“Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. . . . Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.”
Jesus knows his church communities completely. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. He also knows our sufferings.
In his letter to the church in Smyrna, Jesus reveals that he knew the afflictions of his followers there. He also knew that their suffering of injustices would grow worse. He composed this short letter to give hope and encouragement to their church community.
Suffering even more for their faith in Jesus would not be easy. Jesus described the enemies of the church as followers of Satan, the great deceiver who wants to destroy God’s people and all of God’s creation. Some of the Christians in Smyrna would be put in prison, Jesus said, and they would suffer persecution. John himself was being punished for his faith by being exiled to Patmos. Some others, like Polycarp of Smyrna, who was taught by John, were later executed for speaking out, teaching that Jesus is the Lord and Savior of the world. Like those early Christians, we too are called to “be faithful, even to the point of death.”
Suffering tests the character and strength of our faith in Jesus. We may also suffer terrible illness, grief, or financial loss—and find that it challenges our faith. But Jesus says, “Do not be afraid,” because, even though our enemy, the devil, may seem to have the upper hand, God will give us life forever with him.
Strengthen us, Lord, that we may be faithful to you always. Amen.
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