“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.  Amen.”  Jude 24-25; Last Sunday of the Church Year; 11/22/15

Grace…

One of the most inspirational children’s books from the 20th century, still in use today is the story of “The Little Engine that Could.”  It was first published in book form in 1930, but it appeared as early as 1906 in newspaper articles and other literary forms.  It is the story of a little train engine, who overcame tremendous obstacles through courage and determination, by repeating a line over and over again, “I think I can, I think I can I think I can.”

While other bigger train engines refused to try to carry a heavy train over a mountain, saying that there would be no way they could do it, and giving various excuses of why, this little train engine accepted the responsibility and the heavy load, and valiantly carried the heavy train up the mountainside, and when the way got tough, he puffed, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” 

The little engine kept struggling up the mountainside, until he got to the top and over the peak of the mountain and began pulling the train down it’s descent on to the rest of the journey saying, “I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could.”  This little train engine was an inspiration to many many children to be brave and courageous and to not give up when the way was difficult, and there were great obstacles in life.

Many, many American children grew up with that line in their memory, and probably many of you as well who remember, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”  It helped them when they were facing great obstacles like writing an essay in school, giving that first speech in speech class, playing or singing a solo, playing a part in a play, or standing on the free throw line to sink that shot with the game on the line.  I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

And as the years went on, working hard to graduate from high school, and college, of going to the first job interview, and going ahead and getting married, of  buying that first home, and having the first child, saying “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”  And the list goes on and on, because the challenges in life are great. But, there are times that all the “I think I cans” will finally meet their match.

Our text from the Bible, from the book of Jude points us to a greater challenge, far greater than all of the ones mentioned before put together.  It’s a challenge that we, ourselves, with all of the “I think I cans” cannot overcome.  Only through Jesus can we overcome.  It’s the challenge of keeping us blameless and pure in a crooked and depraved world, and delivering us to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on the Last Day, to live with Him forever and ever Amen!

Jude reminds us in this brief but powerful book of the Bible, that this is really a daunting task, because this world in which we live is a vicious and cruel world.  Just right before this text, Jude writes, “But you must remember beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.  They said to you, “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.” (Jude 18-19)

You know what a scoffer is, right?  Someone who makes fun of what is good.  Someone who mocks, someone who jeers.  Especially in this case, someone who mocks and jeers the Christian faith.  That’s a scoffer.  You know the scoffers who say, “What good is this Christian faith?”  What good is it to keep going to worship?  What good is going to Bible class?  What good is sending your children to Christian day school and Sunday School?  What good is giving of your time and talents to the faith?  What good is it to have family devotions and teaching your children to pray?  And while they are at it, “What good is giving your money to support the work of the church?  And while they’re at it, they say, “Does it really do any good anyway.”

You know those scoffers don’t you?  You’ve heard them.  Maybe they are people you see on tv or facebook, work with or go with them to school.  Maybe they are people in your neighborhood, are long time friends with, or are members of your own family.  And they have a way of getting to you, getting under your skin, of getting their ways into your mind and heart.  They have a way of causing division, cutting people up, being cynical toward God, desensitizing and demoralizing people, to the point that they say, “What’s the use?”  There’s so many challenges, so many obstacles.  I might as well give up too.  And sometimes we fall into that trap as well.  We just plain give up, even at times, give up the faith!  Dear Lord, forgive us!  And strengthen us!

Because, the truth is, left on our own, we can’t keep up the faith.  We need God’s help desperately.  Left on our own, we are no match to the temptations from Satan and this world full of scoffing and mockery.  We need to look to the One who is able.  He is Jesus Christ!  He willingly came to this world full of resentment.  Although He knew He knew what was before Him, He spoke with the people who mocked Him and scoffed at Him.  And He even loved them.  He brought health and healing wherever He went.  He said, “You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy; but I tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”(Matthew 5:43-44). And in the greatest act of mercy of all time, He took the sins of His enemies and those who persecuted and mocked Him straight to the cross.  He suffered and died for all of their sins, their mockery, yours and mine, because we were His enemies too!  And He rose again from the dead so that we would have victory in His name.  Yes, He is the God who is able.  He can and did what was otherwise undoable, and through Him we have victory!

Our text from the book of Jude reminds us that we will face great challenges in our lifetime.  Challenges that will tempt us to just give up.  Give up school, give up our work, give up our marriage, give up our family, give up hope, even give up our faith.  When Jude was writing this in about the year 65 AD, there were many false teachings about the Christian faith going on.  Most of them attacking who Jesus was.  Some saying He wasn’t really God, he was just a man.  And others saying He wasn’t really a man, that He just appeared that way. 

Today, there are these same false teachings, attacking Jesus.  Others who say that science is the answer and not the faith.  And there are many who just give in and give up.  And it is discouraging to see and hear of people falling from the faith.  Sometimes it is difficult to take. I will admit it troubles me too!

But Jude reminds us to look to “Him who is able.”  That is Jesus Christ!  Jude says, “Build yourselves up in your most Holy faith; pray 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.” Build your life on it, and your family.  Be regular in your worship life!  Read and study God’s Word in church and in your home.  Have devotions with your family!  Pray with and for them!  Build yourselves up in your most holy faith!  This is how we take part in contending for the faith!

And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.  As followers of Jesus, we are called to be merciful.  Others should know this about followers of Jesus.  We care for and serve the poor and needy.  We send food and clothing to those who struggle.  We pray with and for those who doubt, are hurt, and troubled, and we welcome those who are lost and in danger.  This is also how we contend for the faith!

Still, there are times where we will meet up with great obstacles, that we cannot overcome..   

Let’s look to Jesus, Him who is able…Instead of saying, I think I can, We can say, “I know He is, I know He is!  “He is the One contending for the faith today.  He will provide for all of our needs of both body and soul, and will present us blameless in all glory, majesty, and dominion.  To Him be all glory!  Amen, and Amen