Good news for small churches

Jesus said the Philadelphians were doing well, “because you have a little power, have kept my word, and have not denied my name” (Rev. 3:8b).

What does it mean to have little power? A church with little power is a small or weak church. The Philadelphians weren’t anything special. They lacked the resources of their Laodicean neighbors, and they didn’t have the reputation of the Sardians. Like David, the shepherd boy, they were of little account in the eyes of man. But weakness is no barrier to God. If anything, it’s an advantage because God chooses the weak things of the world to shame the strong (1 Cor. 1:27).

A God who shares the stage with no one seems to delight in choosing the least qualified and the most unlikely. When he needed a man to lead Israel against the Midianites, he chose chicken-hearted Gideon. When he needed a herald for the gospel of grace, he chose law-loving Saul. And when he needed a father of many nations, he chose grey-haired Abram. In the economy of grace, the weak and unqualified seem to have the inside track.

If you were to tour the churches of Asia, you might be dazzled by the energetic Ephesians, the affluent Laodiceans, and the spiritual Sardians. And you might be tempted to dismiss the small Philadelphian church as inconsequential.

But Philadelphia was where the action was. Jesus had given this little church an open door that no one could shut. What a wonderful encouragement for those of us who think we have nothing to offer.

You may have no money, no reputation, no ability, no connections, no education, and no chance, but as long as you have the Lord, you have everything you need. You may have no power, but the Lord-with-the-key (see Rev. 3:7) has given you authority over all the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19).

How had they kept his word? They believed Jesus and took him at his word.

What made the Philadelphians special was this: They were believing believers who were persuaded that the Lord is good and trustworthy. This is the only clue to their commendation. Nothing else is recorded. Search the letter to the Philadelphians and you will not find seven steps to success, or twelve strategies for church outreach. The Philadelphians simply believed Jesus, and that made all the difference.

The question to ask is not why the Philadelphians had an open door, but why some of the other churches weren’t as fruitful. The answer is they were captive to unbelief. They put little stock in the grace of God.

The Ephesians’ unbelief was evident in the way they were working themselves to death. The Sardians’ unbelief was in their refusal to receive the gospel. And the Laodiceans’ unbelief was in their boast that they needed nothing from God. Unbelief takes many forms and not even believers, strangely, are immune from its insidious effects.

Whenever the promises of God are dismissed or doubted, the result is barrenness. Apart from him we can do nothing.

Extracted from Letters from Jesus, a finalist at this year’s International Book Awards.

9 Comments on Good news for small churches

  1. Herickton Lumungking // August 16, 2019 at 2:30 am // Reply

    Amen.. thanks for the encouragement.. im serving in the small church..

  2. jcgaines@mac.com // August 16, 2019 at 3:04 am // Reply

    Thanks Paul, loved the pic of Grandma with MacGyver signed photo, my mom will be jealous 🙂

  3. Good stuff! Thank you!

  4. Paul I want to thank you. About 3-4 years ago, I was at a major crossroads in my faith. I had decided to give my heart over totally to God. In doing that I had come into contact with the law. I lived under deep condemnation every day, I even had a little rubber band and would flick it every time I had a negative thought. Although I was a believer I had thought I had committed the unpardonable sin. I was desperate and looking for answers yet every bible commmentary or preacher/ theologian just pointed me to the law or some mixture of two. Which didn’t make sense. In my search for the truth the Holy Spirit led me to this page. I poured through almost every article and slowly but surely the chains were broken. The Gospel in 10 words is a must read for any human, especially those in Christ. You introduced me to T. L. Osborn which I was able to discover God’s healing. You’ve also introduced me to my beloved pastor Joseph Prince. I have a much deeper understanding of the true gospel now and my life has been forever changed. You’ve not only changed my life, but also the lives of many others with the work Gods put on your heart. Paul thank you so much. Praying for you. God bless you in abundance

  5. Annalee Reyes // August 16, 2019 at 11:10 am // Reply

    Sooo good. I am sooo enjoying your book Paul. A continual feast of Jesus, my daily bread. A drink of 100% pure grace!

  6. Love it, reinforces what God’s had me reflecting on recently: The story of Mary and Martha during Jesus’ visit. Mary chose “the one thing” that was needed, simply sitting at the feet of Jesus.

  7. Beautifully captured, Paul.
    Simple faith leans into the Father’s grace and mercy, producing deepening relationship and love. Sometimes simple is best.

  8. Amen Paul, I think of the verse in Isaiah 7:9. I see this carried forward to us all, just have a modicum of doubt, trying to work it out and claim you belief, great.
    yet the obstacle is doubt, even as eve had then Adam and death came to all flesh and still is to this day that way. So I say turn to beleif to God willingly as in Acts 20:21 says to me at least, as I hope for all to seriously turn to beleif to not gain anything here in this world, To gain salvation offered in risen Son after his death took away all sin in his Father’s sight for us to get new life in his resurrected life

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