The Philadelphian church was only the second church of the seven that was not condemned by Jesus but applauded for its work. It was a church that took strategic advantage of opportunities to follow God and reach its city with the gospel. Recognition is given to this church because of its faithfulness. By examining this passage you can better understand how Jesus rewards faithfulness.
Jesus rewards faithfulness with himself.
The opening of the letter to the church in Philadelphia starts with a description about Jesus’ character – he is holy and true. These qualities point to Jesus’ perfect faithfulness which can always be counted on. Further in the passage Jesus promises that he is coming soon (one of the grand themes of the book) to reward the faithful with the identity of God, naming them with his own name. The intimacy between Jesus and his followers cannot be stronger than at his next coming.
This point is important because it shows the greatest reward of eternal life is God himself; not streets of gold, beautiful heavenly scenery, angels, or even reuniting with loved ones – all good things, just not the most satisfying. If this disappoints you then perhaps you may want to evaluate your desire to truly know God. Seeing God face to face and being with him is the ultimate reward of an unseen faith.
Jesus rewards faithfulness with advancement.
The church in Philadelphia was a church that took advantage of opportunities given by Jesus. They kept the commands of Jesus and made the name of Jesus known in its surrounding area. Jesus continues to open doors for this church which no one else can shut. Being confident of Jesus’ presence with them they stepped through each open door advancing the kingdom of God.
Some people think that faithfulness and obedience to God requires him to bless them with personal gain. If I read my bible this week then I’ll get that job I applied for. Since I listened to my parents coming in before curfew then God should make my parents get me my own car. If I put money in the offering plate then God will make that certain girl talk to me or get that raise at my job. We play these sorts of mind games thinking we have developed a formula to receive God’s blessing. Certainly, God answers prayer and cares for his people. However, believers do not obey God for personal gain, they obey because they desire to reflect the character of God and see the kingdom of God advanced. God’s kingdom is advanced when sin is repented and obedience to Jesus is a passion in his followers, when people deny their self and follow Jesus, when broken family relationships are restored, when addicts are healed, when the poor and sick are cared for by those who have received the mercy of Jesus in their own life.
It is also worthy to note that the Philadelphian church was not a large church. They had “little strength” meaning they were small in size but they did not allow their numbers to be an excuse for its success and impact in God’s kingdom. Smaller churches, as well as individual Christians should realize the impact they can have by being faithful in small things.
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” Luke 16:10
Jesus rewards faithfulness with endurance.
One of the specific promises given to the Philadelphian church is ability to persevere in the midst of trials. Jesus promises protection but this does not necessarily mean removal from trials (cf. John 17:15, 2 Peter 2:9). The promise of protection is not the key focus as there is a previous promise coming first, which is revealing to unbelievers the reality of Jesus’ love for those who do believe. The rest of the context points to the believers enduring, holding fast and overcoming which hint at the protection being in the midst of suffering rather than removal from suffering. They key is Jesus’ strength to endure because of their hope in his final coming. His coming will bring eternal endurance outlasting those who did not believe or hold fast.
This promise has great relevance for all who face trials, even if the trials mentioned here are specifically related to end times. Jesus wants you to realize that your faithfulness is not dependent on circumstances. Obedience to God is sometimes carried out even when it is difficult and perhaps seemingly illogical. This calls for men and women to have a courageous faith in a Jesus who is always faithful.
· What does it mean that Jesus is holy and true? Make relevant application to your life.
· What doors has Jesus opened for you to advance his kingdom? Closed?
· Do you think a smaller church or less known Christian can have a greater impact/influence than a larger church or well known Christian?
· How does having eternal life in heaven shape your perspective on life on earth, with its trials and challenges?
· Memorize Luke 16:10. How can you apply this verse to your life?