“Watch and Strengthen”
Revelation 3:2, “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.”
This morning, what commands our minds? One of the main components of the devil’s devices is to capture our main attention. Any attention he can divert to his desire is attention that we do not pay to truly important matters. His devices prey upon fear, torment, sorrow, and discouragement. For the worldly-minded child of God today, there is much to fear, and for the good-hearted child of God today, there is much to discourage. However, what should command our foremost attention is the fact that nothing that happens to us or around us changes one single promise that God has made unto us. Nothing happens to make Him leave or forsake us, and no event of human history is great enough to separate us from His love.
Most of our writings in segments like these speak in general tones with a few specific illustrations, but from time to time, our mind is impressed to speak more pointedly and plainly than is usual. This morning is such a time. Please kind reader, cast a mantle of charity over these thoughts if you feel they are too plain. Hopefully this writing will show that our intention is to encourage rather than discourage God’s dear children as we soldier together in the desert of life. Many of my observations about spirituality among the family of God and particularly the household of faith are shared by ministers across the land. As I converse with other ministers about what we see, things seem almost identical no matter the geographical locality. Worldliness is way up, spirituality is way down, and dependence upon God is lacking in so many minds across this country. This should not come as a surprise as prosperity has always hampered an elect’s spirituality, while persecution and hard times serve to draw us closer to God than before.
Our study verse is part of the address to the church at Sardis. Sardis’ situation is very reminiscent of today’s culture. It was the capital city of Lydia, and was considered perhaps one of the most luxurious cities of that day. They did not lack for creature comforts, and today, the only thing that remains of that once great and luxurious place is a heap of ruins. Our culture today is perhaps the most luxurious it has ever been. Indeed, the poor are still with us, but by and large, this time is one of the most – if not the most – luxurious times history has ever seen. Just as Christ said it was hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God, so is it hard for comfortable people to find comfort in the gospel of God’s kingdom. Man’s riches can prevent him from pressing into the kingdom as he should, and man’s comforts can prevent him from experiencing the kingdom as he should. Truly, I must confess that I have been hampered and hindered repeatedly in my spiritual walk due to the “good life” that we have in a natural way.
On the other hand, great care should be taken to prevent ideas and messages like this from becoming all “doom and gloom.” There have been well-meaning and not-so-well-meaning people down through the years that took ideas like this and brow beat people into a “do this or die” mindset. Brow beating is not the answer. Softness is not the answer either. So what is? John’s statement to the angel at the church in Sardis is the answer. Be watchful and strengthen. When a caretaker, gardener, etc. is engaged in nurturing greenery, there are times when things wilt over. They are ready to die, but they are not dead. Big difference. When someone has died – whether naturally or to the fellowship of spiritual things – they are beyond man’s reach to encourage. If someone has drifted away into the form of death from Hebrews 6:4-6, we cannot reach them. However, if someone is wilted over spiritually from the luxury of life, we need to watch for these things and strengthen them as we can.
Currently, there is nothing living in my garden. What had been planted there for the winter got drowned by excessive rainfall, thereby preventing me from trying to nurture it. However, in the next few months, more things will be planted that hopefully will be strengthened and not die. There are things we have lost in our lives that cannot be salvaged. Time – once lost – is never regained. Youth – once faded – is never replaced. However, there are many things in our lives and churches that can be strengthened as they have not died. Some may be ready to die, but they are not dead.
Strengthening wilting spirituality comes through diligent prayer, studious execution of God’s word, and faithful declaration of God’s goodness. For the good-hearted but discouraged lamb, they need to be reminded that God is still on the throne and still perfect in all His doings. For the worldly minded and fearful sheep, they need to be reminded that God still loves them in spite of all that we see. There is not a situation in life that is not a good opportunity to extoll the greatness of a mighty God to weak and wretched sinners. There is not a situation in life that cannot be improved from its current state as we can always do better than we are doing right now. A message of God’s perfect care coupled with what should be our improving walk is how we strengthen the wilting.
I freely admit that there are times that “throwing up our hands” in a form of dismay, discouragement, and/or disgust may seem preferable. However, I have to be reminded again that God still loves me in spite of all this. I have to be reminded that God will have us without fail. I have to remind myself that He is in control. Praise the Lord! My simple charge is to watch and strengthen. Now, when plants are wilted, they may have to go through some pain and distress before they “get well.” We may have to experience some hard times before growing as we should. A retired vinedresser told me years ago that grapes do not really get sweet unless they struggle through the growing process. Sometimes we have to struggle through our growing process to produce the truly sweet fruit that is pleasing in our Master’s sight.
The message today is not doom and gloom. The message today is not fire and brimstone. The message today is “Look up friends!” Our help is not of this world. Our strength does not come from this world. We ourselves are not of this world, as He has made us something this world is not worthy of. Is it discouraging to see lambs and sheep hurting themselves through repeated periods of spiritual waning? Yes indeed. Is it fearful sometimes to consider what we will likely see before our lives end and what our children will have to experience? Surely it is. However, things are not dead. They may be ready to die, but let us watch and strengthen if so be that we may see the miraculous hand of God with us. Revival is still possible, and we should be availing ourselves of every effort that we can to keep death away from the things we love.