By Rick Cowman
We continue this week with the question, “What is God saying to His church in the midst of suffering?” Jesus addresses this question in His letter to the church in Smyrna in Revelations chapter 2, verses 8 through 11. Knowing their bitter persecution and struggle to hang on, He reminds them of His own suffering, death and resurrection! His salutation in this letter referred to Himself as “the First and the Last, who was dead and has come to life (vs 8).” The One who was there in the beginning and will be there in the end; the One who won the victory over sin and death and hell; and the One who has the power to give life to the dead; this is the One who is speaking!
Jesus has something to say to this church which was struggling to survive. This church thought they were poor, but Jesus tells them they are rich! They didn’t think they were going to make it, but Jesus said to them, “do not fear” what you are going through because you are going to go through it! They didn’t think it was worth the struggle anymore, but Jesus declared to the, “be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life!” They thought there was no hope, but Jesus’ words were promises for a positive future! Verse 10 tells us all of the persecution and slander was from the enemy, Satan. And, though difficult to accept, the enemy will often use well-meaning Christians to attempt to destroy the work of God! He’ll use individuals who seem to be the most mature, and therefore the most trusted, to do his dastardly deeds; that is, if we listen to his voice instead of the voice of God’s Spirit in us! But whatever the means, God allows these attacks to test us and refine us so we can be shaped into trophies of His grace. We must simply (not easily) be willing to stay with the stuff and remain faithful!
Many of you may be going through difficult times, and some of our churches are likely struggling right now as well. May I remind us all of Jesus’ words to Peter in Luke chapter 22, verses 31 and 32: “Satan has demanded to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail!” This is what He’s saying to us in this letter: “Don’t give up! Keep hold of your faith in Me! Keep doing the things I’ve told you to do! Keep on being faithful and obey My words, and you’ll make it!” Their situation was such that it would have been easy for them to quit and go somewhere else. They were faced with a choice, as are we. They could quit and run, or they could listen to what God was saying in the midst of it all. Each of us has a choice whether to grow better though our circumstances or grow bitter! And whether we grow better will be determined NOT by what happens to us, but by what we do with what happens. And how we look at these struggles in life will make them either growing experiences, or groaning experiences! The stage was set for spiritual growth in this church at Smyrna. God had them in a position where He had their attention. This church body was postured for change.
What about you? Have you accepted a defeated life attitude? (Yes, I’m asking myself this same question!) Are you content with giving up when God says you can make it? If you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, then you must be willing to “hear what the Spirit is saying” to you! God has set the stage for a great work of spiritual growth in each of our lives. But if God is going to accomplish that work, then He must first have our attention. Does He have yours? If not, what will it take for Him to get it? Trust me, He knows exactly what it will take!