Strengthen What Remains and is About to Die

How much would you invest in your church if you knew that it was going to die soon? How much would you invest in a friend if you knew they were going to die soon? What would you do if you knew you were going to die soon? These are questions that come upon us at various points in our lives, but especially this month, when our thoughts turn to Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. We are not a morbid people, but this is the time of year when we reflect on Jesus’ death, what the meaning of life is, and how God calls us to live when we know the end is coming. As the Jewish holiday of the Passover was approaching, Jesus knew that He was going to die. Jesus tried to tell His disciples that He was going to die, but they weren’t really able to comprehend it until it was actually happening. They were not prepared for Jesus to leave them, and when they saw Him beaten and crucified and die, they were devastated.

How would their last days together have been different if they had been fully and completely aware that Jesus was going to die? Would they have asked different questions? Would they have had different conversations? Would they have acted differently?

In Revelation 3:1-3, the angel speaks to the church in Sardis and says, “These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard, obey it, and repent. But, if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.”

These are strong words that the angel speaks to the church in Sardis. What if an angel came and spoke to our church and said, “Strengthen what remains and is about to die.” What does that mean? We may think that our denomination is dying. We may think that our congregations are dying. If that is true, what do we do? The angel that speaks to the church in Sardis says, “Strengthen what remains and is about to die.” Does that sound as odd to you as it does to me? Why would we spend time and energy trying to strengthen something if we already knew that it was going to die? Isn’t that a waste of time? Apparently not. It seems as if the scriptures are telling us to continue to invest in the church, even though it may be dying. Why?

Maybe it is because God wants the church to wake up, and there is a chance that by strengthening the church before it dies, it might awaken before it is too late. Perhaps by continuing to strengthen the church, she will remember what she has received and heard, and perhaps she will start to obey the Word and repent of her sins. Have we ever been surprised by a person we never thought would repent of their sins, only to find out that they did? We think that is a miracle, and it is. But, our God is a God of surprises. Our God is a God of miracles. God can do things that we cannot see and is doing things that we would never predict. We are called to continue to work to strengthen the church even when we are convinced that it is dying.

The Today’s English Version translates Revelation 3:2 as “So wake up and strengthen what you still have before it dies completely.” While death can be discouraging, there may be a message of hope hidden in here for us.
A few weeks ago, I heard Francis Chan speak on this passage. He said Revelation 3:2 reminds us that God is all that matters. Often, we forget that, or we don’t understand that, or we don’t get it. We confuse secondary matters with primary matters. We make less important things into more important things. He said that God is holy, God loves us so much, and God is all that matters. Do we really believe that? Do we live like we believe that? Or are we wasting too much time on what is less important?

Easter reminds us that life is all about Jesus. If it were not for Jesus and His resurrection, we would not have life. We would not have real life, eternal life, abundant life. Because of Easter, we want people to have life. We want people to know Jesus, to love Jesus and to serve Jesus. We want people to share Jesus and join what Jesus’ Holy Spirit is already doing in our world. We want people to take the gospel message of Jesus into the world so people can hear it and receive it and hopefully believe it. We want to make a difference in people’s lives, in our communities, and in our world.

Easter is not just an individual matter. It is not just so that I can be forgiven of my sins. Easter is for everyone. Easter is for all the people of the world. Easter is for all of creation. Easter causes us to believe and do crazy things like strengthening what remains and is about to die. Who knows? Maybe God will use us to resurrect a person’s life, a church’s life, or a community’s life. Easter is an encouragement for us not to give up. Easter reminds us that you just never know what God might do!

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3 Responses to “Strengthen What Remains and is About to Die”

  1. sentoutone Says:

    Reblogged this on sentoutone and commented:
    Powerful message. I pray it brings you renewal this day as it did for me.

  2. sentoutone Says:

    Thank you Clark! These were the words that I needed this morning.

  3. Julie Hodges Says:

    Thanks, Clark. This is a good word for those of us who chose to remain, and feel called to remain, in the PCUSA. I will hold on to this verse.

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