Jude 1:20 “But you, dear friends, build yourself up in you most holy faith…”
Faith involves a constant building process. The structure itself has been set in place. God constructed faith in us when our parents brought us to baptism, or when the gospel message finally broke through our ignorance or skepticism and changed our hearts. If you are a believer, then the building is in place, put together by God himself.
But just like any house or structure, there is always a need for more construction. First, there is the issue of maintenance. Gravity, weather, and constant use wear on a building. If you don’t keep up with the maintenance, it is only a matter of time before the structure fails. This past week my house got a new roof because of hail damage from last spring. It hadn’t started leaking yet, but left alone it would eventually. Our house is only eight years old, but we have already replaced all the flooring and the roof twice. There are cupboard doors with loose hinges, dry wall that needs patching, and enough other honey-do projects to keep me out of trouble on my day off. If you have ever owned a home, you know how this works. I once heard a handy-man with a radio call-in show suggest that you can plan on spending 5% of the value of your home every year if you want to keep it properly maintained.
Your faith needs similar attention. Sometimes Christians get the idea that faith is a one-time event in your life. I’m baptized, so I don’t have to think about it anymore. Or I was confirmed, so I don’t have to think about it anymore. Or I had a powerful emotional experience when I was converted, and I can give you the time and the date, so I don’t have to think about it anymore.
It doesn’t work that way. Paul warned Timothy that false teachings can shipwreck your faith, and that greed can lead you away from the faith. Jesus uses the picture of seed growing in shallow, rocky ground to warn that unless we get the roots of our faith down deep, we can fall away when faith is tested in some way. Faith needs maintenance as we wait for Jesus to return. Hearing about God’s grace, digging deeper into his unconditional love, learning how better to identify the sin that still lurks within us and regularly turning to his promise of forgiveness all serve to strengthen and repair our faith.
Sometimes, faith needs expansion, an addition, a new wing. The original owners of my house added a tornado shelter after it was built. I live in Oklahoma, so it’s not hard to understand why. Our back patio used to be a little concrete pad not big enough to seat my whole family. We built a deck over it to make our outdoor living space bigger. When I was about ten my dad made the house in which I grew up half again as big because the little two-bedroom house was cramped for our family of six.
Sometimes we can anticipate the challenges to our faith and the shortcomings in our faith and build an addition that makes us ready before it happens. Sometimes we have to hurry to play catch up because a situation is upon us before we are ready. Either way, our faith can be expanded in many directions, and then it can do a better job of serving us and keeping us safe as we wait for Jesus’ mercy to bring us eternal life.