The church at Philadelphia, like the church at Smyrna was a church which received a passing grade from Jesus in His message to John. The church passed simply because it kept God’s commands to endure hardships patiently (verse 10). Here we may assume that keeping the faith, persevering, holding fast and staying in line for the love of God was not an easier task than it was in the other six churches. However, this church continued to love the Lord and stay on task in spite of the problems inside and outside the church.
As I look at the church of Philadelphia, the lesson is simple. This church did what God told them to do in spite of the surrounding influences. They didn’t let false teachings creep in, they didn’t set their own rules, they didn’t let complacency be their guide, and they most certainly got back on track whenever they fell off. Did they fall off the track? While the text doesn’t specifically say that they did, I believe that they did. However, with practicing love and patient endurance, they understood that following God was the most important thing that they could do.
What can we gain from this lesson of the church of Philadelphia? I encourage you to follow these conclusions: First, follow God in all things. No matter what the choices are, follow God’s choices and plan of action. No matter what problems you are faced with, follow God’s guidelines. No matter what others do, follow God’s orders. So many times we get off track because we forget God’s directions and respond inaccurately to what someone else does or does not do. Enduring hardship is especially difficult when it comes from another believer. But, no matter what the hardship is we must follow God. Others may not understand God’s instructions to you as you do. This doesn’t mean we abandon the task, for it is only in wholly following God that we become what He wants us to be and achieve the perfections He has in store for you. So always remember to follow God.
Secondly, in gaining lessons from the church of Philadelphia, we learn not to respond to the failure of other believers. What God has in store for you and the hardships that you face have nothing to do with the faithfulness of other believers. God’s instructions to you are your personal instructions from God. He may not have given the one you feel should help you the same message, but, when it is a God-sent message, there is help for you. Don’t get frustrated when the when the help doesn’t come in the expected manner. So many times we makes our friends our earthly guides. They can get in the way of what God is trying to accomplish through us. We spend too much time complaining about what other in Christ don’t do. We often make other believers the sacrificial lamb for our failures, not fully understanding that when God gives us a command, He is speaking to you and Satan will often confound the message to get you off-track. Why shouldn’t we focus on others when they seem like stumbling blocks? That’s simple, they are not our stumbling block, but Satan is. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that we struggle not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against authorities, against the powers of this dark world, against the spiritual forces in the heavenly reals (NIV). When we are opposed to doing what God has commanded remember the enemy is Satan and not the other Christian brother or sister.
Finally, that we must understand that the maturity levels in the faith are not the same. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4:12-13 that we must work with all our fellow believers to give them a chance to develop in the faith. We must try to bring the most out of the believers in our surroundings so they will grow into mature Christians. This is why it is important to understand the Spiritual Gifts of the believers around us. If we don’t understand what those around us are sent from God to accomplish, we will never understand how they fit into the task God has individually given us. Given the scriptual fact that the maturity level of all Christians is not the same (Ephesians 4:14), and knowing that the Spirit has given all believers a “manifestation for the common good” (I Corinthians 12:7), we must remember that all the answers and ways of carrying out the efforts of the common good are not always going to be expressed and carried out in the same manner. Many will be opposite to the was we all feel the should be. But there is a standard, and that is to follow God’s commands.
What do we do to be sure we follow God’s commands? Test everything through God. Test everything through Scripture, prayer and patience. Always be insistent to do God’s will and follow his path. Be firm to follow. Resolute to do what is required. Vacate vacillation and withdraw from wavering. Always remember the Church of Philadelphia got it right.