Even when everything is right in the Christian life, there’s still trouble to deal with in this world. The church in Philadelphia received only encouraging words from the Lord (Revelation 3:7-13), yet they had their troubles. Don’t mistakenly think that just because faith is all about the abundant life, that everything just clicks and works beautifully all the time. It’s true that faith brings the victory, but sometimes it comes after hard battles. No Christian has it all together, and no Christian should expect a life of ease just because they are on the right track.
On the other hand, don’t make the mistake of embracing your troubles. Some teachings go so far to say that God is bringing trials to you because He loves you, or that He’s teaching you a lesson. God loves you and He’ll teach you, but He’s not the one bringing the troubles. Troubles come for different reasons. We live in a fallen world. We make stupid choices and reap the natural results. We also live with people who make stupid choices, and we reap the natural results. There’s also a devil out there.
Instead of embracing the troubles, embrace the God who has overcome the world by the cross. Embrace His Word and His promises. Embrace our position in Christ and the hope we have in Him. Jesus said it like this, “Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Rev.3:11;NKJV).
We can’t avoid all trials, but we can get through them with the crown of victory if we don’t let go. It’s not that it’s a test or competition to get the crown. It’s already ours. It means we fight from a royal position. That requires a different mindset from simply trying to survive.
There are open doors before us, but perseverance may be necessary before they actually appear. Jesus promised the Philadelphian church, “I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it” (Rev.3:8).
It’s a great comfort to know that Jesus opens doors that no one can shut. When we had the opportunity to move from a crowded city to a remote town in China, I got nervous because I had given a Bible to a friend. He was a friend of the college president who invited us. I started to fear that word would get out that I was a missionary, and that the president would change his mind. At that time someone gave me this verse about Jesus opening doors that no one can shut. It was all I needed.
Even if you’ve messed up and made foolish mistakes, God can keep your door of opportunity open for you, if that’s His will. Instead of embracing fear that you may have blown it, embrace the peace of knowing that He’s the one with the key. Also know that if the door shuts, that might be His plan. I think we all can think back on some doors that shut in our lives, only to be glad now that they did!
It’s not clear what the open door for the Philadelphians was, but whatever it was, it was before them. It may not have been clearly identified as of yet. I believe the Lord has opened doors for us that we are still on our way to finding. You may be struggling, waiting for your big break. Don’t give up. The door is opened for you but you’re still in a time of preparation. It will appear clearly at the right time.
Hold Fast His Word
How do you get open doors anyway? “For thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name” (vs.8). Doors are opened for those who keep His word and remain faithful to His name.
Keeping God’s Word means more than having a Bible. The Greek word for ‘kept’ carries the meaning of watching or guarding. The Word is cherished and obeyed. It’s not that you’re trying to earn something with God. It’s not about keeping the law. It’s treasuring what God has said and responding. If the world says to do contrary to God, we side with the Word. We guard against compromise. In that way, we won’t deny His name.
The good news is all it takes is a little strength. You don’t have to be a super saint to keep faithful. If you woke up this morning, you have a little strength! That’s all you need to live by the book.
The problem is that so many Christians fail to keep the Word because they don’t even know the Word! Someone said that if pricked, they would bleed the Bible. I wonder what we would bleed. Some of you would have more of People Magazine, or the newspapers bleeding out. Maybe it would be the knowledge of sports or films. We should be like John Wesley said, “people of one book.” Not that you can’t enjoy different things, but the point is that Scripture should be running through our veins. David put it this way: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11).
Therefore, embrace that which leads to open doors. Embrace your identification with God’s word and His name. It’s better to be “of God” than “of this world.”
It’s much better to be a member of the body of Christ than of the synagogue of Satan. As in the message to Smyrna, the point is made of those who “say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie” (Rev.3:9). There must be consistency between our talk and our walk. If we say we are Christians, we shouldn’t act hypocritically. That would be to deny His name.
Jesus promised that He would make those false Jews “come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.” In other words, He would vindicate the Philadelphians. If you are suffering for righteousness, or for the sake of the Lord, you will yet be vindicated. But you must “keep the word of [His] patience” (vs.10). Don’t lose heart. Don’t repay evil with evil. Don’t deny Jesus’ name in word or deed. You will be vindicated. It may not be in this lifetime, but quite often it is. Haman was hung on the gallows he built for Mordecai (Esther 7:10).
Think of the story of Joseph. He was sold into slavery by his brothers. Then he was falsely accused of adultery and thrown in jail. Then he was forgotten in jail. But after years he was remembered and brought to the Pharaoh, who basically put him in charge. In the time of famine, Joseph’s brothers came in need, and in the end bowed before him. Be patient, and embrace God’s care, because he desires to see you exalted in the end. Though they mean it for evil, God means it for good (Genesis 50:20).
“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” (Rev.3:10).
Now I don’t want to be controversial, but many people believe that this verse speaks of a seven year tribulation period in the future. They believe the church will be raptured and miss it all. But this verse doesn’t teach that. If that’s the plan, the proof texts are going to have to come from other passages.
The reason is simple. It makes no sense that the Lord would promise a group of people who lived 2000 years ago deliverance from end times tribulation. It would have to apply to a trial that was to happen in their own time. Otherwise, it would be like saying, “you will be delivered from the trial that’s coming upon the earth long after you’re all dead anyway.”
No one really knows what trial is alluded to here, and “upon all the world” could possibly be an expression meaning the Roman empire, or any part of the larger surrounding environment. The important point is, whatever the tribulation, whether great or small, the Lord will keep you from it.
That’s a great comfort, but it doesn’t mean you will avoid the trial. The word, keep, is used here in the same way Jesus prayed, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (John 17:15). The keeping, once again, is like a guard or watch over us. This brings us back full circle to our responsibility: “Because thou has kept the word of my patience…”
We can embrace the hope, that Jesus keeps us, even as we keep His word. It’s the word of his patience, which means that perseverance is a part of the Christian life. You don’t just say, “Why isn’t anything working?” You say, “Praise God I’ve got the victory over this,” and you push through until it’s realized. You follow through with patience every day and rejoice that His hand is in your life and His crown is on your head.
It’s easy to let this hope slip. That’s why Jesus said, “Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Rev.3:11;NKJV). Cling tightly to your crown. We learned in Smyrna that it is a crown of life (2:10). This is a treasure. It represents the King’s royalty, and the life that goes with it. Don’t let spiritual thieves steal the promises from you. Don’t forget who you are in Christ, and the Father’s love for you. Don’t give in to circumstances that suggest it’s over for you. Hold fast your crown! He’s coming quickly, so it won’t be long till your guarding and watching give way to restoration and relief.