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Philadelphia: What Makes The Difference? 525. Mar 30, 2024.


KEY SCRIPTURES: Revelation 3:7-13

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; 8 I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. 9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. 10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. 11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. 12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. 13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.


What makes the difference?

The people are sitting in the pews at Church. They all attend every week, are never late, sit in the same seats, and say hi to the people next to them with loving smiles. They sing with joy and listen intently to the sermon, partake of communion, and enjoy the coffee and chat fellowship at the end. Then they go home, and all do different things which affect their faith.

What was different about the people who attended the church in Philadelphia? What made them hold on when others didn't? Although they had little strength, what gave them that strength?

What empowered them to clench their faith in God's Word so tightly that persecution from a godlessly hostile environment could not wrestle it from their grasp? They held fast to their sword and shield, so what provided the fortitude to maintain their armour in the heat of spiritual battle?

Despite the world around them pressing in from all sides, these Philadelphians seized the promises of God. When five other churches engaged in extra-marital relationships (spiritually speaking), these people were faithful and held their honour high. Their spiritual bed remained undefiled. Strong trust was their song.  

If we could divide between soul and spirit and joints and marrow, and discern the thoughts and intents of the heart, we would know what creates the difference between people like these and other churchgoers who lack the fire of resolve. 

Having the strength to stand when others fall is not about how much Bible we read, how long we pray, or how many good works we perform. It comes down to our foundation of faith. Is Jesus the Rock, strong and immovable through all trials? Or have we watered our faith down so much that we've turned our Rock into moving, wet sand, wherein we sink in times of trouble, never getting solid footing and always feeling unsure and unsafe? 

The Philadelphia foundation didn't move, even in the face of victimisation and heavy oppression. They committed to a life-for-a-life supreme trust in Christ. They built on Him.

There is an old sermon illustration I will use here. A famous tightrope walker came to Niagara Falls and stretched his rope across the thunderous currents from Canada to the United States. Before the breathless multitudes, he walked, then ran, across the falls. He did the same blindfolded, with drums rolling. Then, still blindfolded, he pushed the wheelbarrow across the falls.  The crowds went wild, and the aerialist shouted to them,

"Who believes I can push a man in the wheelbarrow across these falls?"

A gentleman in the front frantically waved his hands, "I do!" "I believe!"

"Then," said the walker, "Come and get in the wheelbarrow."

To no surprise, the man's intellectual assent failed to translate into personal belief.

We understand why the gentleman lacked faith in a tightrope walker and wheelbarrow. However, when Jesus asks us to have faith in Him as we traverse the crucible of His Cross-road, we had better say "Yes!"


Dear Lord, Please help me strengthen my faith to the degree of this church. I understand that may entail persecution.  

Photo by John Price

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