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Summary: The Church at Smyna

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PRESERVATION IN THE MIDST OF PERSECUTION

REV. 2: 8-11

I. INTRODUCTION

WHEREVER WE GO AND WHATEVER WE DO, EVIL IS ALWAYS LURKING IN THE VICINITY. YES MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS, PERSECUTION IS PREVALENT AND PRESENT. THERE ARE THOSE OF THE WORLD WHO SEEK TO DISHONOR, DISTANCE, AND DESTROY, THE PEOPLE OF GOD. TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS ARE CERTAIN TO COME OUR WAY. THE STORM CLOUDS OF ANTAGONISM ARE SURE TO HOVER OVER US TO UNLEASH A DOWN POUR OF AFFLICTION AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT. WHAT DO WE DO IN TIMES LIKE THESE? DO WE FOLD UNDER THE WEIGHT OF OUR ENEMIES? DO WE THROW IN THE TOWEL AND GIVE UP? DO WE ALLOW THE VICIOUS AND CALLOUS BITE OF MOROSE MEN BREAK OUR SPIRIT? 2 COR. 4:8-9 TEACHES, “WE ARE TROUBLED ON EVERY SIDE, YET NOT DISTRESSED; WE ARE PERPLEXED, BUT NOT IN DESPAIR; PERSECUTED, BUT NOT FORSAKEN; CAST DOWN, BUT NOT DESTROYED. JESUS SAYS IN JOHN 16:33, “IN THE WORLD YE SHALL HAVE TRIBULATION: BUT BE OF GOOD CHEER; I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD.” WHY? BECAUSE THERE IS PRESERVATION IN THE MIDST OF PERSECUTIION!

II. THE TEXT

THE CITY OF SMYRNA WAS A WEALTHY AND BEAUTIFUL CITY. LIKE EPHESUS, TRADE ROUTES PASSED THROUGH SMYRNA. THEY WERE NOTED FOR THEIR PAGANISM; THEY BOASTED OF THEIR SPLENDOR; THEY WERE FAMOUS FOR THEIR HEATED HOSTILITY TOWARDS CHRISTIANS. CHURCH FATHER POLYCARP WAS BURNED AT THE STAKE THERE. AND IT IS REPORTED THAT SOME FIVE MILLIONS CHRISTIANS MET THEIR DEATH IN SMYRNA. IT WAS THE CENTER OF EMPORER WORSHIP AND PERSECUTION.

JOHN WRITES THIS LETTER UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE RISEN CHRIST, TO THE CHURCH AT SMYRNA. UNLIKE THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS, THERE IS NOT ONE WORD OF CONDEMNATION, BUT PRAISE. MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS, IT IS A BLESSING WHEN THE LORD PRAISES HIS CHURCH.

AS THE LORD STATED TO THE EPHESIAN CHURCH, HE KNOWS THEIR WORKS. HE KNOWS OF THEIR DILIGENCE IN SERVING HIM. HE KNOWS OF THEIR FAITHFULNESS. HE KNOWS OF THEIR EVANGELISTIC EFFORTS. HE ALSO KNOWS OF THEIR PERSECUTION, TRIBULATION, AND AFFLICTIONS FOR SERVING HIM.

MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS, WE WILL SUFFER FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, BUT OUR SUFFERING IS FOR THE GLORIFICATION OF GOD. 1 PETER 3:14, “BUT AND IF YE SUFFER FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS’ SAKE, HAPPY ARE YE: AND BE NOT AFRAID OF THEIR TERROR, NEITHER BE TROUBLED.”

THE LORD KNOWS OF THEIR POVERTY. IN A CITY FILLED WITH WEALTH, THIS CHURCH WAS POOR. THEIR DEVOTION TO CHRIST CAUSED ECONOMIC RESTRICTIONS ON THEM. MANY CHRISTIANS IN SMYRNA WHO OWN BUSINESSES HAD THEIR BUSINESSES BOYCOTTED. THEY WERE FINANCIALLY BANKRUPT. THEIR POVERTY WAS SECULAR AND NOT SPIRITUAL. CHRIST SAYS “BUT THOU ART RICH.” THEIR WEALTH IS SPIRITUAL AND NOT SECULAR. CHRISTIANS ARE RICH IN GOD’S LOVE, MERCY, GRACE, AND POWER.

THE CHURCH AT SMYRNA WAS SLANDERED. MANY OF US WILL BE SLANDERED FOR OUR STAND FOR THE LORD. PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS SLANDERING ZION. BUT TO SLANDER CHRIST’S CHURCH IS TO SLANDER HIM. MANY WHO SAY THEY ARE THE LORDS, ARE REALLY MEMBERS OF THE CONGREGATION OF SATAN. THEY ARE AINTS AND NOT SAINTS.

III. PERSECUTION

DOWN THROUGH THE YEARS THE PEOPLE OF GOD HAVE FACED PERSECUTION FOR STANDING FOR THAT WHICH IS RIGHT. PERSECUTION COMES FOR MANY REASONS, AND SATAN IS ALWAYS THE AUTHOR OF IT. AS A CHURCH AND AS INDIVIDUALS WE WILL FACE SOME TYPE OF PERSECUTION. JESUS SAYS IN JOHN 15:20, “IF THEY HAVE PERSECUTED ME, THEY WILL ALSO PERSECUTE YOU.” JESUS SAYS IN MARK 13:13, “AND YE SHALL BE HATED OF ALL MEN FOR MY NAME’S SAKE: BUT HE THAT SHALL ENDURE UNTO THE END, THE SAME SHALL BE SAVED.”

WE WILL BE PERSECUTED ON OUR JOBS, BY THE WORLD, IN OUR FAMILIES, AND EVEN BY THOSE WHO PROFESS TO KNOW JESUS. WE ARE LIVING IN AN AGE WHEN MEN WILL NOT ENDURE SOUND DOCTRINE, THEREFORE, WE FACE PERSECUTION.

PERSECUTION IS NO STRANGER TO THE CHURCH OR THE PEOPLE OF GOD. WILLIAM TYNDALE, ALTHOUGH HE DESERVED NO DEATH, HE WAS CONDEMNED BY VIRTUE OF THE EMPEROR’S DECREE, MADE IN THE ASSEMBLY AT AUGSBURG. BROUGHT FORTH TO THE PLACE OF EXECUTION, HE WAS TIED TO THE STAKE, STRANGLED BY THE HANGMAN, AND AFTERWARDS CONSUMED WITH FIRE. WILLIAM LITHGOW, WHO WAS ARRESTED FOR BEING A SPY AND ACCUSED OF TREACHERY WAS GIVEN SENTENCED TO ELEVEN DIFFERENT TORTURES FOR HIS STANCE IN THE GOSPEL. PAUL WAS BEHEADED, PETER CRUCIFIED, AND JAMES KILLED WITH THE SWORD.

IV. CONCLUSION

IN THE MIDST OF PERSECUTION, JESUS OFFERS CONSOLATION, BY STATING, “FEAR NONE OF THOSE THINGS WHICH THOU SHALT SUFFER.” IN THE PRESENCE OF DANGER. DEATH, AND DESPAIR, WE HAVE THE BLESSED ASSURANCE OF HIS PRESENCE, HIS POWER, AND HIS PRESERVATION. THREE THINGS WE MUST REMEMBER: ONE, IN THE MIDST OF PERSECUTION, WE MUST BE STEADFAST, 1 COR. 15:58, “THEREFORE, MY BELOVED BRETHREN, BE YE STEDFAST, UNMOVEABLE, ALWAYS ABOUNDING IN THE WORK OF THE LORD, FORASMUCH AS YE KNOW THAT YOUR LABOUR IS NOT IN VAIN IN THE LORD.” TWO, WE MUST BE STRONG IN THE LORD, EPHESIANS 6;10, “FINALLY, MY BRETHREN, BE STRONG IN THE LORD, AND IN THE POWER OF HIS MIGHT.” THREE, WE MUST NOT FEAR, BUT BE FAITHFUL.

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