Summary: We will study the sequencing of Jesus' message to the seven churches viz; commend, comfort, point of failures and reward. WE will also study the 3Rs of revival Viz; Repent, Return and Recover
Church Revival/ Corporate Revival
(Main reference Rev 2:8-11)
Do you know the definition of a good sermon? It should have a good beginning, it should have a good ending, and they should be as close as possible.
So let us see how good my sermon is going to be today.
We are meditating on the topic of Church or Corporate revival this month. Dictionary definitions of Revival includes “an improvement in the condition, strength, or fortunes of someone or something” or “an instance of something becoming popular, active, or important again”. These definitions are the modern and very moderate ones. Extreme interpretations of revival are centered around bringing back something that is dead, or about to die. So the question probably that we need to address is, does our church need revival because it is dying? Dead? Or we just want to improve the condition, make it more active and important again. I will leave that question with you, because your individual views will differ on this and I do not wish to argue about this.
There was a group of churches that got together and had a revival meeting. After the revival meeting the pastors got together and were evaluating the results of the meeting. The Methodist Pastor was very happy and said we benefited from the meeting, and have gained four new families in the church. The Baptist pastor was even happier and declared that his church gained six new families as part of the revival meeting. It was the turn of the Presbyterian pastor; he thought for a moment and said. “Actually, we are also happy that the revival meeting took place. We were able to get rid of ten trouble making families from our congregation”.
Sometimes revival could be misunderstood in terms of numbers. Let us not fall into that trap. Revival could of course mean increase in church goers or church membership, but is that what revival is about? Let us look into the word to find out what God has to tell us today. In the passage that is read out to us, and actually in the messages to the seven churches that Jesus talks to John about in chapter 2 and 3 of the book of Revelation, we see a pattern where Jesus first commends them, then comforts them, then points out their failures and lastly rewards them for their faithfulness. Let me repeat the sequence again, commend, comfort, point out failures and reward. Let me pause right here for a moment and request that we do an introspection right there, and see how we look at our church affairs, how we treat our fellow church members. What comes to us first? Do we always think of things/ acts/ talents that we can commend people for , or is the first thing that comes to our mind is their failures. In the corporate world, we always teach to give positive feedback first before any criticism is given. And we can see that is an ancient wisdom demonstrated by Jesus himself. But how many of us, who claim to be Christ’s followers, who call ourselves Christians, really follow that? Paul exhorts us in Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things.” Can we make a beginning here? When it comes to church matters and church members, can we go by this first before starting to look at their shortcomings and failures?
Let us look at the second aspect of this pattern. Comfort. While all seven messages have this highlighted, the message to the church of Smyrna nails it home, hits a sixer if you prefer a cricketing term, or a home run, if you prefer an American term. In the passage before us, Jesus acknowledges that he is aware of our tribulations (v9). Isn’t it comforting to know that Jesus knows what we are going through as a church? He knows our weaknesses, he knows our failures, he knows our trials and tribulations. And then he forewarns the church about what is to come. He forewarns us that there might be more trials (v10). We must be prepared for a succession of troubles to come. To illustrate the severity of trials and troubles that are yet to come, Jesus uses the analogy of going from impoverishment to imprisonment. However Jesus does not stop at forewarning them about the troubles. He fore-arms them. “Fear None of these things” he says in v10. Then he gives them the comfort that it is only some of them who will suffer more, and that the suffering will be for a limited period, not perpetual. It is sort of select few who were best able to bear it that would go through the additional trials. That is why James 1:2 tells us to “consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds”. It is a privilege to be chosen for going through trials because trials produce perseverance. One is not put through trails to destroy, but to try them, so that their patience, their faith and their courage etc might be proved and improved for His glory and honour. It is also interesting to note that Jesus starts the message to the church of Smyrna (V8) by reaffirming his own identity and authority. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the end and he is the one who died and rose again, and is alive again. This reaffirmation is required in the context of what is to come after. This is the source of our comfort. It is not coming from some weak source, the comfort is coming to us from the all-powerful and omniscient God, who is alive.