It’s interesting to me that the terms ‘idealist’ and ‘perfectionist’ are often used negatively. Someone said yesterday that she was ‘picky’ about symmetry and balance, as if being that way was a flaw. Jesus told His disciples to “be perfect as Your Father in heaven is perfect.” It makes no sense to put down the seeking of perfection, at least how I would define it.
The Church in Philadelphia worked at it and their reward was huge. Jesus said to them:
“I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.” (Revelation 3:8–12)
This church had “little power” yet they obeyed God, kept the name of Jesus, were patient in trials, and resisted false teaching. This indicates they relied on the Holy Spirit power God makes available to His people.
Jesus set before them an open door no one could shut. They were given opportunities and victory in their efforts regarding those opportunities. They may not have had much as the world regards power yet these words were from “the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens." (Revelation 3:7)
This “key of David” could refer to Isaiah 22:22, where the key of the house of David was given to Eliakim who then had access to all the wealth of the king. If that is the reference here, then Jesus is saying He has all of heaven’s wealth to make available to this church. It received no rebuke from Christ only commendation because they were willing to endure with patience.
For that, Jesus promised to keep them from the hour of trial that would come upon the whole world. This promise is a puzzle to those who think the entire church would experience a coming tribulation. This promise uses Greek words that mean to “keep from” — not the same words as “keep through” making it clear that this church would not experience that tribulation. My devotional source says that even though the church at Philadelphia would go to glory via death long before that time of trouble would come, if this church is typical of the body of Christ standing true to the faith, the promise seems to go beyond the Philadelphia church to all those who are believers in Christ with the same virtues.
The letter closes with the familiar appeal to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The promise given to the Philadelphia church and the challenge to continue to be faithful is certainly God’s Word to His whole church today and to me. In a broad sense, obedience to God will not protect me from all trials for it is through suffering that I learn obedience. Yet obedience means that I’ve learned the lessons God wants me to learn and I may not need some trials to teach them to me.
Lord Jesus, some might fear not being able to stand if worst came to worst. Around the world, Your people are persecuted and martyred for their faith. Would that happen here? Would that happen in our city? Our lives? My life? Would I be able to keep Your Name? This reading today tells me that if I rely on the Holy Spirit, my “little strength” is not an issue. Hundreds of years of faithfulness in the church in Philadelphia tell me that You are able to keep Your people in patient endurance no matter what. I’d like to be in that number!
Today’s thankful list . . .
- joy that God can keep His people from trials.
- joy that God can keep His people in trials.
- a wonderful sermon this morning about receiving a pure heart.
- brunch with several friends.
- time to tidy up my increasingly messy studio.
- good ethnic supper and the ability to skip cooking one day a week!