Jesus has some hard words for this church. He barely has any “good” to share with them. They are in danger!
All the previous churches, when Jesus said “I know your works” it was a fairly good thing. Not so with the church in Sardis. Their works are dead works. They, as a body of believers, are dead. Robbin Mark perfectly captures this in his song “House of the Lord.”
This group didn’t start out any different than any of the other churches. They received the gospel with joy! They were also probably ready to share it with anyone who would listen. But as time went on, other things got in the way. “I’m too tired to go to church today. God will understand.” “I want to hang with my friends tonight. God will understand why I’ll be too tired tomorrow.” “Once the kids leave the house I’ll have time to devote to bible reading. I’m too busy being a mom right now.”
God DOES understand our excuses and our real issues. Jesus even talked about it in the parable of the different kinds of soil. This is the soil that the cares of the world choked the life out of the seed. This church “starved to death.”
They starved individually and corporately. The church body is made up of individual believers. The church is NOT the building but the members working together as one. So to have a healthy church you have to have healthy members. Yes, we ALL have our issues but the church “health” comes from the individual members’ relationship with our Lord and Savior. That relationship is what binds us together as a church. If it’s dying, so is the church.
Think of every time you spend time with God as a “meal” for your spirit. If the only time you “get fed” is when you go to church on Sunday, you WILL starve! Imagine eating once a week. You might be able to survive a little while this way but each day you lose more and more strength until finally you can’t even make it to the table. No matter how big or how delicious those weekly meals are, they are NOT enough to sustain you through the week.
The things this group decided to do for the Lord never got going too. In a moment of excitement people would likely volunteer for a new project but the carry through was never there. I believe this is what Jesus was referencing when He said “I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God” (verse 2). From completing the necessary work on our their own lives to helping out on church projects, they didn’t stick it out when effort was required.
This body likely had a shepherd who was operating on this same principle. He would study the night before so he had something to share with the congregation. This reminds me of a story I heard one time about a preacher who wouldn’t study or prepare anything for his messages. Instead, he would open his bible before his church, choose a verse and expound on it with ALL he had. One day he chose Psalm 150:3 as his text for the day. He was using the King James version and he came across the word “psaltery.” He pronounced it “pisle tree” and began to explain how this “amazing tree” was intricately woven into God’s plan. He made the ark, Aaron’s staff, and even the cross spring from this “tree.” In case you are wondering, a psaltery is a stringed instrument, NOT a tree. Yes, this is an extreme example, but if he would have even looked at a verse above and below it he would have noticed ALL the instruments God was calling for us to use when praising Him. He missed the point entirely because he refused to spend time with the Author and let Him explain the meaning of His love letters.
Does this mean that to be “alive” you have to spend EVERY minute in prayer or study? No. But Paul did say to “pray in the Spirit at all times, with every kind of prayer and petition” (Ephesians 6:18). I believe we need to set aside time to specifically pray and read His word but we also need to go about our daily business too. So how do I “pray at all times?”
Prayer is simply communication with God. When visitors come to your home you tend to spend time interacting with them. In a family, to remain close, you have to spend time together. It is amazing how quickly a relationship deteriorates when you neglect to spend time together. God wants to spend time together with you. He wants some quality time where you just sit and talk but He also wants to be a part of your everyday life. Sing praises while driving. Talk to Him like a friend when doing your chores. Send little “thanks” and “can you help” messages to Him throughout your day. It’s AMAZING how many times He has graced me with a close parking space when I bothered to ask for it. And I try and remember to say thanks for those little answered prayers and when I didn’t ask but received anyway. He cherishes those little things.
I realized how guilty I was and still am of not spending quality time with my husband. He is disabled and sleeps a LARGE portion of his day. But when he is up and eating, I’m apt to go in the other room and read on my Kindle or do a task. Sometimes I even take my own food to another room while he is eating. I have also been known to watch the same TV program he is watching in a separate room, because I “don’t want to lay down” to watch TV. Our relationship, on my side at least seemed to be growing into a service relationship only. I had to change this! It is still a work in progress because I like to “multi task” and I don’t like being in the bedroom all day. What I do instead is MAKE SURE I give him extra touches and words of affirmation. I also try and sit with him to simply talk when he is up and awake. I notice a difference in my heart when I’m consistent with these little things. I believe he does too.
I believe this is these same kinds of “little touches” were what was missing from the Sardis church. They didn’t spend time with God and distance had crept in to the point that there was no relationship any more. PLEASE don’t let that be the story of your relationship! I PRAY it isn’t my story with Him, or my husband ever again.
Father God, thank You for opening my eyes to the state of my relationships; ours and my marriage. I know I don’t spend enough time in dedicated prayer. I’m not the “great prayer warrior” everyone thinks I am. I’m grateful for the times You do call me to fervent prayer and how You move in it, but I’m more of the praise during my day and simple conversation kind. I cherish those conversations, even when they are mundane or silly. I like sharing my day with You that way.
Show me the balance You have designed for me in this area Holy Spirit. I NEVER want my heart to go cold towards You again. Thank You for returning life to my dying embers too! Thank You for breathing life back into my relationship with my husband too. I love him by choice AND experience again.