“Be watchful and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die…” (Revelation 3:2, N.K.J.V.)
According to Ecclesiastes 3:1, everything has its season and every purpose its time under heaven. Certainly that includes a time to leave and a time to stay. After all, the Bible provides us with numerous examples of both.
God wanted Abraham to leave his hometown (Genesis 12:1), but He wanted the healed Gadarene demoniac to stay in his hometown (Mark 5:19). He wanted Jacob to leave Padan Aram (Genesis 31:3), but He wanted Titus to stay in Crete (Titus 1:5). He wanted Moses to leave Midian (Exodus 3:10), but He wanted Isaac to stay in Canaan (Genesis 26:2). You get the idea.
Is it always God’s will to leave? Nope. Is it always His will to stay? Nope. Each situation is unique and requires its own set of flight instructions. That’s why it takes a lot of spiritual discernment, prayer, submission to God, and obedience to His will if you want to always be where He wants you to be.
Under the category of a time to stay, we find our text passage. The Christians of the church in Sardis were members of a dead church. You know your church is dead when no less an authority than Jesus Himself says to the church, “You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1). And yet, in the very next sentence, Jesus commands those church members to, “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die…”
Isn’t that strange? For starters, the church was already at such a low ebb that Jesus formally pronounces it “dead.” Then, to make matters worse, He points out that the church has some things about it that are “ready to die.” But still He tells those church members to remain with the church and strengthen what they can.
The map of America is dotted with thousands of churches that Jesus could classify as “dead.” They can be found in small towns and in big cities. Some are parts of denominations, but others are independent or non-denominational. Some are small, but others are large. By the way, attendance, programs, money, and reputation have nothing to do with being dead or alive. (Even the church of Sardis had a name that it was alive.) And what do many Christians do the moment they decide the spiritual buzzards are circling over their church? They hit the road and head out to the big church, the one that everybody is talking about, the one that everybody is joining. That’s the American way. That’s what consumerism has taught us. But are all these departures done in God’s will? If Christ’s words from Revelation 3:2 offer us any spiritual principle whatsoever, the answer has to be no.
Look, I’m not telling you that you have to stay in your dwindling, dying church. I covered that in the first paragraph. What I’m telling you is that leaving a place, any place, isn’t as simple a decision as many people assume it to be. God certainly considers such a decision to be a major spiritual event that mustn’t be taken lightly.
You say, “But it’s perfectly logical for me to leave.” Sorry, God can be the most illogical someone you’ve ever met. Ask Noah. Ask Hosea. Ask Peter. You say, “But I want my children and grandchildren to attend a church that has a thriving youth program.” Sorry, in God’s mind it might be better for them to learn perseverance and loyalty rather than the latest contemporary Christian song. You say, “But I’m just tired of the fighting.” Sorry, maybe God is keeping you there to play the role of peacemaker (Matthew 5:9). You say, “But I’m just not being fed.” Sorry, maybe God wants you to do some feeding rather than some grazing.
Remember, the church in Sardis was dead. It was alive in name only. Not only was it dead, it was getting even more dead! But Jesus commanded those church members to lay in there and strengthen those parts that were about to die. Perhaps this is what He wants you to do regarding your church. If it is, please understand that His command to stay isn’t a command to sit still and watch the status quo get worse. Instead, it’s a command to get to work strengthening the church to make it better. You see, God might very well be keeping you there so that you can be the answer to your own prayer request, “Lord, please help my church.” The question is, if that is what He’s up to, will you be obedient enough to do whatever He tells you to do?