Wednesday, November 16, 2016

To Smyrna: True Victory in Affliction

Note from Jesus

Dear Beloved,

Your world can be a brutal place for good people. I never promised My disciples that life would be easy and without problems. People persecuted Me and opposed Me, and they are going to do the same with My followers (John 15:18; Matthew 10:22; Matthew 24:9). Some would do it even thinking that they were honoring God. I didn’t promise you an easy life free of difficulties as My disciple. I did promise My early disciples and you something even greater: I promised that I would share My victory with them and with you when I said:

“I have told you these things so that you will be whole and at peace. In this world, you will be plagued with times of trouble, but you need not fear; I have triumphed over this corrupt world order.”

(John 16:33)

When tough times come, remember Paul’s words written to My disciples in Rome:

Now I’m sure of this: the sufferings we endure now are not even worth comparing to the glory that is coming and will be revealed in us.

If God is on our side, then tell me: whom should we fear? If He did not spare His own Son, but handed Him over on our account, then don’t you think that He will graciously give us all things with Him? Can anyone be so bold as to level a charge against God’s chosen? Especially since God’s “not guilty” verdict is already declared. Who has the authority to condemn? Jesus the Anointed Who died, but more importantly, conquered death when He was raised to sit at the right hand of God where He pleads on our behalf. So who can separate us? What can come between us and the love of God’s Anointed? Can troubles, hardships, persecution, hunger, poverty, danger, or even death? The answer is, absolutely nothing. As the psalm says,

On Your behalf, our lives are endangered constantly;

we are like sheep awaiting slaughter.

But no matter what comes, we will always taste victory through Him Who loved us. For I have every confidence that nothing — not death, life, heavenly messengers, dark spirits, the present, the future, spiritual powers, height, depth, nor any created thing — can come between us and the love of God revealed in the Anointed, Jesus our Lord.

(Romans 8:18; Romans 8:31-39).

I remind you of these great promises because My letter to the church at Smyrna is a painful letter to read. While I knew that the trials and persecution that they were facing were hard, I had to tell them the worst was yet to come. My letter wasn’t an easy message for Me to share with these precious disciples. Unfortunately, in an evil world there are times when My people will face unspeakably hard times before My deliverance changes their situation. Hard times are what My disciples faced in Smyrna.

The beautiful city of Smyrna was beloved by the Roman emperors. Of course, the people there catered to the whims of Rome and the emperor. This vital city also was home to a large Jewish population that was popular in Smyrna because of Jewish support to beautify the city. My disciples in Smyrna were caught in the vise grip of the emperor cult and some in the Jewish community who hated them. My disciples were persecuted and even martyred in Smyrna. This church faced very hard times.

That’s why I want you to notice some things about My letter to the church in Smyrna. The Holy Spirit will help you know how to apply My words to your world and your situation as you understand these important principles:

First, I had no words of criticism or correction to My precious ones in this city. Their courage to hold onto faith under such pressure and opposition needed to be praised. They weren’t a perfect church, but they were faithful to me under great trial.

Second, notice that I intimately knew this church and its circumstances. I knew what they were facing:

“I know your deeds and the difficult ordeal you are enduring and your poverty, although you are actually rich. I am aware of the offensive accusations preached by those who call themselves ‘Jews.'”

I knew their situation because I had been in similar situations myself. I had faced harsh criticism, rejection, persecution, and death. I was present with them as their Lord and Savior even during their suffering, trials, hardships, poverty, persecution, and martyrdom.

Third, notice that I reminded them of Who I AM and what it means for them. I AM “the First and the Last, the One Who was dead and returned to life”! I have defeated death and brought immortality to light through My victory over sin, death, and hell (2 Timothy 1:10). They do not face their persecution or martyrdom alone (Hebrews 13:5). I gladly claim them as My brothers and sisters. I will never abandon them in any of their sufferings regardless of how circumstances may appear (Hebrews 2:14-18). I AM their pioneer (Hebrews 2:10-11; Hebrews 12:1-2), having blazed a trail through suffering and death to ensure their faithfulness leads them to ultimate victory (Hebrews 2:10-13; 2 Timothy 4:6-8).

To you, beloved, I remind you of the strong exhortation I gave to them: be “one who conquers through faithfulness”! Be faithful whether your trials focus on temptations from the flesh, the allure of all that is false in your world, problems caused by the physical frailty of your mortal body, or harsh persecutions at the hands of those who hate you because of Me. Be faithful and the victory is yours!

Verses to Live

I so dearly loved the people of this church in Smyrna because of their commitment to be faithful. I AM proud of their faithfulness in the face of trials. So as you read My letter to them, remember, they were faithful through hardship. Will you be faithful through your trials?

The One [Jesus]:
Write down My words, and send them to the messenger of the church in Smyrna.

“These are the words of the First and the Last, the One Who was dead and returned to life:

“I know your deeds and the difficult ordeal you are enduring and your poverty, although you are actually rich. I am aware of the offensive accusations preached by those who call themselves ‘Jews.’ But these people are not the Jews they pretend to be; they are actually the congregation of Satan. In the face of suffering, do not fear. Watch; the devil will throw some of you into prison shortly so that you might be tested, and you will endure great affliction for days. Be faithful throughout your life, until the day you die, and I will give you the victor’s wreath of life.

“Let the person who is able to hear, listen to and follow what the Spirit proclaims to all the churches. The one who conquers through faithfulness even unto death will escape the second death.”

(Revelation 2:8-11)

Response in Prayer

O Father, please strengthen me by the power of your Holy Spirit in my inner being. I have stirred up my resolve, yet I know my weaknesses and vulnerabilities. I don’t want my faith to wither under trials, difficulties, persecution, or even martyrdom. Strengthen my courage. Empower my resolve. Most of all, dear Father, help me never outlive my love for Jesus, in Whose name I pray. Amen.

‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.

© 1998-2016, Heartlight, Inc. ‘A Year with Jesus‘ is part of the Heartlight Network.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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