The Secrets to Success in Christian Ministry

Jude reveals four principles for fruitful and persevering service to the Lord.

“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 20-21) 

Everyone wants to know life’s secrets to success. What do I have to do to “make it” and be happy in this life? We often look for answers among the extensive shelves of self-help books or in endless archives of podcasts. Though these sources may provide interesting tidbits of advice, they usually fail to provide the blueprint for a truly satisfying life. 

As Jude, in these verses, turns his attention away from false teachers and back to his sheep, he provides us with that elusive blueprint for which we seek. He does so through four words that punctuate verses 20 and 21: build, pray, keep, and wait. 

Consider the contrast between these actions and the actions of the false teachers throughout the letter—false teachers creep in, defile, blaspheme, rebel, grumble, boast, scoff, divide, and so on. Jude does not simply expose all the errors of the false teachers but instructs his readers to faithfully pursue Christlike attributes in order to grow and persevere in Christian life and ministry. If we can learn to do these four things well, we will truly be joyful, satisfied, and fruitful people. 

First, we are to build ourselves up in the “most holy faith.” This is not primarily a reference to one’s personal faith but to the foundational body of doctrine established by the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). We are not to be apathetic in our pursuit of the knowledge of Christ and in carrying the truths of Scripture to the nations to build his church.  

Building anything is hard, but the labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). St. Peter’s Basilica took about 120 years to construct. Notre Dame Cathedral took around 200 years to complete. Generations passed between the laying of the foundation and the laying of the final stone, yet today we marvel at the grandeur, intricacy, and beauty of these buildings. The decades of labor were worth it in the end. If this is true for buildings that will crumble to dust, how much more beautiful is the building of Christ’s church, and how much more worthwhile is the labor? 

Second, we are to pray “in the Holy Spirit.” Although praying in the Spirit has often taken on a mystical nature in Pentecostal and charismatic circles, a simple way of understanding this verse is that we are to pray under the controlling influence of the Spirit. We are not to be maverick builders, but those who seek the empowering of the Spirit, knowing that all our labors will be in vain if they are not made fruitful by the Lord (Psalm 127:1). Our efforts to build should be surrounded by prayer. Prayer is the life blood of the Christian, and, as John Calvin says, “no one can pray as he ought without having the Spirit as his guide.” 

Third, we are to keep ourselves in the love of God. If we sever ourselves from our connection to Christ as the true vine, our spiritual lives will quickly die (John 15). The world, the flesh, and the devil are constantly enticing us to apostasy. As the well-known hymn says, we are “prone to wander.” In order to bear fruit, we must not break away from the One who gives the fruit. If we desire to engage in effective, Spirit-empowered ministry, it is imperative that we stay near the Lord. 

Finally, we are to wait on the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. Waiting is one of the more difficult practices of the Christian life—especially for those who are passionate about evangelism and seeing the lost converted. However, we are to wait for the Lord’s mercy as we serve him. Without the sovereign mercy of the Lord to open the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf, there will be no success in ministry. Patience undergirds and enables life-long ministry. As Isaiah 40:31 says, “they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength.” Our strength is frail and fleeting, but the Lord renews our strength, so wait on him. 

Serving the Lord is our greatest privilege. As we build, pray, keep, and wait, may we see the marvelous work of the eternal Life Giver. 


Heavenly Father, 
Thank you for giving us the privilege of serving your church. Make us fruitful servants, diligently building up your church and trusting you to bring the fruit. 
In your Son’s name, 

Prayer Requests: 

  • Pray that you would not allow sloth or apathy to creep into your ministry. 
  • Pray that you would not stray from the one who gives us life. 
  • Pray that you would be patient to wait on the Lord to bring fruit in your ministry.