Faith, Perseverance, Revelation Series

Revelation (series): Belief—When Living Our Beliefs Costs

@JeanneTakenaka +Jeanne Takenaka

I didn’t set out to write a series based on Revelation 2-3. As I began reading the book of Revelation during my quiet times, I wanted to find truths written to the churches that apply for my life. What came from that desire to find one thing in each letter . . . is this series.

The churches to whom John wrote dealt with many of the same issues we face in an increasingly godless culture. Just as the early churches made choices about whether they would live for Jesus or themselves, so too, do we. 

We have the gift of being able to look at back at their strengths and weaknesses and learn from them.

This isn’t an in-depth theological rendering of these letters. Rather, each post reflects what God has taught me through studying both the letters and the churches. As we walk through Revelation two and three over the next seven weeks, I hope you’ll be encouraged and share your thoughts here! Past posts can be found here: Revelation Series 

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Photograph used with permission by N Phillips

The Kleins

Elane Photography 

Crystal Dixon 

Country Mills Farms 

Each of these names are of people and businesses that have faced persecution in the United States. Who have been shoved out of business or forced to pay extreme fines.

Why?

Because they upheld their Christian beliefs in the marketplace. Photographers. Bakers. Wedding chapel owners. A university administrator. Normal people working to provide for their families. They’ve lived their faith out loud, so to speak.

Are things really so different today than they were in the time when the letter to the church of Philadelphia was written?

Photograph used with permission by N Phillips

I am encouraged by Jesus’ letter to the church in Philadelphia. For so many reasons.

A little background . . .

Philadelphia was a prosperous city, a gateway between continents. It was called “little Athens” because of it’s beautiful buildings. Yet, even amid the beauty, the city rocked with frequent earthquakes that forced people to evacuate.

The people in the synagogue called themselves Jews, but they were that in name only. They persecuted the believers in Philadelphia, shutting them of the synagogue, and out of parts of their society.

Jesus was this church’s advocate. He assured them He was the One who opened and closed doors. When He opened a door, no one could close it.

And when He closed a door, no one could open it.

Jesus opened doors for believers in Philadelphia to live out His word. To share His gospel. And they did so. Jesus commended their work.

He knew they weren’t particularly strong, but they kept His word and served Him faithfully in difficult circumstances. What a testimony.

Our culture grows increasingly hostile to Christianity. No, we do not endure the level of persecution many of our brothers and sisters do worldwide.

Photograph used with permission by N Phillips

More and more, our society attempts to shut Christians out of the world’s happenings. It takes chutzpah to press our way in through the door with a message many disdain and try to silence. 

It takes courage to stand firm in what we believe when cities try to close down our businesses. When people file lawsuits because we want to live out our beliefs. 

Some people are called to impact the world on a large scale. Many of us are called to be message-bearers on the scale of our sphere of influence.

Many believers who work in a place like Hollywood face opposition, even persecution, for choosing to shine Jesus’ light. The good thing is, when God opens a door for us to walk through, He enables us to fulfill the calling He’s given us. 

When we are intentional to share with those in our circles about the love and hope Jesus offers, we walk through the doors Jesus has opened for us.

The church in Philadelphia honored God’s word by obeying it. They lived in a way that reflected Him accurately to their culture. We need to be doing the same.

Jesus had no words of correction for this church.

Jesus tells the people to hold fast to what they have. This is a continual choosing to walk in His ways, believe His truths, and live them out.

He has given them a crown, and He doesn’t want to see it ripped from their grasp by any choices to turn away from living for Him.

My friend, Delores Topliff, shared something recently. The essence was: The Christians in Philadelphia were overcomers. They overcame one choice at a time. It wasn’t a status. It was a continual working out of their salvation.

We may find ourselves in a position of having to choose to overcome. Choose to stand for Jesus, at the cost of our livelihoods, our reputations.

Jesus honors those who live for Him.

We don’t live in a vacuum. We dwell among the lost—those who oppose Jesus—and by association, all those who deny Him. Some gatekeepers are passionate about keeping “religion” out of the secular world.

But God…

God opens doors. Even in Hollywood. Even in the mainstream music industry. Even in the hardest hearts of our families, neighbors, acquaintances.

God honors those who honor Him.

May we be like the Philadelphians, believing God’s word and living out our faith one choice at a time. May we be overcomers. May we honor Jesus above our desire for comfort, security, and anonymity.

What about you? What scares you about persecution? How do you choose to live your faith “out loud?”

Click to Tweet: The Philadelphians lived in a way that reflected Jesus to their culture

I’m linking up with #RaRaLinkup, Jennifer Dukes Lee, and Holley Gerth

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30 thoughts on “Revelation (series): Belief—When Living Our Beliefs Costs”

    1. Andrew, you’ve never been one to run from a fight. 🙂 Prayer is always a good answer. Sometimes, it is hard to move beyond the feelings and all that gets wrapped up in interactions, isn’t it?

      I’m praying for you, friend.

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  1. We fight the tendency to be a “peacemaker” (aka coward!) even in our own churches at times when we stand strong against slippage away from the truth. Thanks for sharing the story of these courageous believers who lived in perilous times. I have so much to learn.

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    1. Michele, I’ve tried to don the role of peacemaker in order to avoid confrontation. There are times, though, when we need to speak up, aren’t there? And when a church/believer is slipping away from the truth that’s one of the most important times to speak truth. I’m with you…I have much to learn!

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  2. First of all, I love your door pictures. There is something so symbolic about a door and feel drawn to them and what might be behind.

    If I am honest, I am scared of being persecuted. Will I stand up in Jesus’ name or lay down and crumble? It’s a question I ask myself but deep down I know I will stand up in Jesus’ name. You share faith perfectly when you say that if God opens a door for you to walk through He will provide what we need. I will say I need to remind myself of this but God is exactly who He says He is in a world that is always trying to be someone else. Blessings and hugs!

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    1. Thank you, Mary! I wish I could take credit for those door pictures. A dear friend of mine visited Italy last summer. When she showed me her door pictures, I fell in love with them. This post just needed beautiful doors, so I asked if I could use some of her shots.

      Being candid, I’m scared of persecution too. Although, lately, I’ve been more scared of when (not IF) it comes, what if my boys are on the other side of things? Maybe a silly thought, but it’s driven my prayers for them. I’m with you. Deep down, I will stand up for Jesus’ name. I love your thoughts here today. Thank you so much for sharing them!

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  3. This is such an encouraging thought, Jeanne: “When God opens a door for us to walk through, He enables us to fulfill the calling He’s given us.” What a great reminder that we fulfill our calling one choice at a time. One step at a time. One conversation at a time. One prayer at a time. Right where we are. I think this is my favorite post in your Revelation series so far … gentle yet filled with truth. I’m grateful for you and your words this morning, my friend. 🙂

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    1. Thank you, Lois! I’m so thankful God leads us to each step, conversation, calling. He’s with us each step of the process. That is confidence-building for my heart. I’m so glad this post spoke to you!

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  4. Thank you for this honest series, Jeanne. It’s a scary world today, but as you point out, it was in the time of the church of Philadelphia, too. Thank you for the encouraging reminder that when God opens a door, no man can shut it. A thought just crossed my mind. The more the Egyptians tried to snuff out the Israelites, the more they thrived. God is the same today! I pray with you – “May we honor Jesus above our desire for comfort, security, and anonymity.” Love and hugs to you!

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    1. Trudy, it is a scary world today. It seems like this could probably be said in every era of human history. I loved what you said about the Egyptians trying to snuff out God’s truth via killing the Israelites. He does have a way of multiplying His followers when the world tries to divide them. Thanks for sharing that insight! Sending love and hugs back to you!

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  5. Timely post for Canadians too, dear Jeanne, and well written words for such a time as this. Our Prime Minister has recently made it so nonprofits who don’t agree with pro-choice are no longer eligible for funding for summer student programs. This affects a lot of worthwhile organizations who were geared up to giving children a better holiday. In the meantime I’m grateful for the courageous men and women who speak up for the defenseless–the unborn. I’m a grandmother of a beautiful, unplanned, baby boy whose parents said “yes” to life.
    All unborn lives matter. ❤
    Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

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    1. Wendy, I’m so sorry to hear the choice Canada’s prime minister made on behalf of your country. It sounds like many children will miss out this summer because of that. I’m with you . . . so grateful for the courageous men and women who speak up for the defenseless, the unborn. How beautiful that your family has said yes to life.

      I am so thankful for two sets of birth parents who said yes to life and gave us the gift of parenthood.

      Thank you for sharing a piece of your story here, sweet friend.

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  6. My heart is continually frightened for our staff with RCF, Inc. that live out their faith in one of the most hostile countries toward Christians in the entire world. I am both scared and inspired at the same time. They choose to overcome one battle at a time – one bombing, one shooting, one stoning…I’m not sure I would have the strength to persevere if plopped down in the world that they endure….surely God is with them in this evil place. Great series Jeanne!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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    1. Bev, I can imagine! I thought about them as I wrote the post. I’m so thankful God equips each of us for the journey He has for us. When I read of people like those who work at RCF, I’m always humbled by their courage.

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  7. Thank you, Jeanne! This really encouraged me today. Here it seems that more and more doors are slamming shut to Christians trying to speak about their faith. No-one really wants to listen and it seems at times like almost any opinion is acceptable to society except a Christian one. This is a great reminder that God is in charge and that when he opens a door no-one can close it.

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    1. Lesley, it definitely seems like no one wants to hear the gospel message of love. And we’ve seen here, too, that pretty much every opinion, sans a Christian one, is acceptable. Tolerance is geared toward certain people groups, and not toward others. I’m thankful God is in charge, and that He can lead us to those who really want to hear His gospel and receive His love.

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  8. A+ really excellent Jeanne. The Holy Spirit whispered a word to me many, many years ago…ENDURANCE. With fear and trepidation, I received the word. You have many good points in this piece. Perhaps a small self-published book when you complete the churches? Just a thought!

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    1. Endurance . . . such a powerful, determined word. I can see why you received it with trepidation. 🙂 Thank you for your encouragement to maybe turn this series into a small book. I’ll pray about that! Always thankful for your encouragement, my friend!

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    1. Shelli, persecution is hard to grasp. We have had it pretty good religious-freedom-wise for so long I think we tend to take it for granted in America. God’s word does tell us that in this world we will have trouble. I am thinking that’s partly what we’re seeing in our country with freedom for all but Christians. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, friend.

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  9. You know, I get people standing up for their convictions…but I also understand where the backlash is coming from. So many vocal people think they know God and his message of —hate—wait, it SHOULDNT be a message of hate, but that’s what Christian protesters radiate—so, dare I say, Christians bring it on each other? What if we loved like crazy and let God’s love guide our every action—isn’t that what the Philadelphians did—doesn’t Philadel mean ‘brotherly love’? If we let love guide our actions, than we’re sticking to the pure gospel.

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    1. Anita, you bring up a good point. We Christians can be so judgmental toward each other. Yes, we do need to love each other, as Jesus loved us. We need to uphold truth. Sometimes I think people forget that Jesus did this in a loving way, not a condemning way. Loving others the way Jesus loves us would be revolutionary, wouldn’t it? Thank you for sharing your wisdom here, friend!

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  10. That is so good. I think the thing that scares me most about living out my faith is taking care of my children. I know that is a lame excuse but it’s what I use. I may be taking a leap of faith soon, however. It’s funny. I want to be an example to them how to love people when they hate you because of your “close-minded faith.” But I’m afraid to live it out in fear that something bad could happen to them.

    On the other hand, the older I get, the more I realize how much more I want my faith to be seen from the mountaintops. Why? I can’t bear to think I lived my life without impact people through the Gospel. That’s why I’m here. So, that’s why I blog. That’s why I do vlogs. That’s why I’m in ministry. That’s why I’m willing to be vulnerable about my life on social media and in our community. Sometimes the persecution even comes from Christians.

    This was great! I’m grateful for the people of Philadelphia.

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    1. Nate, when children enter the picture, the stakes are raised, aren’t they? One thing I’ve been challenged about is living out my faith in front of them, which I am certain you do too. Truth is, we are going to face trouble here. Our children watch how we handle it when it comes. Do we shrink back from standing up for what’s important, or do we face the opposers with grace and God’s confidence? Believe me when I say I am speaking to myself here. 🙂 I’ve shrunk back a few times. And the message that’s conveyed to our boys is not a good one.

      Your big picture of living a life of impact is such a good thing to remember! When we become scared of repercussions, but we live them out anyway, because the big picture reminds us how important this is? That’s powerful, and I think it blesses God. I appreciate your vulnerability on your blog.

      And I always appreciate your thoughtful comments on mine. Thank you for sharing your story here!

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  11. I appreciate this post, Jeanne, since I know someone who has been in jail 18 months now for his faith. From right here in my city. It’s been so very sad, and I pray for him daily, but I was floored to see that his mother, who has come to stay with his wife, says, “I know my son is fulfilling God’s purposes for his life.”

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    1. Betsy, you are right in the midst of a place where persecution can be quick and severe. I am thankful God hears our prayers for our brothers and sisters around the world. How heart-achingly beautiful that your friend’s mother understands the big picture.

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