Jude 1:20-22 “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garments defiled by the flesh.”
Over 20 years ago, I interviewed before a panel of master therapists and educators who wanted to know why I wanted to become a counselor. All I could think of was, “I want to help others.” How naive – and thankfully, how common a thread this phrase is in what we term ‘the helping field’ of counseling. Back then I found inspiration in a picture that I still occasionally pull out of a desk drawer and study. A sketch of chaos in black and white. The picture depicts multiple individuals, couples, and groupings standing, sitting, fishing, dining, and strolling on this long pier on one side of stormy, tumultuous ocean waves. Bodies in the ocean are sinking, their arms outstretched; mouths gaping, terrified expressions on every face as they claw empty space, crying for help. Most folk on the pier are oblivious to the drowning screams for rescue. One couple is sitting at a cafe table drinking wine; a man is fishing with his back to the crisis; a few people standing on the pier are looking toward the turbulent ocean but with eyes downcast or frowning at one another, deep in contemplation or distracted by arguing. Only a few are trying to save the lost. One is tossing a lifebuoy, and a couple of others are on their knees stretching and calling to those in the deep waters, grabbing at those outstretched hands.
I used to always see myself as one intent on saving the lost. Yet as I study this picture today, I can see myself in many of these other depicted characters. There are times when I just want to relax and avoid getting involved. I am sometimes too focused on my own problems to even notice the needs of others, or I believe that what I am doing is too important to important to take time for helping others. At other times, when I could help, I find myself judging their need as being a consequence of their poor choices. And there are times when I try to help but have no clue what to do or have few resources to offer. I am prone to get discouraged and do nothing, feeling inadequate.
I see myself drowning, too; sometimes just too tired to stay afloat. Jude, however, does not let me off the hook that easily. Sure, if pulling others out of the fire (or these Sunami waves) depends on my strength, wisdom, and even faithfulness, I will see little success in obeying God. Yet Jude instructs us to pray in the Spirit, stay in love with God, and seek His tender mercies. Then our renewed spirits will have prepared our hands and feet to rescue the lost.
Jude 1:24 “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.
So, as this year comes to a close, I am excited once more about the opportunities to serve God and His people. The Father’s mercy and grace propel us to do good works in His name. Praying and praising Him prepares our hearts willing to help, to love, to rescue, and to believe. As we fulfill our purpose in the New Year, let us be thankful for the love of Christ Jesus. And let our hearts be joyful in serving Christ who alone is Lord of all!