Some people don't think going to church is important. I don't know how many times I have heard the statement: "I have my private way of worshiping - I don't need four walls and a preacher."
And yet, God thinks churches are important. When He gave the apostle John the vision or visions recorded in the book of Revelation, it was almost as if He were looking through a telescope at our churches today.
Let me ask you a question.
WHERE IS THE VERY FIRST TIME THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IS MENTIONED IN THE BIBLE?
A number of us in this class had the privilege of visiting Egypt, Israel and Jordan in 2003, a trip that took nearly three weeks. On our first day in the region of Galilee, we boarded a small boat going from Tiberias to Capernaum. We visited the ruins of this small biblical town.
We also visited Chorazin and the Mount of Beatitudes. We stopped for "St. Peter's fish dinner" at lunch time. After our fish lunch, we took the road toward Caesarea Philippi. This town is about 20 miles north of the Sea of Galilee, and is just 2 miles east of the site of Dan.
Mark 8:22-27 (NIV) speaks of Christ and his disciples:
22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.
23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man's eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, "Do you see anything?"
24 He looked up and said, "I see people; they look like trees walking around."
25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man's eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
26 Jesus sent him home, saying, "Don't go into the village."
27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, "Who do people say I am?"
This account is also told in Matthew 16 and Luke 9.
Near Caesarea Philippi, we visited this place you are looking at now. Inside the cave you see in this slide is a spring of fresh water. This is one of the several headwaters of the Jordan River, which flows from this area into the Sea of Galilee.
At this location, we are 1,150 feet above sea level (Sea of Galilee is 670' below sea level) and are on the southern woodland slopes of the 9,200-foot Mount Hermon. The spring water does not flow over the ground in front of this cave, but flows underground to the pools you see in the foreground. These pools are not still water. As you can see in this picture, the water is moving.
Just to the right of the cave entrance, you will see a niche carved out of the rocky face of the cliff. Here is a closer look. As you can see now, there are actually two such niches.
Before this area was called Caesarea Philippi, its name was Panias. This was to honor the Greek god Pan, and this grotto would have been established here after 300 B.C. Those niches once held idols to the god Pan and the nymph Echo. Pan was half-man and half-goat. People would pray to this god for protection of their flocks. He was also the god of music and the patron of sexual license and nymphs. As the god of music, Greek folklore has it that Pan created his own instrument. The instrument was used to woo the heart of the nymphs. Although we know that these gods cannot make anything, the instrument this god is said to have made is called The Pan Flute or Pan Pipes.
In Old Testament times, - prior to 330 B.C. - this cave was a place to worship Baal. In the Bible, this place is mentioned by two different names, in five different verses.
In Joshua 11:17, this site was called "Baalgad", and, as stated in this passage, the location is "in the valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon." (Also mentioned in Joshua 12:7; 13:5). Judges 3:3 calls this place "Baalhermon", with Mount Hermon nearby (also 1 Chron. 5:23)
With that in mind, this would be a natural place for Jesus to stop for refreshment with his disciples, and then ask them, "Who do people say I am?"
Jesus often taught his disciples using metaphors and parables that related to the physical context in which He was ministering. For instance, Christ said "I will make you fishers of men" while they were mending their nets. And He spoke about a "sower who went out to sow," at a location where they could visibly see sowing occurring.
In Matthew 16:13-18 (NKJV), Christ asks……
13 ……"Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?"
14 So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
16 Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
17 Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades (hell) shall not prevail against it.
Jesus uses the word "Petra," a term that would be used to describe the very bluff that stood there. And, by the way, this place, with the sheer cliff and the grotto for worshiping Baal and Pan, is why this place has, for some time, been labeled "the gates of hell." People considered this cave to be the opening to the place of the dead. And Christ is asking his disciples, "with regard to what you see here and the gods worshiped in this place, who do you believe I am"?
Peter's declaration, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God," challenged all the gods in the niches of the cliff. And, standing in front of this rock cliff, it would explain Christ's use of the metaphor of a "rock." "Upon this rock I will build my church,……"
The rock upon which the church is built is not Peter, but upon the fact that He (Jesus) is "the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Christ alone is the solid rock upon which the church is built. Paul clearly states in 1 Corinthians 10:4, "...and that rock was Christ."
The Bible narrative never actually tells us that Jesus and his band of disciples ever made it to the village of Caesarea Philippi on this occasion. To me, this may imply that Christ walked to this place specifically to teach his disciples some lessons. At this place, Christ also made three historic statements and predictions.
1. The Church
2. His coming death and resurrection
3. His call to discipleship.
Matt 16:18 NKJV
18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
For the very first time, Jesus announced His purpose to build an ecclesia - The Church - a community of the redeemed, called out to be His Body on earth.
His death and resurrection
Matthew 16:21 NKJV
21 From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.
It was here, near Caesarea Philippi, after His disciples truly recognized who He was, as the Christ, the Son the Living God, that He begins to tell them about his coming suffering, his death and his resurrection.
His call to discipleship
After Jesus tells his disciples about his coming death and resurrection, Peter rebukes the Lord. Jesus tells Peter, "Get behind me Satan." Then He follows this with His call for discipleship.
Matthew 16:24-26 NKJV
24 If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
Jesus is saying that His Church, His body, will be composed of those on earth who would deny themselves and follow Him. These are three monumental and historic statements still affecting us today. The message of Jesus was clear: Their choice - our choice - was/is between the debauched world of other gods, like Pan, or Baal, or Zeus, or Artemis and Himself, who has all power in heaven and earth, and the promise of eternity in Heaven.
Let me again emphasize the words of Christ: "I will build MY church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The church is HIS, and His alone.
When Jesus dictated the message to the church in Ephesus, He made it very clear that He was the one in control. He said, "I walk among my churches and hold their pastors in my hand."
Jesus dictated seven letters to seven literal churches in Asia Minor during the first century. However, these letters are as current as today's calendar. The churches were real. People attended services in them and listened to messages. But they also have value to every believer today.
Verse 2 - 3
2.. "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.
I mentioned in an earlier lesson that the phrase "I know your works…" is said to each of the seven churches. As Christ walks among us, He is inspecting and observing what we are doing. When He praises or censures, He does so on the basis of fact, not speculation.
Before we go very far, I need to make some statements. First, note that He doesn't say, "I know your feelings," or "I know your desires," or "I know your profession." He says, "I know your works."
Secondly, our works can never atone for our sins. Works cannot save us, justify us, or sanctify us. Neither will they provide a different standard by which we are to be judged.
But if you think good works are insignificant, useless, and of no value, you are badly mistaken. I have always said that a person does not need to be an expert in Greek and Hebrews to have a good working knowledge of the Bible. However, there are times when it might broaden one's understanding. I don't think it was an accident that Greek was the language of most of the world in the first century. Like Hebrew, it is a very picturesque language.
In verse 2, Christ says, "I know…". The Greek words used here for "know" is the word OIDA. This is the word use in all 7 churches to describe Christ's knowledge of them. OIDA refers to complete and full knowledge.
In contrast, the Greek word GINOSKO refers to a progressive acquisition of knowledge. Our Lord knows everything there is to know about the church - both good and bad. Such perfect knowledge is evident in each letter as the Lord commends and corrects the churches in Revelation.
Let me give you a few biblical examples of each word, beginning with GINOSKO - partial knowledge.
John 17:3 NKJV
3 And this is eternal life, that they may know (Ginosko) You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
Jesus is speaking (praying) specifically about his disciples, but also about us. We will never have full and complete knowledge of God through our own resources. But we can progressively know more about Him.
Romans 11:34 NKJV
34 "For who has known (Ginosko) the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?"
Philippians 3:10 NKJV
10 That I may know (Ginosko) Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,
Now lets look at some other examples of the word OIDA used of Christ's complete knowledge of each of the seven churches.
Matthew 6:8 NKJV
8 "Therefore do not be like them (the Hypocritical Pharisees), for your Father knows (OIDA) the things you have need of before you ask Him.
God has full knowledge of your needs.
Is God the only one who can have full and complete knowledge? No! there are times when a human can as well. For instance, Christ heals a boy who was born blind.
John 9:20 KJV
20 His parents answered them and said, We know (Oida) that this is our son, and that he was born blind:
These parents could say with complete knowledge that this was their son. We can also know completely and without any doubt that we are God's child.
1 John 5:19-20 NKJV
19 We know(Oida) that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.
20 And we know (Oida) that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know (Ginosko) Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.
This type of knowledge is what David wrote about in Psalm 139:1-3; 23-24.
1 O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
2 You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.
3 You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties;
24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
The Lord knew these churches perfectly. And He knows you and me in the same manner. No act of service is too small to escape the Savior's notice.
Dr. M.R. DeHann once stated, "To come to Christ costs nothing, to follow Christ costs something, but to serve Christ costs everything." And God is aware of every act of service you do for the kingdom.
Now let's return to our text in Revelation 2.
Verse 2 - 3
2.. "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.
Jesus Christ had some wonderful things to say about this church. In verses 2& 3, Christ commended the church at Ephesus for six things:
1. Working hard (toil)
2. Persevering (patient enduring) - He mentions their patience or endurance twice here.
3. Resisting sin (cannot tolerate evildoers)
4. Critically examining the claims of false prophets (testing those who claim to be apostle)
5. Laboring for Christ's name sake, without becoming weary.
6. They hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans.
Wouldn't you like to have these things said about you - or about New Life Church? Imagine how we would feel if God would author a personal letter to the believers at New Life Church. Imagine if Pastor Troy announced that next Sunday, one of our elders would be reading God's observations concerning New Life. We would be anxious, for sure. Would God have any commendations?
We would all be curious as to what He wanted changed in our fellowship. One thing is certain, I believe we all would show up. And when the letter is read, we would be all ears.
Well, two thousand years ago, seven churches received such letters. As we continue through these churches in Revelation, we are, in effect, reading someone else's mail. And yet, each letter is addressed to us as well. Let's look again at only the first phrase of Verse 2.
Verse 2a - "I know your works, your labor,…" (NKJV)
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN "YOUR WORKS" AND "YOUR LABOR?"
The Greek word for "works" is "ERGA". It can mean works, deeds or acts. It is often used in the New Testament in an ethical sense of human activity - good or bad. This Greek word - Erga - is used 177 in the New Testament original text.
John 3:19 says, "Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds (erga) are evil."
Revelation 14:13 tells us that for those who die in the Lord, "their works (erga) will follow them."
Ephesians 2:9 says our salvation is "not of works (erga), lest anyone should boast."
The works that each of us do as individuals, and those we do as a congregation, never go unnoticed by God.
Hebrews 6:10 NKJV
10 For God is not unjust to forget your work (ERGA) and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
Back to verse 2, we have examined the word "works." It is a general, overarching word that speaks of all human activity. Because it is a general term, Erga here probably can apply to all that follows in Christ's commendation - their labors, their patient perseverance, their testing of those who are false.
The Greek word used here for "labor" is KOPOS. This represents work and toil to the point of exhaustion. It is a labor resulting in sweat and weariness. It describes an all-out intense effort.
1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV
58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work (erga) of the Lord, knowing that your labor (Kopos) is not in vain in the Lord.
One thing that Paul claims is that he had "worked harder than all" 1 Corinthians 15:10. He fears lest the Galatians slip back, and his labor (Kopiao, a derivative of kopos) is in vain (Galatians 4:11).
The Ephesians were tireless in their efforts. They were diligent workers for the cause of Christ. They were not content to only eat the fruit of the labor of others. Rather, they were willing to plow, plant, and harvest their own spiritual crops. In the midst of pagan darkness that surrounded them, they were aggressively evangelizing the lost, edifying the saints,…..and caring for those in need.
Revelation 14:13 NKJV
13 Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, "Write: 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.'" "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors (Kopos), and their works (Erga) follow them."
One of these days, Christ will come, and our labors (kopos) will be over. God has kept a record of your toil for the kingdom of God. It is not the toil that saves you. It is rather that we toil for our Lord because He has saved us. He died in our place, and we willingly work for our Master.
Nothing is hidden from the eyes of Christ. He knew all about the Ephesian believers and about their hard work and their faithfulness.
Hebrews 4:13 (NKJV) tells us:
13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
This Ephesian church is a going show. They've got a lot of programs. They're open 7-days a week. A lot of good things are happening there. Christianity was no spectator sport here. They didn't come to church to be entertained. They were actively involved in the work of ministry. Sacrificially, selflessly, serving, doing, toiling, giving, going. They've got a lot of hard workers. They were teaching the Bible, reaching souls, supporting one another, feeding the poor. Of course, never quite enough hard workers. In the typical hard working church, it is still 20% of the horses running 80% of the races. Someone has likened the church to being like a football game. You've got 22 people out on the field desperately in need of rest, surrounded by 50,000 people in the stands who are desperately in need of exercise. But Jesus praises them for their hard work.
Let's look at Revelation 2:2 again - jthis time adding more of the verse. Verse 2a - "I know your works, your labor, your patience,..." (NKJV).
Let me summarize what we have learned in the first half of verse 2.
o He saw "good works."
o He saw "hard work," - labor to the point of exhaustion.
o And next He saw "continuing work," as seen in how they patiently endured without becoming weary.
They endured hardship for the sake of Christ's name.
The Greek word translated "patience" is HUPOMONE. It is seen again in the next verse.
Hupomone is one of the noblest and richest of New Testament words. Normally it is translated as "patience" or "endurance." But there is really no single English word which transmits all the fullness of its meaning. It is used of the endurance of toil that has come upon a person against their will, of the endurance of the sting of grief, of the shock of a battle in which we find ourselves.
In classical Greek writings, I have also seen it used in one very interesting way. It is used to describe the ability of a plant to live under hard and unfavorable circumstance, yet survive to full maturity. In one of the apocryphal books - 4th Maccabees - we find hupomoné used to identify the "spiritual staying power" which enabled men to die for their God.
In the New Testament, the noun, hupomone, is used 32 times, and the corresponding verb, hupomenein is used 15 times. As we said, the normal translation of the noun is "patience," and of the verb "to endure." But when you begin to investigate the use of this work in the New Testament, some great truths begin to emerge.
Hupomone is very commonly used in connection with "tribulation."
Romans 5:3 NKJV
3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance (Hupomone);
2 Corinthians 6:4 (NKJV) tells us the Christian is approved in patience and affliction.
4 But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience (hupomone) (NIV says "in great endurance), in tribulations, in needs, in distresses,
Again, we see here the linkage between hupomone and tribulation.
We see it again in 2 Thessalonians 1:4 (NKJV).
4 So that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience (hupomoné) and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure,
In our introductory lesson to the letters to the seven churches, we looked fairly closely to Revelation chapter 1. But I didn't speak about this word, hupomone, though it is used there.
Revelation 1:9 NKJV
9 I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
The word hupomone is not only used in connection with "tribulation," but it is also found to have a connection to "faith."
James 1:2-3 NKJV
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
It is hupomone that matures, or perfects, faith.
Of all the ways hupomone is used, this, I believe, is the greatest. It is used in connection with some future goal - some greatness that shall be.
In Romans 2:7 (NKJV), Paul tells us that eternal life belongs...to those who by patient (hupomone) continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality;
Notice that word "continuance." This patience - this endurance - is not the patience that sits down with bowed head and lets things descend upon them passively until the storm is over. It is the spirit of a person that can bear things by simple resignation, but with blazing hope of what shall be in the future.
Hebrews 10:35-36 (NKJV) puts it this way.
35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.
36 For you have need of endurance (hupomone), so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:
Notice that the one enduring is a person who strides forward to "receive the promise."
This is not talking of one who sits stoically, or statically enduring in one place. But, rather, is speaking of one bears all things, because they know that these things are leading to a goal of glory.
That's what we find mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:10 (NKJV).
10 Therefore I endure (hupomone) all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
This is not the patience which grimly waits for the end, but the patience which radiantly hopes for the dawn of a new day.
John Chrysostom (347 ad to 407) said of hupomone:
It is "the root of all good,...the fruit that never withers, a fortress that is never taken."
He calls it "the queen of virtues, the foundation of right actions, peace in war, calm in tempest, security in (evil) plots, and neither the violence of man nor the powers of the evil one can injure it. It is the quality that keeps a man on his feet with his face to the wind. It is the virtue which can transmute the hardest trial into glory because beyond the pain it sees the goal."
Only hupomone can enable a person to do that. This is endurance that helps a person bear up under a load and move ahead at the same time. These believers in Ephesus were not quitters. In spite of the pressures of ministry, they remained faithful.
Hebrews 12:1 NKJV
1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance (Hupomone) the race that is set before us,
I am quite sure that the Ephesian non-believers did not take it lightly when a member of their family became a traitor to the religion of Artemis and joined this new group called Christians. These new Christians would need much stamina to persevere in their community in spite of persecutions and ridicule.
We don't know all the particulars here in Ephesus, but God's word is very clear when it tells us that it takes persistence in patience to live with the tension caused by the presence of His Kingdom in the world. I think we can safely surmise that the harassment by some of the officials of Ephesus, was to insist that the Ephesian Christians attend emperor temples and declare "Caesar is lord" against their own creed that "Jesus is Lord." Persevering is comparatively easy when opposition is passive. But as we have already noted, this is not some passive patience or endurance.
Before continuing, I need to make a couple of other observations. First, let me ask you a question.
WHAT ARE THE NINE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT MENTIONED IN GALATIANS 5:22-23?
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
The Greek word used here is not Hupomone. The word used here in the fruit of the Spirit is MAKROTHUMIA. The fruit of the Holy Spirit generally have to do with our attitude, demeanor or activity that is related to other people. Makrothumia generally emphasizes patience with people. Hupomone generally denotes patience in trying circumstances. The demarcation between these two words are not really that clean. Many of our trying circumstance are caused by people. So there appears to be some overlap.
Many of you have probably heard this little poem before:
"To dwell above with saints we love,
oh, that will be glory.
To live below with saints we know;
well, that's another story!"
That's where patience, as a fruit of the Spirit, comes into play.
Christ commends those at Ephesus for persevering during difficult and trying circumstances . When trouble has come their way, they haven't given up or grown weary. They haven't waffled. They haven't decided that it just isn't worth it.
They had endured malicious slander from the unbelieving Jews living in Ephesus (Acts 19:9). They had also endured persecution from the craftsmen who made silver copies of the temple and the goddess Artemis. Yet, they never quit on their faith or their hope.
These Ephesian Christians remind me of John Wesley. Allow me to read a few pages from his diary, which read as follows:
"Sunday morning, May 5, preached in St. Ann's. Was asked not to come back anymore."
"Sunday p.m., May 5, preached at St. John's. Deacons said, "Get out and stay out."
"Sunday a.m., May 12, preached at St. Jude's. Can't go back there either."
"Sunday p.m., May 12, preached at St. George's. Kicked out again."
"Sunday a.m., May 19, preached at St. somebody else's. Deacons called special meeting and said I couldn't return."
"Sunday p.m., May 19, preached on the street. Kicked off the street.'
"Sunday a.m., May 26, preached in meadow. Chased out of meadow as a bull was turned loose during the service."
"Sunday a.m., June 2, preached out at the edge of town. Kick off the highway."
"Sunday p.m., June 2, afternoon service. Preached in a pasture. 10,000 people came to hear me."
Like John Wesley, the church of Ephesus persevered.
Today, Jesus would tell His church: You are doing great! Hang in there. I know what you are going through. I know that it gets tough some times, but I appreciate you. I'm glad you have remained faithful. I'm glad you haven't given up when the going got tough.
Jesus knows about your hard work. Do you ever get discouraged? Do you ever feel like no one seems to know what you are going through? Do you ever feel that no one cares? Do you feel like you are doing a lot of grunt work for the kingdom, and no one really appreciates the work that you are doing?
Jesus says, "I know about your hard work." I see what you are doing. I appreciate your faithful service. You think that no one cares about what you are doing, but you are wrong…because I see what you do. I know that you faithfully teach a children's Sunday School class week in and week out. I know that you pick up the trash around the church. I know that you are visiting and writing letters to encourage people. I know that you are working hard to spread My Gospel. I know your deeds…I know your toilsome labor. And I appreciate what you are doing.
When it doesn't seem that anyone notices your work, be assured that He does. There is One who cares, and He is the One we are doing all this for anyway.
These statements to the church in Ephesus tell us that it matters to Him what your are doing in service to Him. He sees what you do and He appreciates it. And He is keeping a record.
Nearly two years ago, several of us in this class, along with a number of others from various churches, made a trip that included Egypt, Israel and Turkey. This picture documents my personal first crossing of the Nile River. While in Cairo, we visited the their National Museum. Inside there was a King Tut display.
We traveled by train south to the Valley of the Kings, where King Tut's burial was located, along with some 60 other kings.
I want to return to Cairo. We visited the Cairo Bazaar and made a few purchases. I want to tell you of a place we did not visit while in Cairo.
If you were to go down a back road, then up an alley past some Arabic signs, there is a gate that opens to a plot of overgrown grass. It is a graveyard for American Missionaries. In that cemetery is a sun-scorched headstone that reads: William Borden. 1887 - 1913. Borden graduated from Yale University and was the heir to the great Borden family. But he rejected the life of ease in order to take the gospel to the lost. Refusing even to buy a car, Borden gave away hundreds of thousands of dollars to missions.
After graduating, he heads for China, but stops for a short stay in Cairo, Egypt to study Arabic. After he had been there only 4 months of zealous ministry in Egypt, he contracted spinal meningitis and died at the age of twenty-five. The epitaph describes his love and sacrifices for the kingdom of God and the Muslim people. The inscription ended with this phrase: "Apart from faith in Christ, there is no explanation for such a life."
Let me make a comparison between this young man and the young King Tut, who died at age 17. King Tut was buried with solid gold chariots and thousands of golden artifacts. His gold coffin was found within gold tombs, within gold tombs, within gold tombs. His burial site was filled with literally tons of gold.
The Egyptians believed in an afterlife - one where they could take earthly treasures. But all the treasures intended for King Tut's eternal enjoyment stayed right where they were until Howard Carter discovered the burial chamber in 1922. Those artifacts of gold had not been touched for more than 3,000 years.
Contrast that with the grave site of William Borden. His was obscure, dusty and hidden off the back alleys of a street littered with garbage. King Tut's tomb glittered with unimaginable wealth. The other could have had wealth and fame, but live in obscurity, and was found in the service of the real King, and today is enjoying everlasting life in the presence of his Lord.
King Tut's life was tragic because of an awful truth discovered too late, namely that he couldn't really take his treasures with him. William Borden's life was triumphant. Why? Because instead of leaving behind his treasures, he sent them on ahead.
Jesus is keeping track of our smallest acts of kindness. In Matthew 10:42, He said:
"If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."
God is keeping a record of all we do for Him. Malachi 3:6 informs us that "a scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name."
Have you seen the bumper sticker that reads: "He who dies with the most toys wins"? Millions of people live their lives as if that were a true statement. The more accurate saying is "He who dies with the most toys still dies, and he never takes his toys with him."
The statements of commendations to the church in Ephesus tell us that it matters to Christ what your are doing in service to Him. He sees what you do and He appreciates it. And He is keeping a record.
When it doesn't seem that anyone notices your work, be assured that He does. When no one thanks you, Jesus does. A lot of what you do for the Lord, no one will ever give you a plaque, a certificate, a pin, or even a thank you. Even so, remember there is One who cares, and He is the One we are doing all this for anyway.