Summary: Whatever trials you’re going through, Jesus calls you to simply remain faithful to Him.
I have to tell you about my experience this week. This week I did something I’ve never done before. This might surprise you, but up until Tuesday, I had never voted in a voting booth. You see, I turned 18 when I was in Basic Training. From that point forward, I always voted absentee. If you’ve never voted absentee, it’s a very anti-climactic experience. They send you four things in your voter packet. They send you a booklet that has all of the candidates and ballot initiatives listed in it. They send you a punch card ballot. And they send you a return envelope. You know what the fourth thing they send you is? A paperclip. It comes complete with instructions of how to unfold the end of the paperclip and use it to punch out the chads on the ballot. Talk about high-tech! So on Tuesday, I was thrilled to walk into Melrose school and vote. There was a short line for them to check my registration and give me my voter card. Then there was a little longer line to wait for my turn in the computerized voting booth. The whole thing only took an hour. But during my time waiting in line, my smile began to fade away. It faded away as I listened to the comments from some of the people. I say comments, but they were really complaints. “I can’t believe how long this line is.” “Why do they only have 3 machines set up—last year they had seven.” “It’s hot in here.” “They need to set up more chairs.” “This line is ridiculous—I don’t have time for this.” In that brief period of time, I went from happy and excited to deeply saddened. How spoiled we have become! Just a short time ago, I’m sure most of us remember the first elections held in Iraq. In order to properly identify the voters and keep them from voting more than once, we dipped their fingers in permanent ink. We remember seeing the pictures in the newspapers of Iraqis proudly posing with their ink-stained fingers held high. But then something we didn’t expect happened. When many of those people returned home from the voting booth, terrorists were there. Those terrorists sought out people with ink-stained fingers and cut them off. When the word got out, our government thought that would be the end of people showing up at the polls to vote. They figured that people would be too scared to vote. But they were wrong. In later voting, the numbers of voters actually increased. The numbers of voters increased knowing that there was a good possibility that when they returned home from voting, they would have their finger chopped off. By the grace of God, we have freedom in this nation that most people in the world can only dream about. But so often, we take that God-given freedom for granted. We can freely walk into a polling place without fear. We can freely go to school or get a job or read a book or write a letter to the editor. And we can freely and openly gather together in worship in the Lord’s house anytime we want. What a privilege. What an honor. What a blessing from God. So, if it is such a privilege and honor and blessing, why do we neglect it? Why do we take it for granted? In many ways we are very distant from the church at Smyrna. We are distant in time. We are distant in location. And many times, we are distant in attitude. While we spend much of our time complaining about trivial things in church like styles and colors and methods and comfort… the church at Smyrna had real issues to deal with. And they dealt with them in such a way that Jesus commended them. This was only one of two churches that Jesus didn’t scold. Why? Because their focus was in the right place. Even though they were terribly persecuted, they pressed on. Like Paul wrote in Philippians 3:14, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” That was the church at Smyrna.