The slide into less!

I don’t believe anyone deliberately chooses less in life.

We may unwittingly choose it because we feel unworthy of anything more, but never because we actually prefer less.

No. There is, in fact, a long journey through badly handled decisions and deep disappointment before we reach less.

The journey from bright prospects and potential, from boldness and vision born of faith, to less, is a slow, imperceptible and agonising journey that happens piece by piece.

There has never been more Bible Colleges and Christian Training Courses in Australia than there is now and yet we still do not have enough leaders for the harvest.

Where do all these trained workers go?

What are they doing with what has been invested in them?

They embrace the initial calling of God in a flurry of emotion and then, when faced with disappointment and rejection, there are no guarantees they won’t slip slowly into less than what God intended.

All of this proves what the Scriptures say, “Perseverance MUST do its work.” This is the work of perseverance – to keep us hard after the calling of God so that we bear any burden and pay any price to finish well in it.

Jesus said this to the Church at Sardis, “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up!” (Rev.3:1-6) This had once been a powerful city but by the time of the late first century it was “a relic…living on its ancient prestige” (Ramsay cited in Mounce NKNT).

The Church at Sardis had not been troubled by heresy like some of the other churches who received messages from Jesus but sadly, it had “completely come to terms with its pagan environment” (Mounce) and as one scholar put it , it was “a perfect model of inoffensive Christianity” (Caird cited in Mounce NKNT). OS Guiness used a phrase that would describe the Church there  –  “little better than a spare time faith and a pocket discipleship” (cited from “The Gravedigger file”).

But they didn’t start out like that.

There’s no way their first steps in union with Christ were characterised with indifference and carelessness. So how did they arrive at such an ending? How is it they became what we read of them?

Graduates of Bible Colleges and Christian Training Centres almost always begin with vision and determination. But starting out well is no guarantee you will not slip into less than what God intends and desires. Be warned that living less than God intended will be the very easiest of options that you will have to choose from in your lives. Indeed, you may not even notice you’ve begun to live less until you actually are living less!

You must persevere in His calling, holding on in obedience and in the fear of the Lord.

The passage in Revelation 3 begins with an acknowledgement that the church had a record that Jesus could reflect upon and indeed, there were lots of things being done. But you should note this record is quickly denounced by the Lord – the language is graphic and confronting. “…you are supposed to be alive but in reality you are dead.”

As usual, Jesus loses no time in confronting what is wrong. No-one really had noticed the slow shifts of priority change and compromise. It usually takes someone with perspective to come along and pick up what has happened and Jesus is someone with that keen perspective. And, in response, His message is confronting – there are no exceptions nor are there consoling adjectives to ease the distress of the message.

What follows is a call to action. The call to “keep awake” is especially important since the city of Sardis had twice fallen to attackers through a lack of watchfulness!

Look at the verbs here – rouse, strengthen, invigorate. This is a call to action and what follows is the reason. There is nothing being done which meets God’s requirements. This kind of message may seem harsh but is not from a Lord who does not care – but from one who does!

Something MUST be done to address this slip into less. There is a lot at stake for the church at Sardis!

The Lord gives the instruction to help the church as it stirs into action:  “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.” (Rev.3:3).  Specifically this instruction is about what they have already received and heard. Picture a bed-side alarm with a “snooze” button. Once we hit that snooze button we delay responding until a period of time passes and then the alarm goes again, only to have the “snooze” button pushed again.

The Lord is coming! And what is worse nobody knows when. It is the classic “perfect storm”. The Lord is coming, He has issues with me and I don’t know when He is coming! His call to me is clear but I have neglected it or put it off for a later time – now, He who called me is coming and I don’t know when.

Living with this urgency and stirring to obedient action in response to the call of God is what Jesus expects. This is in no way a “pocket discipleship.”

Like all churches, however, Sardis has some who have not compromised and given ground. There are some who have kept the faith and walked in a manner  acceptable to the Lord – having heard His call they respond with obedient action (Rev.3:4). He is pleased with these people and the grounds for His pleasure is that they live (they act out their lives) according to the pattern set down by the Lord.

I’ve often said that living Christianly is not difficult – it’s impossible ….without HIM!  We walk with Him and in Him and He makes it possible. Yet, He has called us to action – to follow the dictates of His call. Without intentional action Sardis slipped slowly into less. And this Jesus finds unacceptable! What if He finds this in me!?

But to the people who have not lost that intentionality towards the call of God to them, there are three promises – garments befitting of a conqueror, the adding of our name in the Book Life and finally, the acknowledgement of ourselves  by the living God – openly before all in heaven (v5).

Here is the ultimate affirmation from God – those who are faithful will be welcome in courts of heaven following a life lived to follow the call of God. It was what every believer hoped for then – and now!

The church of Sardis had followed the city into compromise and inaction and in particular had seemingly lost the awareness to observe trouble as it approached.

In response, the Lord Jesus advises intentional action. His call is to remember what you have learned and heard.

Those things that marked your life in those times of great faith and effectiveness are once again to be effective in sustaining you through great difficulty. We remember that God empowers and enriches us and we seek Him for this empowering again and again.

It was the prophet Habbakkuk who was prayed – “I have heard of your power and I know your deeds are great. Renew them now in these days.”  Yes, we plead for revival. But this passage from Revelation calls us to intentional action following days of reviving and transformation.

Obedience to His call is such intentional action.

Bearing whatever burden and paying whatever price to do what He desires and in so doing retain the sense and experience of that reviving. You cannot be in revival (personal or otherwise) and not be engaged in intentional action on behalf of the King. It is, as Erwin MacManus would say, like only breathing in and never breathing out!

It is to this that I call you. I urge you therefore, in view of God’s mercy to “make a decisive dedication of your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and well pleasing to God which is your reasonable service and spiritual worship” (Rom.12:1 AMP).

But more than this – don’t take it back.

Don’t slip back into less even though this will be the easiest thing to do.

Hold Fast! Stay your heart on His faithfulness and with His help, finish the race well.

Don’t live less and in stead stir yourself to action. There is nothing worse than a Christianity that is all theory and attendance. May the Lord help you to choose a radical obedience – now!

~ Colin Stoodley

Print Friendly, PDF & Email