What is it about the human psyche that causes us to want to be like someone else? Why are we never comfortable in our own skin? In our business, I’ve been known to teach on the trap of “compare-itis.” That is when we find ourselves stuck in a pattern of looking at those around us, comparing ourselves in unhealthy ways. We find ourselves wanting to be thinner, younger (or older), better speakers, better musicians, have nicer clothes, bigger house, etc. We are always striving to have a better this or better that.
You’d be fooling yourself if you say you’ve never done any of this comparing. Paul is giving us some words of wisdom here. Instead of imitating another because of a physical attribute, Paul wants us to imitate those with greater faith than we have. I take it a step farther and remember the fad of “WWJD” – that is, What Would Jesus Do?
What is your first reaction when someone brings harm to you or someone you know? Is it getting even? What should we think when we read in the Bible where it says “an eye for an eye”? What’s that all about?
Paul is clear here in this verse. We should not repay evil with evil. I remember being picked on as a child. Hurtful words are certainly evil in my book. It was so tempting to lash back with more of the same, but I didn’t have the courage. Looking back, it seems my fear actually kept me from sinning in return.
Remember the Beatitudes from Matthew’s gospel? Today we see the 2nd in the similar blessings of Jesus coming to us in Revelation. I didn’t recognize the first one in Revelation 1:3, “God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near.” In today’s passage, in verse 13, “Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work; for their good deeds follow them!”
Why do we have more “beatitudes” (there will be a total of seven in Revelation)? Don’t you think Jesus knew his followers would need more encouragement all those years later? These new blessings were directed first to the seven churches we read about when we began our journey through Revelation. Jesus’ new blessings reinvigorate His followers to hold on and to realize that, while it’s not always easy to be a Christian, it would be worth it! In other words, “stay the course!”
You can really see the love of Jesus for the church in Philadelphia. This is another church (like Smyrna) who gets no rebuke. They are small and weak, the perfect storm for God to be glorified. When we feel weak and rely on the power of God to rescue us or sustain us, God is glorified. When we can set aside our own ambitions and desire for power or recognition, realizing we are nothing without God, God can work inside us, too.
What did you think about the way Jesus introduces himself to the church in Philadelphia. “This is the message from the one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open.” The “key of David” is our gospel message. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus is the one who can open the doors of heaven to us. There isn’t anything we can do to open those doors. If Jesus allows us in, nobody can stop us. So how do we make sure he opens the door for us?
There is so much in this passage, probably enough for many
days of reflection. However, looking at the whole picture of Paul’s hardships
will help us in our own walk of faith. In fact, you probably found yourself wondering
(like I did) if this was Paul’s story or your own story. As Christ followers,
we are very likely to encounter these same trials, yet we should also be ready
to call on God’s strength, like Paul, to make it through.
Are you or have you been a church leader? You know firsthand
how people are looking to you for not only leadership but for an example to
follow. Paul’s statement in verse 3 speaks VOLUMES, “We live in such a
way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our
ministry.” That’s a lot of pressure to know that your life is on
display. I, for one, never want anything that I say or do to move people away
from God. And, as a church leader, I have often taken heat from others about
the way God is using me to do ministry. It’s painful. I always seek to please
God first, and hope and pray the people will accept me and be blessed.