The Church in Philadelphia (the other one)
John writes to the church in Philadelphia because they are facing seemingly enormous pressure. They find themselves in the midst of a hostile environment where some people say one thing and yet do another entirely. And John writes to this community to give them encouragement. To inspire them to stay steady. And to remind them of the reason why they are remaining faithful.
Which I think is a helpful word to share at a time like this one. The message to stay the course is such a difficult one to hear, especially when you consider the potential need for changes to our way of life. (Not all changes are good, and yet some are much overdue–how does one remain faithful in the midst of a time when change is happening at, perhaps, an unprecedented rate?)
John gives us an idea, one that is corroborated by other New Testament authors or speakers as well.
“I know that you have but little power,” John says in Revelation 3:8. Yet, “hold fast to what you do have,” in verse 11.
Paul says it this way in Philippians: “I have learned to be content with whatever I have.”
Jesus says it like this: “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them…But not so with you…”
The church in Philadelphia has learned the way of Jesus, and thus even though they have no earthly power, they do, in fact, have a great power! For they have kept the word of Jesus and they have not denied the name of Christ. And this here is the key, I think, to living in the midst of changing times. This is the key to remaining faithful when you are surrounded by those who do not do as they say they will do.
This is the key to staying the course. You must, of course, know what the end result is. You must understand what Jesus is calling you to do and to be. Jesus does not want you to be like the kings of Gentiles who lord it over them. He does not want you to be the one with the greatest power. It should not be so with you! Instead, Jesus wants you to hold fast to what you do have. And what you do have is nothing less than the very God who created the cosmos. What you have is nothing less than the God who was willing to die for you so that you might live. What you have is nothing less than Jesus himself, whom death could not hold, and who has risen!
The church in Philadelphia is praised for their good works. They don’t have much, but what they do have is Christ. And what we learn from the early Christians is that Christ is enough. Christ is enough to live differently. Christ is enough to bring God into the world. Christ is enough to wash away our sins and impurities and to make us new. Christ is enough.
Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
Christ is enough.