Church Shopping: Philadelphia’s Patience

In our dependence on God, we are made dependable by God for something that transcends us or even our own ability, but for the people in Philadelphia, and maybe for you and me it can be a challenge to:

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Stay Patient When You Feel Pressured (Revelation 3:9-10) I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.

Jesus was aware of their struggles and gives them the promise of vindication in the midst of others apparent victories. Had the Jews won in excluding the Christians from the synagogue? Jesus says no! Had the Romans won in forcing the Christians to worship Caesar? Jesus says no! What he does say in verse 10 is one verse that has been debated, some argue that it advocates Christians being pull out of the trying world, whisked away, but when we are unsure how to interpret a passage, we want to first let the Bible interpret itself , “keep you from” is “used in one other New Testament instance, where John also records Jesus as speaking and where the meaning is clear: not removal from trial, but protection through it (John 17:15). Listen to Jesus prayer, “15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.” In fact, historically, the persecution for the Philadelphia Christians would continue, and in the midst of the pressure they felt on all sides, Jesus was reminding them that their patience would produce vindication. The TRIALS are the TESTS which determine our TRAJECTORY.

God calls us to be faithful, and he promises to be fruitful. James 1:4- 2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. Growth hurts, change aches, faithfulness can seem like a heavy burden, but in fact all along it is the struggles which produce strength.

We can see this truth played out with the United States divided by fatigue of war, polarized by politics. I’m not talking about 2016, but about 1866, the year after the Civil War. The government and nation was divided. Most wanted to punish the South, while the President Andrew Johnson wanted to move forward with Reconstruction—for his efforts he faced impeachment. As the impeachment moved forward, the decision came down to a freshman no-name senator by the name of Edmund G. Ross of Kansas. No law bears his name, no list puts him on notable Senators from history, but in 1866, he was a man with potential, talent, charisma, and ambition—yet he was put in a place where he had to decide if he would endure with patient or give into the pressure. The pressure came when he declared that the president “deserved as fair a trial as any accused man has ever had on earth.” The word immediately went out that his vote was “shaky.” Ross received an avalanche of anti-Johnson telegrams from every section of the country. Radical senators badgered him to “come to his senses.” The fateful day of the vote arrived. The courtroom galleries were packed. Tickets for admission were at an enormous premium. As a deathlike stillness fell over the Senate chamber, the vote began. Only Ross’ vote was needed to impeach the President. Unable to conceal his emotion, the Chief Justice asked in a trembling voice, “Mr. Senator Ross, how vote you? Is the respondent Andrew Johnson guilty as charged?” Ross later explained, at that moment, “I looked into my open grave. Friendships, position, fortune, and everything that makes life desirable to an ambitions man were about to be swept away by the breath of my mouth, perhaps forever.” Then, the answer came — unhesitating, unmistakable: “Not guilty!” With that, the trial was over. And the response was as predicted. A high public official from Kansas wired Ross to say: “Kansas repudiates you as she does all perjurers and skunks.” The “open grave” vision had become a reality. Ross’ political career was in ruins. Extreme ostracism, and even physical attack awaited his family upon their return home. One gloomy day Ross turned to his faithful wife and said, “Millions cursing me today will bless me tomorrow…though not but God can know the struggle it has cost me.” It was a prophetic declaration. Twenty years later Congress and the Supreme Court verified the wisdom of his position, by changing the laws related to impeachment. Ross was appointed Territorial Governor of New Mexico. Then, just prior to his death, he was awarded a special pension by Congress. The press and country took this opportunity to honor his courage which, they finally concluded, had saved our country from crisis and division. 

As you decide how to apply your faith—whether or not you will endure the pressure—or run from it! The results will be as different as the graphite in your mechanical pencil versus the diamond ring. Both share the same substance, one endured the pressure and became priceless—the other is puny and worth pennies. Trails are the test which determine our trajectory. You are being tested—whether you are going to live out your faith, whether you are going to be a faithful steward, going to be a faithful spouse, going to be a faithful witness and leader.

 

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