Summary: This is on the Letter to Smyrna.
This is the only mention in the Bible about the Church of Smyrna. Smyrna was very close to Ephesus, which we looked at last week. Paul likely started the church while he was in Ephesus for three years. Acts 19:10 says, “This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.”
This is also one of only two letters of these seven not to contain corrective measures.
Read Revelation 2:8-11.
There are five things that catch our attention. Each is kind of a paradox.
· WEALTH in POVERTY.
Christ knew their poverty, financially speaking, but he also knew their wealth of faith. James 2:5 says, “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith?”
There were two classes poor. Those who had nothing extra, and those who had absolutely nothing. These folks were the ones with absolutely nothing. They were also shut out of the job market because of their faith.
Haiti is a nation of immense poverty. Most of the poor in America are those that have nothing extra. In Haiti, they have nothing. Elise praised God for a bar of soap and deodorant. Maiza praised God when the engine on the cement maker started.
True wealth has nothing to do with our IRA’s, 401(K)’s, bank accounts, or real estate. It has to do with our faith.
· BRUTES in RELIGION.
Some of the meanest and ugliest people I have ever met are (or claim to be) Christians. The persecution was on two fronts. The first was from the Romans citizens who worshiped the emperor. The other was from the Jews, who thought Christianity was an illegitimate sect of Judaism.
You see this in church divisions and splits. You may drive down a road and see Hope Church, the New Hope Church, then the Original Hope Church and then the Original New Hope Church. Often the greatest enemy is within.
Internal division is destructive to the church.
· SAINTS in PERSECUTION.
All persecution comes from the devil. I’m not one who sees the devil behind every little thing, but persecution comes from him. It comes directly at followers of Christ.
o Persecution was RELIGIOUS.
Like I mentioned earlier, some so called Christians are down right mean. People are most often persecuted for religious beliefs. You aren’t persecuted because of your sports team.
o Persecution was SEVERE.
No one said it would be easy. There was tribulation (trouble, affliction, distress, etc.), poverty (as a result of the tribulation), slander, imprisonment, and testing. It was bad. Persecution is still rampant in many parts of the world.
o Persecution was TESTING.
What we see as testing, God sees as probation. The Test Track at Disney World. We test everything. We will face times of testing in our Christian life. Jesus was tempted himself throughout his life. This was brought out in The Passion of the Christ. If Jesus didn’t escape testing and temptation, why should we expect to escape it?
o Persecution was SHORT.
The ten days mentioned are not a literal ten days. It is representative a short time. The reality is that we are persecuted for 70 or 80 years that is a short time in the scope of eternity. Whatever difficulty we face will not last forever. Think back to a time when you were worried about something. It probably seems like it was nothing now, compared to where you are.
· DUTY in TRIAL.
There are four commands related to the trials coming:
o He commands COURAGE.
He says, “Do not fear.” Courage is overcoming our fears. Now we don’t have to chant, “I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid.” There is a peace that comes through prayer that removes fear. The apostle Paul called it “peace of God that surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).
o He commands FAITHFULNESS.
Quite simply Jesus says, “Be faithful.” Faithful means to be reliable or trustworthy. We seek reliability in everything we buy or use: cars, houses, appliances, etc. Paul encouraged the Ephesians, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”
o He commands PERSEVERANCE.
This is faithfulness to the end. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, called out as the stones were pelting him, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Joan of Arc cried, “Hold the cross high so I may see it through the flames!” We are to persevere. We need to be faithful to the end.
o He commands REFLECTION.
Verse 11 says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Listen to what Jesus is saying. Do more than listen. Allow it to impact your life and change you. This applies to you today, April 25, 2004 as much as it did to the church in Smyrna over 1900 years ago.