Revelation: Thankful for holding on
We've made it to the end of the New Testament!
Welcome to the weekly lift number 92, Tuesday 8th March 2022. We're at the end of our 27 week walk through the New Testament looking at thankfulness. Today we turn to the letter of Revelation: "Thankful for holding on". Here we go!
Have you ever judged a church? Maybe your own. Maybe someone else's. Have you judged them for how good they are at welcoming? Or music, or how good their events are, their livestream is, their staff team... it's easy to do. I've watched quite a few other churches on livestream over the past two years, and I find I can be a very judgmental person. And this is not good. I am judgmental for all the wrong, and selfish, reasons.
There is one true judge, God, and He judges with impartiality and true justice.
The opening chapters of Revelation are about what God sees as he looks at the churches on earth, and how he judges them. These chapters are about what matters to God in church life.
And today I'm refelcting on these chapters and thinking about what I am thankful for. Because I think if we look at the churches in the opening chapters of Revelation, we see a whole variety of churches - some doing well, some not doing so well, and some just holding on.
As we consider these churches we can look at ourselves and I think we can consider some helpful comparisons between us and the church of Philadelphia in chapter 3. Of course, the circumstances are very different from then to now. We are not facing great persecution as was the church in Philadelphia. But the comparison I see is the effect of, and response to, times of struggle.
I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name
Life has been difficult for this church, and they have little strength remaining. I think as a church we perhaps feel a lot like this at the moment. We have been through more than we expected to face. From bushfires to pandemics, to wars and floods... these are exhausting times. And these are the days when Satan loves to get involved.
9I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.
For the church in Philadelphia, Satan used other (false) religious groups to attack the church. But God recognises where they come from. He recognises the work of the evil one behind this. He recognises a church under attack. And here is something to reflect on for us today:
Exhaustion is a playground for the devil.
Just as he did to Jesus in the wilderness after 40 days without food, (Luke chapter 4), Satan gets busy when we are at our busiest and most tired. He plays on our greatest weakeness - a lack of sleep, a lack of health, a lack of empathy, a lack of patience, a lack of grace.
As a church, my observation is that like most our world at the moment, we are weary. But we should be encouraged as the church in Philadelphia was:
11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.
Hold on to what is of greatest value - your faith, your crown in Jesus, your hope in his return. Keep God's word. Do not deny him. And do not let the devil gain the smallest foothold.
I am thankful to be part of a church who is holding on. It would be inacciurate to say much more than that. It would be false idealism to say "We're doing well!", "We're doing great!" "Everything is so good!" Because we know, especially at this time, that life is not all roses and rainbows.
It is such an encouragement to see people fully invested in God's word each week, and fully invested in each other's lives. If there is one thing we can be thankful for it is a faithful Church, whose strength has remained in Jesus. May we not be judged by how good we are at events or welcoming or music. May we be judged by God to be people who are faithful to Him. Not a church simply with good preaching or good Bible study groups. But a church who is actively listening and responding to the Word of God, no matter how good or average those other things are.
I do love to hear people saying that they have joined our church because they were welcomed well. Thast is always heartwarming. But it's even more exciting to hear people say that they have joined us because they have seen faithfulness and because they see people who are committed to Jesus. Even when we may drop the ball on those other things.
What are you thankful for? As we come out of a long, often dark, tunnel, now is a good time to reflect on our thankfulness to God and to those around us, recognising that God has carried us through this, and will continue to do so.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for your word. It is a light to our feet and a lamp to our path. Thank you for guiding us, strengthening us, and upholding us through these past years. May you continue to draw us closer to you, depending on you for all things important for our life and salvation. Today, I particularly thank you for... <insert your thankfulness here!>
And I thank you for all these things in the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord, Brother, Saviour and King. Amen.