And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name, that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent.” ‘
I was so proud to bring home my new bonsai tree, which I trimmed and wired and potted all on my own. I have a pretty brown thumb, so I was nervous to be charged with keeping this little tree alive. To my credit, it lasted through three winters and many parched days. I have never been good about watering that plant, and one year it even lost all of its leaves before miraculously coming back to life after a few days of hydration. Today, there is not one leaf left. I water that plant almost every day waiting for new leaves to appear, praying that the winter’s end will bring new foliage. The hope is that it will come back strong come the Spring, but it just might be the case of too little, too late.
There is something rather curious about everything we receive from God during this walk. All of it requires maintenance and nurturing. All of it requires sustenance. Complacency occurs when we forget to water and fertilize the tree. It occurs when we do not give it enough good air to breathe. It is too easy to become comfortable in our growth and think that we have made it to such a good place spiritually that we can take a break and relax. That is when we let down our guard and begin to regress because our spiritual growth cannot be paused. When we stop that growth we start to see death creep in, and that will lead us to walk not in the Spirit but in the flesh.
The encouraging message to the church in Sardis was that they were not yet completely dead. Some of what they had learned and practiced was still alive and salvageable. However, this message came with a timely warning. Those things were on their way to dying, and it was for the church to intervene and revive them. If we decide to pause in the middle of the race, we can complete it only by taking steps and starting back up again. Standing still will not somehow magically take us to the finish line. We must begin to run again. Father, keep us spiritually active and hungry, that we would remember to keep our spirits fed and growing healthy.