Summary: Find strength to hang tough during trying times.
All of us will face tough times! Do we have the strength to hang tough during such times? It is difficult to remain faithful during trying times; however, the Lord will give you strength for such times. In Revelation 2:8-11 we find a group of people who were facing trying times. The people were the believers in the church in Smyrna. Notice what the Bible says about them. "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, `These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: "I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. "Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.’’
In studying this church we find several principles that will help us find strength to face tough times.
1. The first principle is: your view of Jesus will give you strength to face tough times. John described Jesus as "the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life." In this verse we find three qualities about Jesus.
A. He is the first and the last. To me this teaches us that Jesus is consistent. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. People, circumstances and life will let us down but Jesus will always be consisten.
B. He was dead. Jesus knows what it is to face trials. He was killed on a cross. He took the pain of man’s sin upon himself. He knows the pain and heart-ache you are facing.
C. He came to life. Jesus knows what it is to be a winner over trials. When athletic teams are looking for a new coach they want a coach who is a winner. Even so, it is good to know the one who is the ultimate winner.
Illustration: Your view will motivate you to keep going during tough times. I love back packing in the Smoky Mountains. Back packing is a tough experience. However, I continue to back pack in spite of the tough walks and sore muscles. The view from the top keeps me going back time after time.
2. A second principle is: your commitment will give you strength. John describes the tough times being faced by the believers in Smyrna. "I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. "Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." John mentions tribulation, poverty, suffering and imprisonment. It is obvious the believers were committed or else they would have caved in to the pressures they faced.
A. In order for your faith to be of benefit there must be more than a casual commitment.
Illustration: Imagine two weight lifters. One lifter is dedicated. He trains every day. He watches his diet. The other lifter is hit and miss with his training. He eats junk food and is undisciplined. Which of the two will benefit most from the training? Obviously, lifter number one. The same is true in the Christian life. Dedication and commitment yields strength.
B. Jesus has called us to a radical commitment to Him. He used phrases such as "take up your cross"; "come and die" to explain his expectations.
Illustration: A few years ago the Houston Astros had an outfielder named Luis Gonzales. His motto was: "Go hard or go home?" That was also Jesus motto. Be committed or go home. (Illustration 218 from Something to Think About...Raymond McHenry)
3. A third principle is: your dependence on Jesus will give you strength. Many times we are guilty of trying to live in our own power and our own strength. Such living is doomed to fail. For example: as Jesus neared the cross Simon Peter boasted that he would never desert Jesus. However, he did! Why? He attempted to live in his own strength.
Notice the postive comments Jesus makes to the believers in Smyrna. "Do not fear";... " I will give you the crown of life";... "He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.’’(vs. 10-11) Notice, each of those phrases refer to strength that comes from Jesus. The believers were faithful because Jesus gave them the power and strength to be faithful. He gave them assurance.