We hear, oh so often, that God created humanity for an intimate relationship with Himself. Why is it, then, that we rely almost entirely on the local church to fuel our relationship with God?
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.”
Revelation 2:17 ESV
What does it mean to conquer?
In Genesis chapter 3, the greatest horror story ever told, mankind rebelled against God and, as a result, is constantly struggling against the presence and the power of sin. Some people will tell us that sin is simply a separation from God that comes when we choose to disobey God. I find this difficult to believe, especially in light of our scriptures. In Revelation, chapter 12, God banished Lucifer and Lucifer’s angels from Heaven and to the earth. In Genesis, chapter 3, we see the serpent, which is corrupted in some manner, probably by Satan. This serpent might even be Satan himself. It’s through the angels that rebelled against God in Heaven that sin has any power at all. Without some powerful influence, I find it difficult to believe that man would have ever given up his position with God.
This entire notion can be supported as we look at Genesis 4, in God’s conversation with Cain concerning his brother Abel. God tells Cain that sin is crouching at his door. It desires to have him. He also tells Cain that he must overcome it.
So what might it mean that God gives reward to those who conquer? It means that we receive these gifts from God when we overcome sin, and there is only one way to do such a thing. That is to rely completely on the power and presence of Jesus Christ in our lives. Here’s the great thing about that power and authority. It does not only affect us in eternity. It was meant for us here and now. We can have a relationship with Christ now. We can overcome now.
What is our reward?
God tells us, through John, that we will receive both the hidden manna and a white stone on which is a name that only we know. What?
In Exodus we read a story about how the Israelites were delivered from the hand of Pharaoh. While in the wilderness, after leaving Egypt, the Israelites begin to complain that God had brought them out of slavery just so they could starve to death. Eventually, God granted them manna so that their hunger would be satisfied.
Human desire, by nature, is infinite. When we have, we want more. By relying on God and conquering sin, we are exposed to the infinite presence of God through Jesus Christ. We find complete satisfaction in Christ because our infinite desires are met with an infinite source of satisfaction. I can tell you from experience that this satisfaction is real, but until you experience it for yourself you will not know it.
Secondly, each one who overcomes will receive a white stone with a name that only he or she knows. White stones are a symbol of acquittal. They were dropped into urns during the time of John to signify someone being declared innocent by the court. Despite everything that we have done wrong, when we conquer sin we receive a label of innocence from God through Jesus Christ. What would the significance of a new name being written on the stone, a name that only we know, be?
I believe that it could be a sign of the intimacy that God desires to have with us. Our reward is not only that we receive satisfaction, and that we are acquitted, but also that we gain the opportunity to live in relationship with the God of the universe! God relates to His people within the context of community, yes. He also relates to each of us on an individual level. I fear that, much too often, we treat our individual relationship with God as a have to. I need to have a quiet time. I need to read God’s Word. I need to pray. No! Part of our reward for relying on God to deliver us from the power of sin is that we get to spend time with Him! We get to read and benefit from God’s Word! We get to have a conversation with God! It is part of our reward, and for the most part we ignore it…
My challenge to each of you, then, especially those who have declared Jesus Christ the Lord of their lives and in doing so have conquered. Stop making the Christian life boring. Enjoy the rewards that you can already have. Enjoy Jesus Christ. Yeah, this life is difficult, especially for Christians. That just makes it way more important that we celebrate the things worth celebrating and enjoy the things worth enjoying.