"Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." Revelation 2:10
This week we look at the second of the seven churches addressed in Revelation, the church of Smyrna. Smyrna was a seaport city about 35 N of Ephesus called Izmir today. It was the center of the imperial cult of Rome and emperor worship. Let’s look at our first verse:
And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: "The first and the last, Who was dead, and has come to life, says this: "I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews, and are not, but are a synagogue of satan."
We know this is Jesus speaking to these churches. He was dead, but was resurrected, and ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God on His throne. Again, let us hear not only what He speaks to the church of Smyrna, but also to us personally. He knows our tribulation and our poverty. Obviously this is His children, and they are suffering tribulation and poverty. A life of ease and wealth does not define our spirituality according to God’s Word. However it does in churches that are synagogues of satan. These are people professing to be Jews, but are not, and they are defined by God as blasphemers, and they are persecuting the true followers of God and His Messiah.
Notice how God informs the church I know you live in poverty and tribulation, but you are rich in "eternal reality!" So let us ask ourselves, as we examine our own lives, are we rich and successful according to this world’s standards or God’s? What are we truly working for at this moment in each of our lives? Does the temporary pursuit of education, power, wealth, status, self-importance, always acquiring more, override the eternal? We must wake up before it is too late!
I taught my children good work ethics, but more importantly I tried to teach them what God’s Word had taught me — the motives behind our efforts are what is important to God. Therefore, it was and is, what is more important to me as their mother. I am a mother of four adult children with families, and when I go visit them I look much deeper than how big the house is or how much they have achieved financially. I listen to their hearts as they speak. That reveals to me what comes first in their lives. I want more than anything for my children to obey the first commandment. I desire above all else they put their relationship with God first in their lives. I also am very aware of their need to see me live that out before them. I am not talking about a perfect, saintly life. I can assure they or me doesn’t have that. But I hope what they do see is a very imperfect mother who loves and serves a perfect God of love. Not how they, or myself, defines love, but how God defines love in His Word. I would rather see my children in poverty and tribulation according to this world in order for them to be truly rich according to God, the Father.
Let’s go to our next verse:
"Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. "
Being tested is a part of life secularly and spiritually. What is the purpose of a test? To see if you have truly learned what you are being tested on. It is a good thing. It reveals the truth of who we really are. We can talk a good talk, but as the Bible says, faith without works is dead." God tells us not to fear often in His Word as we are being tested. Fear is not of faith. It also tells us perfect love cast out fear. There is only one source of perfect love, and it is not within man apart from God.
The key to passing God’s testing has to do with "relationship". If we love God with all our heart we will remain faithful throughout our lives of trial and tribulation that test what we truly love, which defines who we really are.
The ultimate success in life is when we allow God the opportunity to reveal His love for you, to you. That is not my wisdom speaking; it is His. I learned it from allowing Him to fill the voids others have left in my life when they have chosen not to allow God’s love to sustain relationships when being tested under trials and tribulations of life.
I have learned when my love becomes conditional to recognize it, and draw from the love He has been allowed to place in my heart. I have allowed Him to reveal His unconditional love for me as I constantly fail Him. I have learned not to run away, but run to Him in my failures. I know My Father loves me unconditionally. It isn’t based on my performance as our love tends to be; He is love. I repent and receive forgiveness, because I have accepted His love for me through Jesus, His Son, and my Savior.
The cross is my constant reminder of His undying love for me as I utilize the way He made for me to be loved by Him, bathed in the holy blood of His Son. That was accomplished by the Son’s great love for His Father. This is the only way to the truth of divine love we are all seeking and void of apart from Him.
Listen to the command of our Father, and the promise of our reward! Let us set our hearts, before our testing, to remain faithful til death. We must allow Him to prepare us by loving Him with our all. If we do pursue that goal, He is enabled to reveal to us how much He loves us. Love must be the motive of all we do for Him. It cannot be to earn anything or to impress one another, or for selfish ambition and empty conceit. Our only motivation must be simply for the love of God. That power is greater than any evil force in creation. Know that! James 1:12 declares:
"Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.’
The Bible tells us Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him, and we must follow Him. The "crown of life" is a martyr’s crown according to scripture. Think about it. We are all going to die for some reason. I want to die with purpose as much as I want to live with purpose. We know we will never die spiritually. Our spirits are eternal. That goes for all of us no matter what you believe about it. You might not believe in death, but you will experience a physical death. However, you may not believe you are eternal, but your spirit is, and will spend eternity in one of two places, hell or heaven. What you believe doesn’t determine what is true. You may have great faith in evolution, but it doesn’t make it true for you or me. I may believe my God isn’t going to hold me accountable to His Word. It will not make it true. God’s Word is true.
I am willing to die for that truth if necessary by faith in His love for me should He allow me that privilege. I pray my love for Him is stronger than my fear of evil. Martyrdom is a part of Christianity. It is a choice. You can always choose to deny Him and lose everything that matters. Is our self-preservation more important than our living and dying for Him? I must ask myself this question often as I have to deny my fleshly desires to live for Him daily. I think it is easier to die a physical death, than to live a life time of battling the sin nature that come so naturally, and remains a constant enemy of our spirit! We must live in the spiritual realm more than the carnal realm on this earth. We must!
Once again our last verse states:
"He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches, He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death."
God help us to have ears to hear what His Spirit is saying to us this morning. He have talked about how they overcame in last week’s devotional. It is the same way we must overcome: by the blood of the Lamb, the word of our testimony, and loving not our lives unto death.
The second death is defined: condemned to eternal separation from God: punishment of the souls of the lost after bodily death. It is called the second death because it follows the physical death. I cannot imagine anything being worse than separation from the God I know and love, because He first loved me. He loves you! Please believe me; you cannot do anything evil enough, that the power of His love doesn’t forgive and cleanse. I know this is true. The only way you will ever know it is, if you ask sincerely to know and love Him. It is not His will any should perish in the second death that is eternal. Jesus was His expression of love to you. He paid a high enough price as the sinless, perfect Son of God who chose to die in your place, so you might have a future and a solid hope of eternity in heaven with the Trinity. Please pray to hear what the Spirit is saying to you this morning, and act on it!
In His love.
Had the privilege of participating in the Froggy Mountain Adventure 5K/10k yesterday. Created, directed, and sponsored by Paul Tilley, a selfless, ultra runner I deeply respect. He does not charge a registration fee. This race is not about him, but his generosity in every way. I only got around to one picture yesterday with one of the most important ladies out there, a volunteer. Races do not happen without great, reliable volunteers who care for runners, and this lady does! She is always there, selflessly enduring the cold to support her husband and all the race participants. Let’s not take these folks for granted!