7) For His Name's Sake (2:3)
People patiently endure pain for any number of reasons. The world is filled with courageous men and women who suffer almost indescribable persecution and oppression. Prisons are filled not only with those properly convicted of a crime but also with people who refused to compromise or recant their philosophical convictions.
On any particular day you can turn on TV or pick up a newspaper and read of yet someone else who was martyred for their political beliefs or was subjected to substantial material and personal loss in the pursuit of social justice. Others persevere for profit or to generate compassion or pity or for any number of other reasons unrelated to the promotion and praise of the name of Christ.
But for the Christian, endurance is motivated by a singular passion. Perseverance is never an end in itself. Suffering for suffering’s sake is silly. Worse still, it may be the sign of mental illness! No one likes pain (or at least they shouldn’t). There is no intrinsic value in the experience of discomfort or being put upon or suffering inconvenience. Even in the case of Jesus, it was “for the joy . . . set before him [that he] endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2). There was a goal for the sake of which he embraced the horror of Gethsemane and Calvary.
We also are called to take up our cross daily (although not for the purpose for which Jesus was nailed to one). We also are subjected to slander and humiliation and mocking laughter and disdain. So why persevere? Why not simply cut our losses and run? What’s wrong, after all, with looking out for ourselves and preserving our health and welfare? Is there anything really worth patiently enduring undeserved attack and opposition?
Evidently the Ephesians thought so. I’m sure they were sorely tempted to deny Christ, to soften the word of their testimony. Money and physical comfort and the joy of simply being left alone can be a powerful and appealing temptation. But the Ephesians refused to budge! They yielded not an inch! “I know you are enduring patiently,” said Jesus, “and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary” (Rev. 2:3).
Let’s be clear about their motivation, the goal in view of which they bore up under oppressive conditions: it was for the sake of Christ’s name! That is to say, they endured with a view to making known, especially to their persecutors, that Jesus was a treasure of far greater worth than whatever physical or financial comfort their denial of him might bring.
We see the same perspective embraced by those described in Hebrews 10:34. They “joyfully accepted the plundering” of their “property,” because they knew they “had a better possession and an abiding one.” Or again, in Hebrews 11:24-26 we read of Moses turning his back on the royal perks of being called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, “choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” Why? What could possibly justify what appears to be such a foolish, costly, and painful decision? Answer: “He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (v. 26).
This same passion to see and savor Jesus alone accounted for Paul’s unqualified and otherwise inexplicable decision to turn his back on earthly achievements: “whatever gain I had,” said Paul, “I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil. 3:7-9). Did you see it? It was for his sake, as it also was for the Ephesians.
In the case of the Ephesians, undoubtedly some suffered unto death while others experienced the blessing of deliverance. In both instances it was “for his name’s sake.” In dying, some declared, “Jesus is more precious than what I’m losing.” In living, others declared, “Jesus is more precious than what I’m gaining.” In both cases, Jesus is treasured above everything and thus magnified above all.
The sort of patient endurance that Jesus praises doesn’t come easily. Our flesh screams to quit, to yield to the pressure, to capitulate to the alluring promise of worldly promotion and prestige. Relief is often only a word or two away. Money, comfort, and power are so readily within our grasp.
How can we strengthen our spirits so as not to “grow weary” (Rev. 2:3)? By what manner and means can we resist the temptation to compromise? Paul spoke directly to this point in Romans 15:4-5. The “God of endurance and encouragement” (v. 5), that is, the God from whom alone endurance and encouragement ultimately flow, supplies us with strength through the Scriptures. It is “through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures” that we find hope and help to persevere (v. 4).
Enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of Christ’s name (Rev. 2:3) is made possible when we “see” his beauty in the revealed Word, when we are quickened by the Spirit to behold his majesty and to relish his glory and grace in the inspired testimony of the biblical text.
Will you then pray with me, “Open my eyes,” O God, “that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18). Help me to see Jesus in your Word! Unveil to the eyes of my heart the splendor of the King (see Eph. 1:15ff.). Build into my soul, through the knowledge of the surpassing excellency of Jesus my Lord, the power to persevere. Amen.