August 28, 2012

Revelation 2:9, 10 “I know your afflictions and your poverty–yet you are rich! Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

Jesus’ letter to the church in Smyrna has got to be one of the most encouraging possible to persecuted believers everywhere. In the first place it makes it very clear that Jesus is not unaware of their suffering. Sometimes we might feel that God has forgotten us, but that is never the case. Often we don’t know why we have to go through suffering, but the Bible assures us it will eventually all be worth it. The temptation to give up might be severe, but giving up is always simply a temptation, and never the will of God for us. I really like the parenthetical remark Jesus inserts here. He has just said He is aware of the believers’ poverty, but then He says, “Though actually you are rich.” it really does help to be reminded of our spiritual riches, but only if our value system has been adjusted to the heavenly perspective. For someone who doesn’t value all that has been done for them in Christ, telling them they are rich when they don’t have any money can seem like a slap in the face. Jesus’ remarks remind me of what Paul wrote about the Macedonian believers: “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” Understanding our spiritual riches really does give us a much better perspective on everything else. However, that’s not to say that’s going to make things easy. Jesus goes on to warn the believers in Smyrna that at least some will be martyred. Then He puts the crown on it – literally! Martyrdom on earth can seem like a small thing when we are truly looking forward to the crown of life.

I have never experienced what I would call persecution for my faith, but I can still identify somewhat with this passage. I’ve never been what I, or the world, would consider affluent, but I have been “rich” for a long time now. I recently had to get an official Statement of Income for last year in relation to the purchase of the land the church building stands on, and even I was a little surprised at how small the figure was. However, God has met our needs beautifully, time and time again, and even on a material scale, many people think we are fairly well-to-do. As a pastor, I need to help the believers understand that the same spiritual riches are already provided for them, so that they may open their eyes and their hearts to appropriate them. I have seen clearly that as long as someone is focused on the material, they are never satisfied; they are always needy. However, if their hearts are fixed on Christ, they can be content whatever their circumstances, just as Paul was. (Philippians 4:12) That should be a personal goal, for me and for my flock.

Father, thank You for Your amazing grace. You indeed bless abundantly, even in the material realm. It was fun telling the church Sunday what You have done for them in relation to the land purchase. I do pray that the final steps in the paperwork would go smoothly and quickly. May we all learn more and more to rest, relax, and rejoice in You, whatever we might be going through at the moment, so that we may walk in the abundance You have provided for us in Christ, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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