Every year I read through the Bible. I’ve done this so many years, I’ve lost count of the number of times. The only year I didn’t make it through was the year I tried to read along with my church and they used a reading plan that skipped around every day from Old Testament to New Testament to Psalms to Proverbs. I got so annoyed that I quit that plan and chose a different way to read. (If that type of plan works for you, there is nothing wrong with it, but I can’t do that one.)
Every year something new stands out to me. Usually, more than one new thing as I read through from book to book. As this year draws to a close, I found my attention drawn to Jesus’ words to the churches in Revelation. He encourages them and also admonishes them. I thought it might be good to take the encouragement of what each church is doing right and put those together to see how my life lines up and what I can do differently in the coming year. Here’s what I found.
The Church in Ephesus – Rev. 2:2-3 – Jesus says, “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.”
As you can see, the Ephesus church has several areas of commendation: for works, labor, patience, abhorring evil, testing, and perseverence. This church received the most positive comments of all the churches. And rightly so, as these are all attributes we should strive towards.
The Church in Smyrna – Rev. 2:9 – Jesus says, “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty…
This church also suffered in their working for the Lord. Yet, they continued. Tribulation and poverty did not stop them.
The Church in Pergamos – Rev. 2:13 – Jesus says,“I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.”
This church, planted in a difficult area, still clung to Jesus’ name and their faith, even when one among them was put to death. They still had works Jesus acknowledged.
The Church in Thyatira – Rev. 2:19 – Jesus says, “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience…”
Another church that has a long list of commendations. Works, love, service, faith, patience—these are all given to believers to grasp and make use of in our daily lives.
The Church in Sardis – Rev. 3:1 – Jesus says, “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive…”
Not as much sets this church apart, but still Jesus notes their works and their name. And that they are alive, which is always good for a church.
The Church in Philidelphia – Rev. 3:8 – Jesus says,“I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.”
I love the idea that there is an open door between us and Jesus. This church is known for their works, for having kept His word, and for not denying His name. Wow. I love that.
The Church in Laodicea – Rev. 3:15 – Jesus says, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.”
The Laodicean church didn’t have much to commend them. This is the saddest statement to me and one I want to avoid. Being lukewarm in our faith is not good.
Did you notice something as you read through what Jesus said to each of the churches? I know He had much more to say to them, but in just looking at the commendations for each church, what is the first thing He says to them? I know your works.
I know your works. I have to stop and think about the works I’ve done this past year and what God would think of them. Have I remained true to the faith? Have I persevered? Have I had patience? (Um, what? Patience?)
Ephesians 2:10 tells us God has works prepared for each of us to do. Works that are specific to the gifts He’s given to each individual. We all have a perfect place in His church.
But, one of my favorite verses on the work I’m called to do is found in the gospel of John. Jesus is talking to the people who follow Him looking for healing and miracles. They want the earthly food He provided, the easy life. He tells them to look for the eternal food that truly matters. Then they have the following conversation with Him.
“Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God? Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”” John 6:20-29
The work God has called us to do is to believe in Jesus. Yes, we have works specific to our skill sets and gifts, but the main work is to believe in the One God sent for our salvation. It’s so simple, we often don’t understand. We look for something that depends on us doing things, instead of us surrendering and learning about Him.
For the coming year, as I read through the Bible, I am making WORK my word of the year. I intend to focus on believing on Jesus and knowing Him more, and I want to also do the works He’s laid out for me to do. This will be a spectacular year.
What about you? Do you plan to read through the Bible? Do you have a word God has given you? I am praying for each person who reads this that God will make this a year of believing in Him, and that you will grow in your love for Him. Be blessed.