I had to get my heart checked in Philadelphia. Some of my adventures have taken its toll on my health and I’m not getting any younger.
Fortunately, this should be the easiest church to preach to. They are nearly perfect. In the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, there are only two that had no criticism from the Lord. The one in Smyrna was one and this one in Philadelphia was the other.
You probably know that Philadelphia means “brotherly love.” The church here lives up to its name. They had agape, sacrificial, love for each other and for everyone else for that matter. Their doctrine was nigh flawless, the fellowship was modeled by other churches, and their outreach was unrivaled.
I couldn’t wait to preach to them. There was only one problem. No one was in this church. They were on my schedule and I had a contract to preach there on Sunday. I visited early to scope things out and when I arrived there were no cars anywhere. The doors were all open and when I entered, no one was there!
Before the Great Evacuation, this fellowship was known for being an ideal church. The 1800’s were even referred to as the Philadelphian age. Slavery was abolished during this time. Multitudes of people were led to the Lord by famous evangelists. There were four grand revivals that swept across the nation. Hospitals were established by many Christian groups. Bible societies sprung up resulting in Bible colleges. Missionaries were sent out by numerous associations. There was probably no more spiritual era since the day of Pentecost.
Despite this, I got pangs in my chest. People don’t probably realize what preachers have to endure in the ministry. The incident in Sardis really took my breath away and I was having trouble walking down the road and climbing stairs. I had to go to see a doctor. I had several tests done since my six by-passes but I viewed them as wastes of time. But this time I knew I had to get checked.
I got to the hospital, signed all my forms and got drugged up. When I had my by-passes, I had hoped after they had “frozen” me that I would meet the Lord. It didn’t happen. Instead I woke up to the sound of a male nurse screaming into a phone, “HE’S MY PATIENT, TOO!” Turns out the doc was out mowing his lawn and wasn’t on location. But that’s another story. I’m hoping this time I’d get my chance to meet the Lord.
After the drugging, I fell asleep and instead of seeing the Lord I was greeted by three angels. Intuitively, I knew their names. Peachy, Whitey, and Purply. Don’t ask me. I didn’t name them.
Whitey spoke first. “We’ve got a message for you from the Chief,” she said.
I figured they had a message since angel means “messenger.” They were the most magnificent creatures I had ever seen. I didn’t actually see them. I was in a dream state from the drugs. If I hadn’t passed out, I would have passed out.
Peachy was a beautiful light iridescent orange color. You know, like peach colored. She had gorgeous gigantic wings. Her being was like a transparent chiffon. If she was a girl, I would have fallen in love with her.
“You need to look on the bright side of things. You’re too negative. This is the day the Lord hath made, you know.”1 “You need to chill,” she said. Duh. Y’think? I knew how I had gotten into the hospital. Could she be more obvious?
“We can read minds, y’know,” Whitey said even more obviously. “We know that you know to chill. You just haven’t taken what you know in Scripture to heart.” She put her head down sheepishly, “no pun intended.” Get it? I was in the heart hospital.
I knew her white garb represented purity. That’s probably why she pointed out that “worry is a sin, you know.”
Thanks for that. I think I knew that, too. But I hadn’t heeded what God had told me. “Fret not. Do not worry about your life. Do not be anxious about anything.”2
Now Purply chimed in. Great. I couldn’t wait. I knew she represented God’s royalty. Now I was going to catch it.
“If you know what God has told you, why don’t you do what He says?”3 Purply calmly exhorted me. She was serene but I was shaken and stung. Oops. I’m not supposed to worry about it.
I came to. The drugs were wearing off. The nurse told me they didn’t find anything. I guess I had nothing to worry about. But would I?
I was in a panic. What was I going to preach on Sunday? Especially, since I was going to have to preach to a church of near perfect people in a near perfect church?
There I go again. Worrying. Guess I need to quit it. Didn’t the Lord promise to give me the words?4 Before I was saved, I had to work hard on everything. Now that I’ve trusted the Lord, I realized that the Spirit would help me.5
The nurse got my attention. “Do you realize you dodged a bullet just now?”
“No. I thought I was cleared.”
“You have some plaque in your arteries. It’s just not enough to do an intervention. Next time . . . .”
She didn’t have to finish the sentence.
“You need to watch your diet, exercise, and quit stressing yourself. You’re a pastor? Are you worrying too much about people?’’
“I thought that was the job description,” I said.
“Don’t you know the joke about how many psychologists it takes to change a light bulb?” the nurse cracked wise.
Yeah, I knew it. I just doubted that shrinks could really help anyone. And I didn’t want to tell her that I didn’t know many doctors who were capable of changing a light bulb either. But she still was squeezing the IV going into my arm. I’d better shut up.
I was going to have to get out of here quickly. I had a sermon to prepare. Oops, there I go again. Worrying . . .
A quick vision flashed through my mind. Are those ghosts I see in the congregation?
(To be continued . . . .)
1 Psa. 118:24 This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
2 Psa. 37:7-8 “Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. 8 Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.” Matt. 6:25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, [as to] what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
Phil. 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
3 James 1: 22 “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”
4 Matt. 10:19 “But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say.”
5 Luke 12:12 “‘ . . . for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.’”