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Courage to face suffering

April 03, 2017
Benjamin Spalink
suffering

A Reflection on Revelations 2:8-11

The Church in Smyrna must keep its eyes on Jesus Christ and remember his example for us - that he died, yet his death led to new life.  The church in Smyrna is a church that is suffering.  They are experiencing persecution and poverty.  Jesus wants to remind this church that though outwardly they are poor, yet spiritually speaking, which is the most important way of speaking, they are rich beyond measure.  They have Jesus Christ as their Savior, they have a rich inheritance in the faith, they have the Spirit of God in their midst, and they have eternal life to look forward to.  This must be their ultimate reality, or else they will become discouraged by their physical suffering.  Jesus urges fearlessness. The suffering is a refining test to show the true character of their faith.  Will they succumb to their fear and give in to despair in the face of suffering, or will they maintain their hope and joy in Christ? If they can keep their eyes focused on Jesus, they will be rewarded with eternal life and immunity at the great judgment. They may be poor by worldly standards, but in Heaven they will receive crowns of glory. Future glory has greater weight than present suffering. 

What does this mean for us? 

Suffering is a test.  It is never easy, and that’s why the Bible addresses to it - to give us encouragement when it comes.  Following Jesus in no way guarantees an easy life.  But suffering and persecution can be seen as a test meant to refine and solidify your faith.  When you’re about to lose everything for Christ, you realize where your allegiance really stands. Will you embrace your poverty knowing you still have Christ, or will you run from it, abandoning him?  Would you risk everything in order to have Jesus?  A long term perspective is imperative, because it is by looking to our future glorification with Christ that we find the hope to persevere and the courage to take daily risks. Our joy can’t only be from our present material circumstances. It must lie in the deeper reality of the spiritual truths taught to us by the Word and confirmed by the Spirit:  those who have faith in Christ are rich beyond measure, filled with the Spirit of joy and peace, and guaranteed glory in the age to come.

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