Write this to the angel of the church in Sardis…You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! ~REVELATION 3:1-2
The history of the city of Sardis is kind of interesting. It use to be one of the greatest and richest cities in the world, and a literal “city on a hill”–thought by its inhabitants and most others to be impregnable because it sat atop such incredibly steep, smooth cliffs. Yet it was conquered twice, around 547 BC and 214 BC, in the same way both times. Some determined, zealous soldier found a way up the cliffs by finding footholds in cracks in the precipitous rock in the middle of the nite. The soldier then led a group up the newly discovered difficult yet climbable route to find surprisingly at the top–no guard whatsoever! Sardis had become complacent, twice, and it cost them dearly.
The church at Sardis in the first century AD had also become complacent, relying on their good reputation while actually being a deadened community. Calling them “dead” connoted a state of spiritual and/or moral decay. They had been lulled into the complacency of the surrounding culture and are commanded to wake up.
The enemy is always at work to gain a foothold and lull us into complacency. Did you know that we are commanded in the New Testament to “wake up” or “watch” more than any other command? We drift from the Power that originally got us to a good place, then wonder what happened. We forget where we came from. We forget Who it really is we serve. We cease reflecting on the wonder, love, an power of the cross. Our trust in God’s ultimate control, Jesus’s constant care, and the Spirit’s supernatural empowerment wanes. Not because any of this is less true, but because we have steadily been coaxed to lessen our confidence and reliance upon ultimate Truth. We succumb to looking around at what the world points us to for answers, importance, life. “I show you the stone in my hand, you miss the knife at your throat.” *
It has been said that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty and eternal watchfulness is the price of salvation. This is not a nervous paranoia, but a confident guard.
A personal example: I found myself recently losing my patience more than before with other drivers on the road. And it hit me that it’s not just my getting older and grumpier, or that drivers have become exponentially worse over the last two years. I had forsaken some of my spiritual vigilance. I use to use the majority of my driving time for fervent prayer–adoration of God, intercession for those I love, blessings upon the other drivers, whatever healing might be needed for every pedestrian I saw walking….Not surprisingly, I was more at peace when I was practicing this, and was less angry at getting cut off and what not because I was focused on something greater. Before, I was being watchful for what God might be trying to teach and instill in me at any given moment, but had grown lax and become more attuned to other drivers’ transgressions and who might be wronging me–how dare they!
I now need to return to what I practiced before, to a focus on my First Love. This is much of the message of Revelation to theses seven churches, and to us.
Wake up. Watch. Stay alert. Remember who you are and who alone you serve. Return to your former practices which you have let slip away. Be on guard against complacency by maintaining focus on God and where God is directing you, not on what society, news, or pride invite you to focus on.
*Quote from Mon Mothma in the Star Wars series ANDOR