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Average Everyday Saints

Erma Bombeck once cautioned, "Don't confuse fame with success. Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other." In today's mega-church-loving religious world, New Testament Christians need this similar reminder — Jesus never calls His followers to strive for fame, only for faithfulness. Jesus' letters to the seven churches of Asia in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 make this clear. The Lord had told the church at Sardis, you have a name that you are alive." We might paraphrase that, "You are famous." She seemed to be an exciting, pace-setting congregation. Perhaps her elders and preachers were regularly featured on lectureships and workshops to show and tell others how church ought to be done. But the Lord went on to say about her, "but you are dead" (Revelation 3:1). On the heels of this stern and sobering censure of the church in Sardis comes the Lord's letter to the congregation at Philadelphia. This church is one of only two of the seven where the Lord found nothing to criticize and lots to praise (the other was Smyrna [2:8-11]). In great contrast to the church at Sardis Jesus told the brethren at Philadelphia, "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" (Revelation 3:8). The English Standard Version puts the last part of this verse even more plainly: "I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept My word and have not denied My name." In other words, Jesus acknowledged that this congregation was not famous but it was faithful! In the present day and age when bigger is almost universally seen as better, it is important and most encouraging to know that the church at Philadelphia was commended, not because her pews were filled with "super-saints" but with average, everyday saints! Saints who seemed to have but little power and strength in the face of the religious and secular forces that surrounded her —and yet remained stubbornly committed to honoring the Lord's word and confessing the Lord's name. Because they were faithful, the church at Philadelphia was favored by God though not famous on earth. 

Modern day churches of Christ must not be seduced by the "bigger is automatically better" thinking that permeates our culture. That mentality can, and has, led churches to forsake the narrow and difficult way the Lord talked about for doctrinal and moral ways that are wider and broader than the Lord will allow (see Matthew 7:13-14). On a practical level, we don't all have to do super-sized things in order to please the Lord. The church needs super-saints like Peter and Paul — people who have tons of spiritual strength and talent and who do big things in big ways. But the church also needs average, everyday saints who understand you don't have to do gigantic things to make a difference and gain the Lord's approval. As one little line urges, "Use the talents you possess; for the woods would be silent if no birds sang except the best." Jesus said about an unnamed woman who honored Him she has done what she could" (Mark 14:8). When the Lord calls us to give account, fame will not be the critical issue. Faithfulness will. A little strength will prove more than enough if we are found faithful. "Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things... Enter into the joy of your Lord" (Matthew 25:21, 23).

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Chrtist