Thursday, August 20, 2015

Are You Facing Persecution in Your Life? Part 16

Back to our second part studying the seven churches of Revelation and we are deep into Revelation 2:8-11 discussing the church of Smyrna. We already learned from our study yesterday about the historical aspect of the city of Smyrna and what it was like living there during the time when the city was very prosperous. We learned that the church of Smyrna was a persecuted church and that anyone who professed to be a Christian was undergoing the very threat of death in the least and torture, inprisonment and more were normal activities from those who hated them once they were discovered.

Today we learn more about how to deal with things if we, as believers in Jesus Christ, find ourselves enduring persecution just like the church of Smyrna, and know just what advice Jesus gives to those who are through the letter in the church to Smyrna.

Revelation 2:8-11 ~ "Revelation 2:8-11 ~ "To the angel of the church of Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty - yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who are say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of that you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you ill suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has a ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death." (NIV). "

It's always in that moment of difficulty that what you claim to believe becomes reality. Nothing that the world offers is a comfort. When someone is faced with a life changing threat or illness in their life, they aren't crying out for more money, a better position in life, their favorite celebrity to stop by, someone to buy them what they have always wanted. When someone is hurting, they are crying out for peace. We can stand in their presence and simply open the Bible and begin reading it and something happens that transcends the spiritual world to the very physical world and it provides that person with comfort, they could be dying of cancer and racked with pain, and their pain comes down even though it spikes on all the tools the hospital is using.

Whenever we are facing a hostile environment we can be encouraged. (verse 8). "These things says; who was dead." 

This verse is important to you if you find your life about to be threatened. The church of Smyrna lived with the constant threat of being attacked or persecuted for following Jesus Christ. Yet we know that when death comes, it is not the end. Jesus Christ is the Resurrection. You might wonder how will that comfort you, because it's past tense. He has already been through it and has prevailed. He is God! He is alive forever more. If we believe in Jesus, this life isn't the end. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

John 11:25-26 ~ "Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? "
John 6:40 ~ "For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

Matthew 28:20b ~ "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

This applies to the Christian only! God is with us everywhere!

The Lord, Himself, has promised us that He will never leave us or forsake us. Acts 14:21-22 ~ "They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said."

If we are living in a hostile environment, we can be a confident Christian/church. Verse 8 ~ "These things says;...he who "came to life."

He is Jesus. We too will live again. This is important to you if you are facing death. But what about the death of a family member or a friend?

John 6:51 ~ "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I give for the life of the world."

Confidence in the face of peril!

2 Corinthians 5:7-8 ~ "We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord."

John 14:1-2 ~ "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you."

If He went through all that work, He is coming back for us as promised.

So what kind of church are you, when times of difficulty surround you? (Verse 9).

Revelation 2:9 ~ "I know your afflictions and your poverty - yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who are say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan." 

We don't have to wait for something to happen to us, there is a spiritual battle we face every day. Isn't it nice that when we lay our head down at night, God watches over us. So when times of difficulty come and surround you, you will be able to endure.  (Verse 9).

Revelation 2:9 ~ " I know your afflictions and your poverty - yet you are rich! I know the slander"

Those of you that are Christians, when we go through difficulty we have our Lord to call out to. We will endure, we will make it! There are three things the church of Smyrna had to endure.

1. "I know your works while in tribulation.." the word tribulation or afflictions as some of your Bibles translate it, means a crushing pressure, a heavy anguish, a sorrowful trouble.  Jesus knows that they are enduring this crushing persecution. The word  is used to describe a man who is being crushed to death by a rockslide or someone who is pinned in a mudslide and the mud is rising. Tribulation = suffering.

Philippians 3:10 ~ "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,"

How many of you would sign up for that? No one would sign up for that. In life's sufferings that we go through, God is not afraid to have us suffer, because He is in control and He is watching over us. God uses difficulty, even Satan, in His infinite wisdom and tailor makes a trial to come about my life, so that whatever I am studying in the Bible, it can now embed itself in my heart and dwell there. It becomes real. God does stuff like that in our lives. Go through it with Jesus Christ and not alone. If God engineers it, then we know with absolute certainty we will get through it. It's father-filtered. Next time you endure some trial in your life, remember those words, "Father-filtered." Nothing happens without God being aware of it. Flat tire? Sickness? No money? All "Father-Filtered!" God's not wringing His hands in heaven. The difficulty that surrounds you and I, we will endure it, because victory is built into it. We need to start looking at difficulty differently. Sometimes churches need to realize that too, that when church members are going through difficulties, it tests their ability to cae for you, to be there for you, to help you when they can. The church in Smyrna was under pressure to worship Caesar, to be pagan, to be like the rest of the world. I can't help but think of our young people those in junior high and high school that have to endure the pressure of drugs, and sex to blend in. Right now each of us is being a sacrifice for something.

Romans 12:1-2 ~ "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's wil is - his good, pleasing and perfect will."

When times of difficulty come, you will be able to prosper. (verse 10). "I know your works....while in poverty(but you are rich)."

When you hear the word "prosper" you automatically think of money, but if I were sick, you'd think the word means health. People don't care about money when they are sick, do you? You just want to feel better. What does prosper mean to you? Fill in the blank! Money? Peace? Family? Health? Do you know what happens then, we forget God in the process. The word here to describe poverty is ptocheia which means to become destitute, to no longer have what is needed, to have one's material wealth, either lost, stolen or handed over. If I were to tell you that Jesus is talking about a man who lives from hand to mouth, from paycheck to paycheck, one who can barely make ends meet, this would not be the man.You will be able to prosper.

Jesus is telling us about a man who has nothing any longer, because of his godly lifestyle and his devotion to Christ - a Christian. Good people, smart people, usable people. Because they named Jesus as Lord, they are now a poverty stricken people. But we will look more about that tomorrow. Don't forget that when we get too comfortable, too prosperous or think they have all they need, they tend to forget God in the process.

1 comment:

David C Brown said...

Ttyhis is a great study; you will be blessed in it.