Revelation 2:9 I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich!
When reading the 2nd chapter of Revelation we tend to focus on the warning passages, specifically places like the statement that the church in Ephesus had forsaken their first love, in verse 4. However, not everything Jesus says to the churches is severe. We indeed need to be very careful that we don’t get complacent and take God’s grace for granted, but as the Scripture for the Year tells us, we aren’t to be afraid that God won’t give us His kingdom. (Luke 12:32) The world in general tends to pay attention to the big churches, the ones that count the “important people” among their members, but here Jesus is telling us that He is paying attention to the churches that don’t fit that category as well. Actually, the vast majority of churches around the world have less than 200 members, and in some areas such as Japan, that’s less than 100 members. In attendance, in Japan that would be less than 50. Because many churches have less than 10 full-time wage earners, such churches are unable to pay a livable salary to a pastor, so their pastors are forced to be “tent makers,” working a secular job as well as tending the flock. Jesus is here reminding such churches that they are rich, because they have title to God’s kingdom. It’s not that He is promising anyone “easy street,” but He does say, at the end of verse 10, “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” That is wealth indeed!
This church certainly fits into the category of “little flock,” yet we have been amazingly blessed. Materially, we own a building and land – a huge expense in Japan – and don’t have a great deal of debt. On the flip side, the church has never been able to pay a full salary to anyone, which makes my search for a successor much more difficult. The position of Church Treasurer has been so stressful that multiple people have quit the church over it! (Right now I’m filling in, which is undesirable from several standpoints, but we certainly can’t afford an outside accountant.) I have certainly had times of considerable discouragement, particularly when receiving pensions from the US and Japan has greatly increased my annual income! It’s all training in fixing my heart on the kingdom of God, rather than on anything material. There is the temptation to look at people as sources of offerings, rather than as souls in need of eternal salvation. Yielding to that would destroy our reason for existence! However, as the saying goes, “Where God guides, He provides.” As this verse reminds us, God’s children are wealthy indeed, and I need to rest, relax, and rejoice in that assurance, even when it isn’t reflected in either the church’s or my personal bank accounts.
Father, thank You for this reminder, and for how it fits in with the verse You’ve given us for this year. I’ll be preaching on that verse this morning. I pray that I would say nothing out of my own imagination, but only, and exactly, what You are saying to us Your children. May everyone in the church be encouraged, so that together we may make ourselves available to You for all that You want to do in and through us, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!