available in your life when you need them. In that case, you need to “build” yourself up, as David had to do when he was totally friendless:

“David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him. . . . But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God” (1 Samuel 30:6).

How, precisely, did David strengthen himself? The narrative doesn’t give us details, but you can imagine that he prayed, and his very praying reminded him of what was true—the prophecy spoken over him that made him unkillable until it was fulfilled.

I was thinking: If a little bit of praying is good for building up faith, what would a lot of praying do? Brothers and sisters, I have found the value of praying all day long, and I would like to recommend it. Why not keep your thinking straight all day rather than just before three meals and at bedtime? As often as you need it (and I need it many times a day), lift up minor irritations, fears, and melancholy to God.

Jude’s exhortation is a corrective to a laissez-faire notion of the Christian life. Some of us have been scared away from any hint of aggressive verbs, fearing the specter of works righteousness. Here is an aggressive verb from the Holy Spirit: “Build yourselves up in your most holy faith.” Don’t be afraid to be muscular.

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