Strength in Weakness

Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Revelation 3:7-13 | October 16 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
October 16
Strength in Weakness | Revelation 3:7-13
Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

And that’s where some of you are this morning. You don’t have to see the end. In fact, it’s often good not to try to project too far out to the end because you don’t know a month, a year, let alone 20 years; and when you think that far out, you think, “I can’t make it.” Well, you don’t have to make it 20 years today. You don’t have to make it 20 days. You just have to make it this next minute. You don’t have to get to 10 years from now or 1 year or 10 days. You need to not give up. And if it was said that Washington knew what was at stake, how much more do we have at stake. Not a country, your soul, the glory of God, the joy of Heaven, belief in the goodness and the providence of God. Whatever you’re facing, that voice telling you, “Jesus is not worth it. I can’t do this anymore. Curse God and die. Enough already. I cannot put another foot in front of another.” Do not forget what is at stake and do not give up.

That may sound like a very worldly admonition, and yet you combine it with these six promises, and it’s utterly Christian. Because this is not about just summoning up the strength and just be a good soldier, but it is to say, “Do you believe the promises of God?” That’s why the Christian life is called the fight of faith, because you must believe that Jesus is promising you a new name. He’s promising you an open door. He’s promising to love you, to vindicate you, to be strong in the midst of your weakness. Jesus is giving you lavish promises because he wants you to keep going.

Though you have little strength, some of you this morning, keep the Word of God. Do not deny the name of Jesus. Be patient, and do not despise the day of small things, for God has a habit of displaying his strength in the midst of our weakness.


Our Father of grace and glory, we ask now you would be lifted high in the preaching and the hearing of Your Word by Your good pleasure and for the praise of Your name. Seek the lost, encourage the weary, rebuke the wayward, wake up the lazy. In Jesus we pray, Amen.

Our text this morning comes from Revelation chapter 3. Please turn in your Bibles to Revelation chapter 3, the last book in the Bible, the sixth of the seven letters that Jesus writes to the churches in Asia Minor.

Revelation chapter 3 verses 7 through 13 – “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: The words of the holy one, the true one who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. I know your works. Behold, I set before you an open door which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power and yet you have kept my Word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not but lie. Behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my Word about patient endurance. I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast that which you have so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it and I will write on him in the name of my God, the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which comes down from my God out of Heaven in my own new name. He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

The message to the church of Philadelphia is simple. Jesus says, “I know you are weak, but I can make you strong.” We know from our Bibles that God’s Word has a lot to say about strength and weakness. And oftentimes we read about how weakness is to be preferred over strength. I pointed out before the two churches in Revelation that have no positive qualities mentioned about them, Sardis and Laodicea. They appear to be the most outwardly impressive. They would look to be very strong. And the two churches that have nothing negative about them, the church of Smyrna and here at Philadelphia, are the churches that look least impressive, that have the most weakness. We know that the Bible often prefers weakness to strength.

2 Corinthians 11:30 – “If I must boast,” Paul says, “I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

2 Corinthians 12:9 – “But he said to me, my grace is sufficient for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Why is it that weakness is preferred to strength? Because if you know the rest of your Bible, you know that strength isn’t always a bad thing. It’s often a very good thing.

Joshua 1:9 – “Have I not commanded you?” It doesn’t say be weak and cowardly. It says I have commanded you to be strong and courageous. So to be strong is often what God calls us to be. Think about the heroes and the heroines of the Bible. They had many strengths. Abraham was rich. David was a king. Moses was mighty in power. Solomon was wise. Esther was beautiful. Samson was strong. Paul was intelligent. Jesus demonstrated great power and authority. So when we hear weakness, it is not that Jesus is saying, “If you could just automatically all be ugly, unintelligent, and oppressed – boom, dynamite.”

Now, what is it about weakness that is so often preferred to strength? Because there is a kind of strength the Bible tells us to have and a kind of strength that can be dangerous. One of the reasons weakness is applauded in the Bible is because it’s seen as a spiritual posture. It’s not just, “Well, you have broken bones and you have a lot of things you’re bad at and you’re oppressed, therefore, good.” No, it’s implied that there is a certain posture, a kind of self-emptying, a lowliness, a meekness, a despising of our own sinfulness, a not trusting in ourselves. See, the temptation in strength, and there’s lots of ways to be strong unless you sit here and you think, “Well, I’m glad that I’m not one of those.” You could have financial strength, academic, musical, athletic, artistic, you could be beautiful, you could be powerful, well-connected, there’s all sorts of ways to be strong. And it’s possible that you could be a graduate who’s on a full ride for your perfect SAT scores and they’re competing. They want to give you a full ride for your athletic scholarship, and you’re also Miss North Carolina and you’re also going to Harvard and you have all of that and you could still be humble, but you would have a lot of temptations not to be.

The reason why Paul boasts in his weakness is because in his weakness he can find Christ to be strong. It’s not that strength is bad, it’s that despairing of ourselves is good. That’s the point.

You think of those mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11: Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel. They’re applauded because they shut the mouths of lions, they quenched the fury of the flames, they escaped the edge of the sword. And then Hebrews says, “Their weakness was turned to strength.” That’s the key. They are heroes not because they’re passive and mealy-mouthed but because their great weakness was turned to strength. So strength can be good until it makes you proud and self-assured. Like the kings of Judah about whom it was said, “They were marvelously helped until they became strong.”

And weakness is undesirable in itself unless it makes you despair of yourself and rely on the Lord. That’s why the Gospel turns things upside down and says that you are often at your very best when you feel to be at your very least.

And that’s certainly the case with this church at Philadelphia. We don’t know a lot about this church. Apparently, their needs are not the problem because there is no critique of them, but there’s not a long list of them either. It seems that they were getting it right, that Philadelphia was witnessing, loving, keeping close watch on their life in doctrine. All that we know about this church for sure is that it had little strength and yet they were there holding strong to the Word of God and the name of Jesus. They were a patient, faithful, little church.

Now true, we don’t know for sure that it was a little church in terms of size, but that seems to be the case, that it wasn’t impressive. We read in verse 8 when Jesus says, “I know that you have little power.” Little power probably means they were little in number, little in overt influence, little energy left. Maybe this is like a small storefront mission church in some rundown part of the city. Or maybe it’s a tiny country church with a leaky roof and a limping budget, barely enough to share a pastor with two other churches. Or maybe it’s like a church in many parts of Europe or Japan or in the Muslim world that has labored very long and hard and faithfully and has but a few people to show for themselves. That’s Philadelphia, little in power and yet faithful, patient, devoted.

One of the reasons why we don’t have a lot of description about this church is because, did you notice, almost everything Jesus wants to say to this church is not about this church but how we can encourage the church. In fact, of all the churches of these 7, little Philly gets the most sustained discourse of promise and hope.

I want you to notice six strong promises for this weak church. They’re promises for any of us when we feel weak. Six strong promises for this weak church, and we’ll spend most of our time on the first one.

First, Jesus promised an open door that no one can shut. We need to spend our time here because we need to explain what does this mean. An open door that no one can shut. We instinctively figure that Jesus is talking about evangelism.

Colossians 4:3 – “Pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ for which I am in chains.”

So when Jesus says in verse 8, “Behold, I set before you an open door which no one is able to shut,” we may think that this is about evangelism. And I think secondarily by implication, there’s certainly something there about the free offer of the gospel. But the open door, first of all, does not symbolize mission but more fundamentally entrance into the Kingdom of God. Like Matthew 25, Luke 12, Luke 13, which are all parables, where Jesus describes God’s return and those who weren’t ready and they cry out in those parables, “Open the door, let us enter your house, your banquet, your Kingdom.” To enter into God’s Kingdom, to enter into God’s house, is to enjoy that eternal life of salvation.

Look at verse 8 – “You saw I sat before you an open door.” Surely, verse 8, the promise of an open door, is connected to the description of Jesus in verse 7, the words of the Holy One, the True One, who has the key of David who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one will open. This is a reference to a largely unfamiliar place in the Old Testament, Isaiah chapter 22.

Isaiah chapter 22, there it is prophesied that a man named Shebna, he’s the unfaithful steward of the palace, that he’s going to be ousted. And in his place will come a faithful steward, Eliakim. He will be clothed with a robe fastened with a sash and given authority. It’s not strictly a messianic prophesy, but Eliakim functions as a type of christ, and he has authority as the steward over God’s house as the Messiah has authority over God’s house.

Here’s what Isaiah 22:22 says, and you’ll hear this language and know that Revelation 3:7 is mimicking this language from Isaiah 22:22. “I will place on his shoulder,” speaking about Eliakim, “I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David. What he opens no one can shut and what he shuts no one can open.” That was the promise to Eliakim. He had the door, the key to the door of David’s house, that he could welcome in guests into the palace. He had the key.

Jesus is described as having the same key to open the door that no one can shut. Now interestingly, did you hear the language there? “I will place on his shoulder.” We don’t place keys on our shoulder. You got a little key on your shoulder, that’s going to fall off. You put keys in your pocket. But this is not like our keys. It’s not a little car key. It’s not a little house key. You don’t have locks like that. What do you have to board up the palace? You have a long wooden beam across the palace door. And so a key in the ancient world would be placed on your shoulder because it was a giant lever that would fit right into some sort of latch and you could prop open the barricade, the bolting beam, and lift that open and then you could open the gate and people could come into the palace.

Now, I don’t know if there’s meant to be a connection here with Christ and the Crucifixion, but it’s not hard for us to imagine as Jesus carries a large wooden beam on his shoulders, that too is a type of key, that key which will open up the gates and fling wide the doors, that people may now enter with this great good news into God’s kingdom, into God’s house.

Well, here Jesus is described as the one who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut. So this open door is not first of all evangelism, although there’s an implication, but it’s the open door of salvation itself. That’s the promise that Jesus is telling Philadelphia. He’s saying to them, “Look, no matter how weak you are, no matter how small, no matter how struggling, no one is going to close the door of salvation. I’ve opened that door wide for you little tiny Philly, struggling little Christian. You may be a weak Christian but you have a strong Savior. That’s the message. And none of your enemies, this so called synagogue of Satan, the opposition in their midst, none of your enemies can close this door. They may be able to burn your church. They may be able to throw you into jail. They may be able to ruin your life, but they cannot ruin your next life. They cannot close the door that matters for salvation. They can do a lot of things to you, but they cannot keep you from coming to Jesus. That’s the good news. That’s the promise. I have opened this door into my heavenly kingdom, and whatever they do to you Philadelphia, they cannot close that door.”

Here’s the second promise. Jesus promises that the false Jews will fall at their feet. See verse 9 – “Those of the synagogue of Satan,” this is not anti-Semitism, he is talking about those who have proved to be persecutors of the Church of Jesus Christ. He said, “They are not real Jews who have persecuted you in this way. They say that they are but that’s not how I understand God’s people to be. God’s people give themselves to the Messiah.” He said, “They will come and they will bow before you and learn that I’ve loved you. They’ll fall at your feet.”

This, too, is a reference to Isaiah 45:14 – “This is what the Lord says: The products of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush and those tall Sabeans, they will come to you and will be yours. They will trudge behind you, coming over to you in chains. They will bow before you and plead with you saying, ‘Surely God is with you and there is no other, there is no other God.’”

What Isaiah prophesied is the nations would come before the Jews and confess God is on your side. Now Jesus tells the Gentile church that the false Jews will bow before them and confess. Do you see how the tables have turned? Isaiah says the Gentiles are going to come before you. Jesus says, “Well, the false Jews are going to come before you because you, in embracing Jesus, are fully God’s people.” It’s not that Jesus is changing Isaiah’s prophesy. He is reconstituting what it means to be the people of God.

Ethnically they were, John says or Jesus says, so called Jews because they rejected the Messiah. God’s people here, whether Jew or Gentile, are now the Israel of God, those who have inherited these promises. And the promise is that they will be vindicated, that they will come and bow before them, whether it’s literally on the ground or simply a metaphor, that those who opposed you, those who mocked you, those who kicked you out of synagogues will ultimately acknowledge that you were on God’s side and more importantly, God was on your side.

Do you see verse 9, the end of verse 9, this is such a sweet promise. I hope you hear it. “And they will learn.” Now, who’s the “they”? Those people who hate you. Those people who say all sorts of nasty things about you. Those people who are opposed to you. Those people who think you’re a terrible, nasty person. “They will learn,” Jesus says “that I loved you.”

I know we want to be loved. It’s part of the human condition. Some of us are very blessed and we have kids that love us and we have parents that love us and we have friends that love us, and people at your work love you, and lots of people love you, praise God. Most of us go through life and there are going to be some people very special to us who don’t love us the way we would want to be loved. People who may even go one step farther and may oppress us. People whose disappointment may be very, very hard to handle; and there is this strong emotion within us as people made in the image of God to cry out against injustice, and we want to be vindicated. We want the world to know that we were in the right. And Jesus says, “You might not get that in this life, but here’s what I’m telling you. There will come a day, maybe it will be soon, maybe it will be later, maybe it will be in the age to come, but they will know that I loved you.”

You know when your kids come to you and they want to know whose side you’re on and they got all their petitions and their legal charges against one another, and they want to know, “Mom, Dad, Papa, Grandma, are you on my side or not?” And that’s when you say, “Have you ever heard of Solomon dividing the baby? Okay, we’ll do that later.”

But Jesus has no problem to declare whose side he’s on. He’s on the side of those who call upon His name and live according to His name. Now, it’s enough of a promise to say you will be on team Jesus. But this is even more to say at the end of the day you’ll see Jesus was on your team. Well, it’s His team, we get it, He’s the captain, He’s the author, He’s the finisher, but He will say, “I loved you.”

I don’t know what your team colors are. I don’t know if you had a family crest or something that you had on team DeYoung, team whatever, but you imagine accusations thrown against you, nasty things said about you, and here comes Jesus and he takes off the overcoat and he’s wearing your jersey. “I love you.” Jesus loves you like a dog, not like a cat. Now me and dogs, I mean they run up and they jump and they smell everything, and I’m not, and we actually have cats. I know, I don’t know why we do, but it is true, cats don’t love you well, begrudgingly at best. If I’m up first, I’m the one who has to feed the cats. I went there this morning and they get hard food and in the morning their special treat they get you know some gross gravy soft food. We were out of soft food this morning and I gave them a little scoop of hard food. We have two cats. We got a lot, have you ever thought, “Pastor, you have a lot of creatures around.” That’s very true, we do. Those two cats looked at me like, “You are such a disappointment as a human being.” I mean they really, they went up sniffed, walked away. This is what I have to live with people.

I saw a little cartoon this week that had a picture of a cat staring out a window, and the cat just said, “I’m so lonely. I’m so alone in the world.” And then someone comes up and touches the cat and the cat looks and says, “Get away from me,” and then goes back to saying, “I’m so alone in the world.”

So we sometimes think, “Well, yeah Jesus love us,” sort of begrudgingly, and looks at us, “This is the best you can do for me?” “Hard food, come on. All right, fine. I guess I’ll take it.”

You know what a dog is like. Boundless energy all over. I love you! At the end of the age, no matter what everyone else has said, if you really belong to Christ, he says, “I want everybody to know, I love these people.” Can you hear Jesus say that about you? That’s quite a promise for this little church.

The third thing Jesus promises is to keep them from the hour of trial. It is unclear if this is the final hour of trial where the world is embroiled in some period of tribulation or if this is a momentary period of testing that was to come upon the Roman world. In either case, the promise is really the same. Jesus says, “I will protect you.” If we went through the whole rest of the book of Revelation, you would see that this is a common theme. Over and over in lots of different word pictures the church is presented as undergoing hardship and persecution and yet ultimately Jesus protects them.

The picture in the rest of Revelation is not that Jesus delivers the church from experiencing any persecution or any suffering that just sets them free before all the bad things come, but rather that he promises that he will be with them, that they will be overcomers. Isn’t that what all of this is about. These seven letters don’t say, “And nothing bad will happen.” They say, “I will help you be an overcomer.”

So, when you see this language, verse 10 – “I will keep you from the hour of trial,” don’t think keep as in I will keep any trials from happening, so much as I will keep you faithful from those trials, through those trials. Why do I say that? There’s only one other time that his expression tereo ek in the Greek, “keep from,” is used in the New Testament, only one other time, and it is in John 17:15. Jesus says, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them,” tereo ek same phrase, “from the evil one.”

So, the promise there was not the elimination of suffering or to be delivered before any tribulation would come, but that in our suffering Jesus would protect us from evil and sin and by his grace we will be overcomers. So the “keep” language is not keep from all of affliction, but I will keep that affliction from overwhelming you, from destroying you. It’s like the Lord’s Prayer. Deliver me from evil. Deliver me from the evil one, and Jesus promises to do just that.

Fourth promise, Jesus promises to keep them to the end. “Hold onto what you have so that no one will take your crown.” You see that at the end of verse 11, thehe crown is not something you receive in addition to salvation but is salvation itself. In fact, all of the promises here, have you noticed, to these churches; they all have different language. Sometimes it’s very creative, confusing language, but they are all promising the same thing. If you overcome, you will enjoy the end time fellowship and identification with Jesus. You will be saved. You will be kept.

Fifth, Jesus promises to make them a pillar in the Temple of God. Jesus, note the imagery, Jesus is likened to what? A doorkeeper. He’s the one who’s given the key that opens the bolt, flings wide the doors that no one can shut. Come on in. The day of salvation is at hand. Jesus is likened to a doorkeeper in his house and now we, amazingly, are called pillars. “I will make you a pillar. That is you who are rejected. You who are called God forsaken. You who are small and struggling and weak. I will give you a privileged place near the Holy One in the Holy of Holies in the next life. We who are weak and failing will be made strong and sturdy as a pillar. This is the promise. Though you feel like you cannot take one more step, I am telling you, I will make you as strong as a pillar in the Temple of my God.”

Sixth, finally Jesus promises to give them a threefold name which seals their identity as God’s people. Jesus says, “You will have,” in verse 12 “You will have the name of my God, the name of the city of my God, and a new name.” That’s the threefold name. Three is one of those good numbers in the book of Revelation. Now, it’s interesting. Threefold name and four times you see how the word “my” is used in verse 12. “I will make him a pillar in the Temple of my God and I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which comes down from my God and my own new name.” Was that four or was that five? It’s a bunch of “mys”. My God and five times the language of “my.” It says, “If Jesus wants to hear as clearly as possible, you’re mine.”

Sorry that my mind goes to kids’ movies. That’s the only kind of movies I see. But you know when it is Nemo’s dad up on the dock and all of the birds are looking at him ready to eat. “Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, mine,” quacking and squawking over him. Jesus isn’t a bird. You hear that great sound of Heaven about you and you and you. Mine, mine, mine. “You’re an outcast but you’re mine. You belong to me. You have my name, my God, my temple. You’re mine.”

Do you hear how every promise to the church at Philadelphia is tailor-made for their situation? Think about it. They’ve been kicked out of the synagogues if they’re Jews. They’ve been perhaps set to the side of their own dominant culture. And Jesus says, “Do you have no opening into the culture? You have no opening into the synagogue? Don’t be afraid. I will open a door that no one can shut. Do you have enemies who think you worship a false god? I will make them know that the true God loves you. Have you endured trials of many kinds? I will keep you from the evil one. Are you weary and barely hanging on? I’ll see that you don’t lose your crown. Are you weak and wobbly? I’ll make you a pillar. Do you feel that your identity is nothing but rejection, exclusion, and shame? I will give you the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, and my own new name. There’s no shame in the name of Jesus.”

Let me conclude then with three quick practical pieces of advice. Number one – You can only do what you can do so do that. You can only do what you can do so do that. There’s a lot this church couldn’t do. The church was not in a position to be rich and comfortable and prosperous like Laodicea. They had a different context. They had a different lot in life. You can only do what you can do so do that.

I was at a conference last week in California. The great Sinclair Ferguson was there and Ligon was there and John Piper. It was a Puritan conference. It was at John MacArthur’s church and he preached. And I’ve heard him say this before and he said it again that he made the commitment 50 years ago, starting out in ministry, that he would focus on the depth of his ministry and leave the breadth to God. It doesn’t mean breadth in terms of reaching out to people but just, “I’ll work on the depth of being accurate with God’s Word and being faithful and God you do what you want.” And I’ve always tried to take that as a similar aim and motto for myself, to study hard, to pray, hard, to preach hard, and let God determine what he wants to do. And I encourage you to do the same. You’re not, most of you out there, pastors. You have different kinds of ministry. Whatever sort of ministry or whatever sort of vocation God gives you be excellent, go deep, and leave God to give you whatever breadth and whatever success he wants or doesn’t want.

All of us are tempted, pastors included, to want to look impressive, to want to grab hold of success, and the church of Philadelphia shows us a much better way. Make it your commitment first of all to be a man or woman of God’s Word, a man or woman of prayer, a man or woman of faithfulness. And you do what you can do. That’s all you can do, and leave God to do the rest, whether he gives you great prosperity or great adversity.

Here’s the second piece of advice. Let us not be afraid as a church to be the church. There’s lots of ways as the church is scattered throughout the week. I’m so thankful there are people here that are engaged in all sorts of things. We got, we got, stay at home moms and we got educators and we got people who work at the grocery store, we got people who work in politics and law. Whatever vocation God gives to you, we want to be scattered and we want to be faithful and we want to bring our Christian witness and truth and values to bear wherever we are.

As a church, however, we should not be afraid to be the church. What I mean by that is yes, we want to reach out, yes, we want to be as attractive as we can be to outsiders, and yet so often what will be attractive is that we do not look just like the world, that there is something, well, you people love different, you believe different, you worship different, you have a different god than I can get out there. As soon as churches decide, “You know what, the way to get our church big and influential is if we could just give people all the same stuff they have in the world.” That works for a fast minute. I can show you a lot of empty churches who have tried that approach. It may work for a time. It doesn’t work for a generation.

Our goal at Christ Covenant must be to be the church of Jesus Christ, believing, hoping, loving, serving, praying, discipling, witnessing, worshiping. We are first of all the church. Whatever God wants to do, to bless us with prosperity or adversity, we will leave it to him. So long as Jesus says about us, “I love you.”

And then finally, last piece of advice that we can glean from this church, and let me put it in the language of one of my favorite verses in the Bible, Zechariah 4:10 – “Do not despise the days of small things.”

You may remember that story. It is the rebuilding of the temple and they look forward to the day after generations of building the temple when they will take out the measuring line and they will square off the last corner of the temple, and they will rejoice and they will remember what it took to get to that great day; many, many seemingly insignificant little days. Do not despite the day of small things. And let’s be honest, that’s most of our lives 95% of the time. You get those high moments when the temple is built, celebration. Most of the days small, incremental, seemingly insignificant. Another lunch to pack. Another meeting to go to. Another feeding. Another changing. Another tire to get replaced. Another time to punch in at the clock. Another day. Can you persevere in those seemingly insignificant days because they add up to a significant life if you are faithful? Can you keep going?

Some of you are dealing not just with theoretical weakness but very real chronic pain. Fearful tests ahead and you are really wondering, “I don’t know if I can keep going.” Jesus wants to give you strength. You may have heard several weeks ago the wonderful historian and narrator, David McCullough, passed away. If you’ve never read a David McCullough book, do yourself a favor. Just get any of them and read them. I’ve read a number of them. I read his book, 1776, when it came out years ago, and after he passed away I decided I should read it again. I just finished it this week. It’s about 1776, good title in that way. And the book ends four or five horrible months, Americans we may think of July 4, yes the country, and just after that kind of there were some battles and stuff and, but we’re a country. It didn’t look like that was going to stick. The Continental army seemed about ready to fold up toward the end of 1776 until George Washington lead his troops into 2 daring victories at Trenton and at Princeton. And if you grew up in this country and you learned about Washington, he’s on our money after all, and there’s towns and holidays and there’s no one more famous in our history than George Washington. You can think that he probably got everything right, but he didn’t. And he made a lot of blunders as a military commander. Actually, before the Battle at Trenton, many in America were blaming Washington for the army’s failures and defeats. They wanted to replace him as general. They were about through with him, and the British figured that Washington and the Americans were badly beaten and they simply had to wait until winter because good gentleman soldiers don’t fight in the winter, and we’ll get them when spring rolls around.

McCullough says, “Out of adversity, Washington seemed to draw greater strength.” Nathanael Greene said, “His excellency, George Washington, never appeared to so much advantage as in the hour of distress.” Perseverance was the chief quality that made him a successful general. Time and again in his letters to Congress, especially in those months, he used words like perseverance, patience, endurance. And here’s what McCullough says about Washington on the second to last page of the book. “Washington was not a brilliant strategist or tactician nor a gifted orator. Not an intellectual. At several crucial moments, he had shown marked indecisiveness. He made serious mistakes in judgment, but experience had been his great teacher from boyhood and in this, his greatest test, he learned steadily from experience.” Above all, Washington never forgot was at stake and he never gave up. He said that his greatest feat as a general was the orderly retreat. That’s the one thing he was really good at was leaving. And sometimes, that’s what you do, you live to fight another day. He knew how to take his losses. He was resolute. He was determined. He just kept going.

And that’s where some of you are this morning. You don’t have to see the end. In fact, it’s often good not to try to project too far out to the end because you don’t know a month, a year, let alone 20 years; and when you think that far out, you think, “I can’t make it.” Well, you don’t have to make it 20 years today. You don’t have to make it 20 days. You just have to make it this next minute. You don’t have to get to 10 years from now or 1 year or 10 days. You need to not give up. And if it was said that Washington knew what was at stake, how much more do we have at stake. Not a country, your soul, the glory of God, the joy of Heaven, belief in the goodness and the providence of God. Whatever you’re facing, that voice telling you, “Jesus is not worth it. I can’t do this anymore. Curse God and die. Enough already. I cannot put another foot in front of another.” Do not forget what is at stake and do not give up.

That may sound like a very worldly admonition, and yet you combine it with these six promises, and it’s utterly Christian. Because this is not about just summoning up the strength and just be a good soldier, but it is to say, “Do you believe the promises of God?” That’s why the Christian life is called the fight of faith, because you must believe that Jesus is promising you a new name. He’s promising you an open door. He’s promising to love you, to vindicate you, to be strong in the midst of your weakness. Jesus is giving you lavish promises because he wants you to keep going.

Though you have little strength, some of you this morning, keep the Word of God. Do not deny the name of Jesus. Be patient, and do not despise the day of small things, for God has a habit of displaying his strength in the midst of our weakness.

Let’s pray.

Father in Heaven, you have been our help in ages past and so we call upon you again, that you would be our help today and for all the ages to come. In Jesus we pray, Amen.