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Prior to the group assembling, think of someone in your group that you know has consistently demonstrated their faithfulness throughout their Christian life. Think of specific examples that may have tested their faith: co-workers ridiculing/ostracizing them in the workplace, family members abandoning them due to their Christianity, financial problems, health issues, or the loss of a loved one. Make a list or write out what you would like to say about this person when the group meets. Contact this person before the gathering giving them notice that you are going to use them in the group activity but don’t give them the details of the exercise.
When the group meets, tell the members that ________ has agreed to be the subject of the activity. Ask the participant to lie down on the floor in front of the group or in the middle of a circle; whichever works best. Place a sheet or covering over the person as if they were dead. Instruct the person that they cannot talk; they’re dead. Tell the group, “Our brother/sister _____ has gone to be with the Lord and I’d like to say a few things about him/her.” Talk about the things you remember about their faithfulness to the Lord. After you finish, ask the other members if there is anything they would like to add. After everyone has finished, ask the participant to get up and share with the group how they felt as this “mock eulogy” took place.
Note: This exercise may bring out emotions so have tissues available for the group.
1. Read this week’s passage, Revelation 3:7-13. What are some specific promises that are made to this faithful church at Philadelphia?
• (Intent: There is a promise of an “open door,” v. 8. Their enemies will bow at their feet and know that God has loved this church, v. 9. They will be kept from the hour of testing, v.10. Overcomers will be made a “pillar” in God’s temple, v. 12. They will have the name of God, His City, and of Christ marking them, v.12.)
2. In verse 7, Jesus establishes His authority before acknowledging the church’s deeds. Two of the attributes He listed are “holy” and “true.” Why do you think He chose these characteristics specific to this church?
• (Intent: Holiness is a direct claim to His deity. Gk. Alēthinos (true) signifies that which is genuine, authentic, and real. Christ is true to His word and can be trusted to keep His promises. His reliability stems from His being the genuine Messiah who can be relied upon. By choosing these, Jesus was letting them know that whatever He stated after the introduction of the letter would be authentically spoken from God and factual, not merely an opinion.)
3. Compare the church of Smyrna to the church of Philadelphia. What are the similarities between the two? How are they different from the other five?
• (Intent: Leaders can have the group point out similarities based on the passages. See Rev. 2:8-11 and 3:7-13. Both were not rebuked like the other five.)
4. In verse 7, what does Jesus mean when He says He opens what no one can shut, and shuts what no one can open?
• (Intent: Most commentators state this applies to the Kingdom of God and possibly in particular it being open to Gentiles as well as to Jews. See Acts 14:27,1 Cor. 16:9, Col. 4:3.)
5. Read Rev. 3:8b. How can you have little strength and yet keep God's word? Describe a time when this has been the case for you.
• (Intent: Explore the distinction between our strength and God's power. See 2 Cor. 12:9-10.)
6. In verse 9 Jesus says He will make their persecutors fall at their feet and acknowledge God loves them. Describe a time when your stand for truth encountered opposition. How does it encourage you to know that God will acknowledge your faithfulness?
7. In Rev. 3:12 Jesus says He will write three names on those who are victorious: the name of God, the name of God's city, and Christ's new name. At the cost of perseverance and endurance for the faith, what does it mean to you to be marked in this way?
• (Intent: Discuss how this may be viewed as a mark of ownership, close association, belonging, relationship, and permission to enter the city or presence of God. Being marked like this could be compared to adoption (taking the name of the new family) or competing in the Olympics (representing your country).
If there is someone in your group whose faith has been tested, gather around them, lay hands on them, and pray for them. Or, ask each member to pray for a person they know who has been diligent to the faith as you go around the room in a “popcorn” style prayer.
Do you know someone in your sphere who is going through opposition or ridicule for standing firm in their faith in Jesus Christ? What are some actions you can do to demonstrate encouragement for them? This week take time to contact them and begin to implement these actions.