FAITHFUL OR FEARFUL
In the Book of Revelation written by the Apostle John, he mentioned seven (7) churches in Asia. One of those churches is called Smyrna, arguably the city of Izmir in modern-day Turkey. Smyrna is also known as the “city of myrrh”. Myrrh is used as an embalming fluid for the dead but also as an ingredient in perfume making.
At one particular time in the early 60 AD, the Apostle Paul established nine (9) churches in the area around Asia. Of particular interest is the earthquake around 61 AD , as recorded by Tacitus in his Annals, that destroyed the cities of Colosse, Hierapolis, and Laodicea. Of the three cities that were destroyed, only Laodicea was rebuilt. So, this leaves only seven (7) churches during the five (5) years before the beginning of the First Jewish –Roman revolt in 66 AD. And these seven (7) churches were properly addressed in the Book of Revelation.
Our text this morning is taken from Revelation 2:8-11:
“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of Him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty–yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.”
BAD NEWS, GOOD NEWS
Jesus warns the Church in Smyrna that they will experience:
- Afflictions – from the Greek word “thlipsis” akin to the Latin word “tribulum” – which denotes pressing, or to apply pressure. Without stating the obvious, followers of Christ will suffer tremendous pressure either from family, friends, office mates, or from society
- Poverty – denotes being materially destitute. Some disciples will lose their jobs, others will be by-passed promotions because they are “Christians”, and there those whose properties will be confiscated just because they are followers of Christ
- Slander – to slander means to destroy one’s reputation
- Suffering – some will experience persecution, testing, and imprisonment for refusing to say “Ceasar is lord” because they believe that only Jesus is Lord! The Apostle John himself, according to tradition, was thrown in boiling oil. Still many others were tested in many ways to refine their faith
- Death – church tradition teaches that Polycarp, a bishop of Smyrna and a disciple of the Apostle John, was martyred to death in 155 AD
The good news is that he who overcomes will receive the crown of life and will not be hurt by the second death (immunity from the second death or immortality).
LIVE IN FEAR OR LIVE IN FAITH
In verse 8, our text says that Jesus is First and Jesus is Last (the Alpha and the Omega – corresponding to the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet). Jesus can see what is ahead of you; allow Him to lead your life. Nothing happens to you without God allowing it to happen. If He is before you, He is also behind you, guarding you against deadly arrows you cannot see from the enemy. When you are spiritually weak and weary, you become vulnerable and this is the time when the enemy presses its attack. But as the love of God covers the whole world, His protection covers your whole being. When God wants to bless you, He will see to it that you will be blessed until the end of your days.
“Do not be afraid” or do not fear – This expression, found in verse 10, is mentioned 365 times in the Bible. If there 365 days in a year, it sure fires me up to know there is nothing I should be afraid of every single day.
THE CALL TO REMAIN FAITHFUL
Also in verse 10, Jesus reminded us to remain faithful: at all times and in whatever circumstance. God is calling every believer in Smyrna before and He is calling every believer now to remain faithful to Him – no matter what. Was there a time in your life that you can truly say that God has abandoned you or forsaken you? I don’t know about you, but as for me God has been faithful ever since. I was faithless, but His love remained unchanged; I was unfaithful at some point but God is faithful to me despite of my failings. How great indeed is our God!
Pause and analyze your personal relationship with God. Although Smyrna is materially poor yet she is spiritually rich. At the end of our earthly lives, spiritual prosperity is more desirable over material affluence.
Cultivate daily your relationship with God. The more you stay close to Him, the more you experience His presence in your life. God is in absolute control of all things and He will certainly bring you to specific places at specific times – situation which is unique for each one of you, as part of His Divine plan. And that is why God wants you to trust completely in Him.
There will be days that your courage will be tested, but just hold on to your faith. To live in fear is not to live at all; to live by faith is the life God wants you to pursue.