"And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, 'These things says He who is holy, He who is true, "He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens": "I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Revelation 3:7-8 NKJV
I don't know about you, but I was one of those kids who normally was absolutely terrified when the time arrived to receive my report card at school. I think some of my best work as a student revolved around constructing logical and convincing arguments for abolishing report cards, none of which bore any kind of fruit whatsoever.
The seven letters to the churches of Revelation is exactly that however, a report card of their success or failure to do God's will. Since we have been looking at the subject of "spiritual fitness" for some weeks now, and last week about knowing God's will for our lives, I thought we might look at the only church in Revelation that Jesus had no complaint against. In other words, they got a passing grade! Why was that, and what exactly were they doing that the other churches were not?
" I know your works". The first thing Jesus tells them is that He knows of their works. The one thing a report card shows is what you are doing right, and what you are doing wrong. By mentioning their "works" first, I believe Jesus is telling them that this is the most important part of their success, and everything else follows as a result.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 NKJV
As we saw last week, believers, when given the gift of the Holy Spirit, receive the power needed to live the life that God has chosen for us "beforehand". Created to do "good works", we need to be busy "doing" in order to please God.
"I have set before you an open door".The second thing Jesus says is that He has opened a door for them to walk through. As a youth pastor for many years, the one question I probably heard more than any other is "how do I know what God's will for my life is"? What I have told so many kids is this; in order to know what God's will for your life is, you need to be busy "doing" in order to find the open doors. So many believers simply sit still in one place waiting for something to happen before they take a step, when the key to finding an open door is to walk!
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV
Jesus makes it clear in this passage that He alone has the power to open or shut a door, and the only way we will find them is to "move" by doing good works and serving Him. As we move God promises to direct our paths while we find which doors are open, and which ones are shut.
"For you have a little strength".
So this is my favorite part. How strong do we need to be in order to be used of God? That's right; not much. The Greek word for little used here is "mikros", which might sound like where we get the word micro? An excuse I have heard a lot, and unfortunately used myself, is "I'm not strong enough to do that". "Maybe later after I have matured and grown stronger as a believer I will be up for that." We as believers tend to think that the greatest accomplishments have to be performed by those with the greatest strength. Mikros? There goes our excuse.
And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9a NKJV
It's obviously not our strength that matters, rather God's strength that carries the day. What is required of us is to have just enough strength to "do", and God then opens the doors and does the heavy lifting.
"have kept My word, and have not denied My name".
Why is Jesus pleased with the church at Philadelphia? I think what this phrase is telling us is that everything that is occurring in this church is a result of their faithfullness. They are busy "doing" with what little strength that they have, and remaining "faithful" to keep God's word and to give Him the glory. In some ways many believers might argue that what we are called to do, and what these verses teach, is really rather simplistic. Yet on the other hand, these same people might complain that they don't have the ability to do great things. When I was young, I knew what it would take to get a good grade on my report card. The problem was I had no interest in doing the work it would take to accomplish that.
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 NKJV
The message Jesus has for the church at Philadelphia is twofold. They receive a high mark on their report card because they choose to remain faithful to give God the glory in all that they do and say, and they obtain the promise that more doors will open so they will have even more opportunities to serve.
Yet there is even more that Jesus has in store for those believers who choose to imitate the example of the Philadelphia church, and this is a series of rewards outlined in the next few verses. These rewards should be of particular interest to us as believers right now, considering what we see happening all around us. Next week we will examine what God has in store for us if we choose to be "overcomers".