Summary: Letter to the Church at Philadelphia
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Rq_UbSZhHI (Sermon clip)
I don’t know about you, but I guess I must receive at least two dozen letters via email every week from some nice person in Nigeria or Angola or Zimbabwe trying to give me millions of dollars that they somehow got stuck with and they want to help me out by giving it to me. And almost every one of those letters begins, Dear Beloved…. I have to confess that I’ve never opened one of the letters because….somehow, I just don’t believe they really want to help me. I mean, they don’t even know me!
But this letter from Jesus to the church in Philadelphia…this letter to you and me…that’s different because Jesus DOES know us. He knows me and He knows you too. Better than anyone else knows us. We really are His Beloved, and He knows we need His help. And while He doesn’t offer us millions of imaginary dollars and a broken dream, He does offer us eternal LIFE. So, let’s read this letter from Revelation 3:7-13.
Have you ever wondered just how much a person can take? How much disappointment, how much tragedy, how many trials…one on top of the next? Well, you just heard Gene & Brandy Chandler confess that they began to wonder the same thing…after a deployment to Iraq, then the frustration of not being able to have a baby on their own, and when they finally come to terms with that disappointment, they decide to adopt, only to have Brandy diagnosed with cancer, and then complete paralysis. You know they had to be discouraged and had to wonder….God, how long will this go on? Don’t You care? Have you forgotten about me? All the while desperately trying to hold on to their faith and to God’s promises of Good….which they did. And when they realized that some things were out of their control; in fact, that an awful lot of things were out of control, they decide to just wait upon the Lord and trust in His faithfulness and His promises.
The Christians in Philadelphia must have felt much the same way. They had been through an awful lot. And maybe you’ve known that kind of disappointment and trouble and trials; like so much is simply out of your hands, out of your control. Maybe that’s the situation you’re facing right now. Well, the King of Kings had a word of encouragement for the Believers at Philadelphia and I believe He has a word for you too today.
Of all the cities referred to in these letters, Philadelphia was, by far, the youngest. In fact, at the time that John writes this letter, Philadelphia was only about 200 years old. It was situated on the border of three countries, sort of like a doorway to the rest of the world—and it was established with the purpose of spreading the Greek language and culture throughout the rest of the world. And it was here, at the doorway to the world, that a church had been established. And it is to this church that the Risen Lord speaks only praise. There is no criticism…only praise. And history would affirm that the church in Philadelphia deserved such praise because with the exception of Smyrna, Philadelphia is the only church mentioned in Revelations still in existence still today. All the other churches are just ruins. But there is a bishop in Philadelphia and over 1,000 dedicated Christians still holding high the banner of Christ in that city to this day.
So, what’s so important about this letter to Philadelphia, and what does it have to do with us? Well, this letter addresses three real life questions confronting believers then and now; and my guess is that you have asked one if not all three of these questions at least once in your life. The first question is:
What do I do when I can do very little?
All of us have experienced the emptiness and frustration and the fear of being powerless of helpless. And granted, it can be frightening to not be in control of our lives or in control over what happens to us. To sit by and watch an illness destroy someone you love; helpless to do anything about it. To stand by as you watch someone you care about destroy their own life and there seems to be nothing you can do to stop them. Or to watch as your own life comes apart at the seams and no matter what you do, you can’t seem to do anything to prevent it. SO, what do you do when you can do very little? Well, the key is in this letter: Jesus said to the church in Philadelphia: I know you have very little power”.