Read Revelation 3:7-13
3 “Write this letter to the angel of 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:
8 “I know all the things you do,and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength,yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me. 9 Look,I will force those who belong to Satan’s synagogue-those liars who say they are Jews but are not-to come and bow down at your feet. They will acknowledge that you are the ones I love.
10 “Because you have obeyed my command to persevere,I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. 11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have,so that no one will take away your crown. 12 All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God,and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God,and they will be citizens in the city of my God-the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.
13 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. (NLT)
This is the sort of letter of commendation any church would like to receive. Unlike the other letters to the churches,this one doesn’t contain any rebuke. But it does put its finger on a characteristic of any church worthy of God’s commendation. It has ‘little strength’.
We might like to dream of churches which flex their muscles and show the world just how mighty and powerful they are. We must pray those dreams don’t come true! A ‘powerful’ church is one which will draw attention to itself,claim bragging rights over other churches. It may well be a church which forgets the great paradox of power elsewhere spelled out by Paul. When we are weak,we are strong.
The Philadelphia church might be weak in human terms but because it relied on the power of God it was a faithful and fruitful church. It persevered because,in its weakness,it leant on the strength of God. More resource-rich churches can too easily rely on those resources and kid themselves that they are successful.
But spiritual work needs to be done with spiritual power even though earthly power can achieve earthly goals. How many of us are willing to pray for our churches that they will have ‘little strength’ and so taste something of the rather different strength of God?