I know there are some beautiful images in the book of Revelation, but I seem to have bought into the idea that the book was written to frighten and condemn. In rereading and reflecting on what is actually written I’ve come away with a new appreciation for this last book in the Christian canon.
John’s revelation is written as a letter to encourage and to challenge other followers of Jesus. The world as he knows it is in shambles. Churches are struggling. Members of the body of Christ are trying to do the right thing but it’s so hard, so confusing. Does it matter? Who cares?
Chapters two and three of Revelation are a series of shorter letters, one each to seven different churches. I was surprised by the notes of encouragement. For example, five of the churches are assured that their patient faithfulness has been noticed and is not in vain.
Ephesus: “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance … I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary.” – Rev. 2:2-3
Pergamum: “I know …you are holding fast to my name, and you did not deny your faith in me…” – Rev. 2:13
Thyatira: “I know your works—your love, faith, service, and patient endurance. I know that your last works are greater than the first.” – Rev. 2:19
Philadelphia: “I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” – Rev. 3:8
“Hang in there,” the author is saying. “You’ve got this.”
During a particularly nasty time in one of my pastorates I led a funeral at a local funeral home for someone who was without a faith community. Making small talk after the service, the funeral director turned to me and said “I see the nonsense at the church is causing a few gray hairs.” It was nearly a throw-away comment. But it meant the world to me. Someone who was not in the fray had noticed and was cheering me on.
Whatever your difficult situation, especially one that is not what you wanted or is not what you expected, hang in there. You’ve got this. It will be OK. You’ve been noticed – by colleagues, by friends, by God. Don’t give up. Keep the faith. We’re cheering for you and believe you will make it through.