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Smyrna wk.3


SMYRNA - Faithful Friends Are Hard To Find

Turkey is the least churched nation; still, Jesus tells the church in Smyrna to be encouraged and to endure what he endured (tribulation, poverty, slander, suffering, even death), but not to fear. Pray for Christians and churches where persecution still continues.
Smyrna, modern day Izmir, Turkey is 40 miles due north of Ephesus. Smyrna, like Ephesus, was a very important port city and was also ranked “First of Asia” in beauty. Smyrna was a wealthy city where learning, especially in the sciences and medicine. An old city, allegedly founded by a mythical Amazon who gave her name to it. Smyrna repeatedly sided with Rome in different periods of her history, and thus earned special privileges as a free city town under Tiberius and successive emperors. Among the beautiful paved streets traversing it from east to west was the “Golden Street,” with the temples to Cybele and Zeus at either end and along which were temples to Apollo, Asclepius, and Aphrodite.

Smyrna was also a center of the emperor worship, having won the privilege from the Roman Senate in a.d. 23 over eleven other cities to build the first temple in honor of Tiberius. Under Domitian emperor worship became compulsory for every Roman citizen on threat of death. Once a year a citizen had to burn incense on the altar to the godhead of Caesar, after which he was issued a certificate.Such an act was probably considered more as an expression of political loyalty than religious worship, and all a citizen had to do was burn a pinch of incense and say, “Caesar is Lord.” Yet most Christians refused to do this. Perhaps nowhere was life for a Christian more perilous than in this city of zealous emperor worship. About sixty years later of John’s writing, Polycarp was burned alive at the age of eighty-six as the “twelfth martyr in Smyrna”. His words have echoed through the ages saying: “Eighty-six years have I served Christ, and he has never done me wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” 

As you see, being a Christ follower in Smyrna was not easy.

As this passage reveals the church at Smyrna was under constant persecution by both the Romans and Jews. Additionally, they were monetarily poor possibly due to economic sanctions stemming from their faith in Jesus. Despite all of the external hardships the church of Smyrna faced they were still faithful according to Jesus. 

Unlike a Disney movie, Jesus does not promise he will immediately remove their affliction rather He offers something much different in the key verse within this passages (verse 10). “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” For a faithful and suffering church, Christ offers further trial and suffering, even “to the point of death. If we were all honest, that is a tough concept for us to swallow. Concept: “God is not stopping the on slot of persecution for the church of the seven churches may be the most faithful.” 

Our carnal minds truly struggle with the notion that God does not operate by a code of mutual reciprocity, wherein we do something good and we get good in return. While the scriptures give us the promise of blessings for living faithful lives of obedience to God’s word the blessings are not material in nature. While every material possession we have is  indeed truly a blessing from God as part of God’s general mercy. The blessings guaranteed within the scriptures associated with our obedience is not of this world and surpasses the worth of any material possession we main gain here. 

Therefore, we do not suffer for the sake of potential blessings in this life; rather, we suffer for Jesus and we will receive a heavenly reward and prize.

questions for reflection

How do we as Christ Follows embody the same attitude as the church of Smyrna to remain faithful while under attack?
Take a moment to do some spiritual inventory of your life by asking yourself this question: Do I love Jesus enough to suffer because of my belief/ relationship in Him? Am I willing to lose my house, car, my family and even lose my own life for the sake of Christ? (This is not a hyperbolic question!)

How do we teach those who we have influence over (your kids, your spouse, your coworkers, your friends) what it means to suffer well for Jesus to win the crown of life?

A prayer to meditate on written by: Sir Francis Drake 

Disturb us, Lord, when We are too well pleased with ourselves, When our dreams have come true Because we have dreamed too little, When we arrived safely Because we sailed too close to the shore. Disturb us, Lord, when With the abundance of things we possess We have lost our thirst For the waters of life; Having fallen in love with life, We have ceased to dream of eternity And in our efforts to build a new earth, We have allowed our vision Of the new Heaven to dim. Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, To venture on wider seas Where storms will show your mastery; Where losing sight of land, We shall find the stars. We ask You to push back The horizons of our hopes; And to push into the future In strength, courage, hope, and love. AMEN.

memory verse

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

 James 1:2 ESV