Summary: The name Smyrna comes from the word for myrrh…which is known for releasing its wonderfully delightful fragrance…when crushed! This suffering church is symbolic of the 10 Great Persecutions from the 1st-3rd C. Link inc. to text, audio/video, PowerPoint.
READING SOMEONE ELSE’S MAIL
Dying For the Cause of Christ
Many years ago, when communism still held the Soviet Union in its iron clench, a little group of Christians met behind closed doors in the underground. This was a secret meeting, a secret church service.
Suddenly, the doors burst open, and 2 soldiers appeared with sub-machine guns. They shouted, “To all those who are willing to renounce Jesus Christ: You’ve got 5 minutes to leave! Everyone who remains will be shot immediately.”
As you can imagine, every Christian in that place began to search their heart, and ask themselves, Am I willing to die for Jesus Christ right now, today?
A few got up and left, ashamedly, quietly, they left w/ heads hung low. Most of the people stayed. As the last one left, a soldier shouted, is that it? He held up his gun and repeated, anyone else? Another man rose and ran out. The soldiers locked the doors, and turned toward the people…
…they laid down their guns…and said, “Brothers and Sisters, we too are Christians. We do not want to worship the Lord w/ anyone who is not willing to die for Him! Now that the half-hearted have gone, let’s have church!” What a service they had together that day!
Last week we looked together at the church at Ephesus, who let their devotion degrade to duty…they represent the careless church. Today, we see the church at Smyrna, the crushed church.
The name Smyrna was derived from the word for myrrh…and how appropriate that name was for the suffering Smyrna church, for myrrh is known for releasing its wonderfully delightful fragrance…when crushed! The members of the church at Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey) were not having an easy time. They were suffering terrible persecution for their faith.
They were persecuted because they refused to compromise / say Caesar is God
Notice v. 9—“poverty” In the city of Smyrna, if you got saved, all of your property / possessions were immediately seized by the government.
Jesus said, I know your poverty…but thou art rich! Yes, they traded the temporary for the eternal. They were materially poor, but spiritually wealthy. And Jesus reminded them, you are rich, because you’ve given it all up for me, and you have more than could ever fit into a wallet or purse, a bank acct or safe deposit box. You have a home I’m building for you that would make the mansions of earth look like dog houses! And you have a peace and a joy that worldly celebrities could never afford!
In v. 10 Jesus admonishes them not to be afraid, but to be faithful even unto death, and that He will give them a crown of life.
Some object at this point, saying, “You shouldn’t serve God for what you can get, don’t worry about receiving rewards in heaven, don’t be concerned with things like crowns to receive.”
This person lacks understanding. For while there are 7 crowns which can be won, we’re not going to walk around heaven, parading those crowns in self-righteousness. The Bible teaches that eternity’s greatest privilege will be casting our crowns at His feet! Saying, you are worthy of all, you deserve all the glory and honor and praise. I don’t know about you, but I want to have some crowns to lay at the feet of my Savior!
In Matt. 5, Jesus said,
10Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
When we read verses like that, we wonder. And when we see good people suffer, we are tempted to doubt, and when we ourselves experience trial and persecution in our own lives, we question God, “Why do the righteous suffer, while the wicked prosper?”
I don’t have a great answer for that, but I can tell you it has always been that way…since the beginning, even until now!
Think about it:
Abel was righteous…Cain was wicked…Cain killed Abel!
David was a man after God’s own heart, why is he constantly dodging spears chucked at him?
Why is Daniel, the purest in the kingdom, thrown into the lions’ den?
John the Baptist was referred to as the best man ever born of woman, and they beheaded him!
The Bible says, “All who live Godly in Christ Jesus SHALL suffer persecution! (not MIGHT, SHALL!!)
Perhaps the more searching question to ask is not, why do the righteous suffer?…but rather ask, “Have I, as a Christian, ever been persecuted?”
If not, why not? Or, how long has it been?