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Why church? Smyrna Faithul to the Calling

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Title:           Why Church? Smyrna - Faithful to the Calling

Text:           Revelation 2: 8 - 11

Date:          January 20, 2008

Introduction:

As we continue in our series on “Why Church?” We come to the second church found in Revelation.

It is the church of Smyrna.

There are many things about this church, as with the other churches in Revelation, that relate to us today.

It is necessary that we take a close look at this particular church so that we may see more about what it means to be Faithful to the Calling.

It is a blessing to look at this particular church.

There are many things about it that really have the ability to touch our hearts and cause us to stop and think about our relationship with Jesus Christ!

There are things about it that make me examine myself.

You say, preacher, just how is that a blessing?

Any time that you are confronted with the word of the living God, and it points out those areas where you are lacking, it serves as a blessing.

When we can see that the very reason that God points things out in our lives is for the purpose of correcting those things:

It should bless you and give you a real joy in your heart just to know that the God, creator of the universe, desires to be close and personal with you.

I.       As we begin looking at the church at Smyrna, look at Revelation 2:8.  “And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write.”

A.      The Lord is addressing the conduct of this particular church.

1.       There is much to learn just from the place of Smyrna.

a.       This city as far as culture and history is concerned was among the largest of the cities in the Mediterranean.

b.       It was a port city, which was beautiful in its appearance.

c.       The city was among the wealthiest of all the cities in Asia at this time, and the estimated population during the time of this letter was approaching 100,000 people.

2.       The name Smyrna actually means myrrh.

a.       When you think about the Magi as they bore gifts to Jesus, they brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

b.       Myrrh is a perfume that was used in the embalming process.

c.       Myrrh, was a perfume that only gave off its fragrance when it was crushed.

B.      History tells us that the city of Smyrna endured earthquakes, attacks and raids, numerous oppressions, if it was a possibility that it could happen, they saw it.

1.       No matter how many times they were oppressed, they always seemed to rebound better than they were before economically.

2.       Idol worship was prevalent throughout Smyrna, as it was in the majority of the larger cities of that time.

a.       Archeology has shown us several of the idol temples that were constructed during that day, the expense and beauty was unbelievable.

C.      Then there was this church.

1.       It was the church of Smyrna.

a.       It had the same name as the city in which it was founded.

b.       It endured the same sufferings as the city in which it existed.

c.       It suffered hardships just like every one else.

2.       But, there was something different about this church.

a.       This was one of two churches found in these seven letters where there was no rebuke offered.

b.       Jesus had nothing bad to say about this church, but He did have a message for           them.

c.       Notice how Jesus addressed this church. In verse 8 He said, “These          things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive.”

3.       The reference is not of the same weight as we find in chapter one & verse 8.

a.       There Jesus said that He is the Alpha and omega, the beginning and the end.

b.       Here, He is giving much more weight than that to His message.

c.       It is the strongest sense of assurance that can be expressed in the Greek language.

d.       Jesus is affirming who he is to this church, and it is for a reason

4.       Just as this church had suffered many things, persecutions, shattering events,   raids from enemies, etc,

a.       Jesus is affirming to them that He is the one who suffered as well.

b.       He is the one that was dead, and sprang back to life.

c.       There were numerous times that this city was completely devastated by either natural disasters, or enemy attacks.

d.       Every time they endured what appeared to be the final blow, they came back to life.

e.       Jesus here relates to this church by demonstrating how that He has that very same thing in common with them.

He is saying to them ,“Just like you have suffered, I have suffered. Just as you were dead, and came back to life as a church, I was also dead, and came back to life. Jesus is simply saying “Be Faithful in the Calling!”

TS>   In addressing the church in this manner,

Jesus was emphasizing the victory that is found in the act of resurrection.

He above all is the one who knows the most about resurrection power.

Just as He told Martha at the tomb of Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life”

Jesus is the one that holds the very life giving power. Without Him, no life can exist.

II.      But notice what He said in verse 9. “I know thy works.”

There is absolutely no doubt that this church was engaged in numerous good works.

However, the emphasis of this letter is not on the works of this church.

Nowhere in the passage is works mentioned in their activities of service.

Jesus does not mention their care for the lost.

He says nothing about their zeal for the word of God.

He doesn’t mention anything about visitation programs, children’s workers, building projects, training unions, no mention of any kind of work.

A.      What He does mention is their steadfastness in the numerous trials and persecutions that they have endured.

1.       There is one key word that you need to see.

Notice the word “know.”

a.       He said, “I know.”

·        I know all about it.

·        I know what you are going through.

·        I know the things you are suffering.

·        I know the persecution you have seen.

·        I know the trials that you have faced.

·        I know the hardships you endure.

·        I have seen everything that you have been put through, and nothing has escaped me.

Application:

1.       It should bless us & bring us comfort to realize that Jesus knows all about it.

2.       He knows everything this church has suffered.

3.       He knows everything that you have suffered.

4.       He has not missed a thing.

5.       He knows!

6.       But, not only does He know, but He also saying to them – Be Faithful in the Calling!”

7.       He knows about it, and He has already gone through it, raised again, victorious.

B.      What does Jesus know?

1.       Notice in verse 9, “I know thy tribulation.”

a.       The word tribulation used here comes from the Greek word “thlipsis.”

b.       It is a relative word to two Greek words “thlibo” and “treebos.”

2.       Thlibo means to “crowd or crush” and “treebos” means a rut worn into the ground.

a.       Just as traffic wears a rut in the dirt, the tribulation that Smyrna endured was continual, one thing right after another, but in a stronger sense.

3.       The word used here, thlipsis, is the strongest word of these other two.

a.       While it holds the same meaning as continual wearing and forming of a rut, it holds the stronger meaning of crowding.

b.       Literally, it is the “pressure that crushes”.

4.       Jesus is saying to this church,

“I know that you have been continually crushed. I realize that you have suffered extraordinarily above and beyond the other churches. I know all about it. I can relate to that. You see, I have suffered it already. I know, I know.”

Application:

Listen!

1.       In your Christian walk there are going to be times that the trials and burdens, the pressures and sufferings, just seem to come one after the other.

2.       There will be times that is seems as if you may not be able to bear the troubles you are faced with.

3.       There will be times that it would seem the easiest to just throw up your hands and quit.

4.       But, realize this very fact.

·        Jesus knows all about it.

·        None of your sufferings have gone unnoticed.

·        Nothing has escaped His watchful eye.

·        He knows, He knows!

·        And what’s more, He has already gone through it. “Be Faithful to the Calling”

5.       Church, there are times that seem difficult.

·        There are sufferings that we endure.

·        There are things that overwhelm us.

·        There are problems that seem too big for us to handle.

·        He knows!

·        He realizes everything that this church goes through.

·        He understands perfectly the troubles and trials we are faced with.

·        He knows, because He has already gone through the suffering.

·        He can relate in that special way because of His own experience with suffering.

·        He knows!

C.      Notice also in verse 9, “I know your tribulation, and poverty.”

1.       The word for poverty here is the Greek word means “having nothing at all.”

a.       But wait a minute preacher.

b.       I thought you said this city was rich.

c.       I thought you said that every time this city experienced troubles and attacks and devastation that it just got richer.

d.       The city did,         but the church didn’t.

e.       This church suffered in poverty.

2.       I know your poverty, but notice this, “but you are rich.”

a.       You may not have the things that hold value to this world, but you have those things that count for God.

b.       For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. (2 Cor 8:9)

c.       They were rich by their position in Christ (Eph. 1:3), which of course, was by grace.

d.       They were also rich in that God had counted them worthy to suffer for Him (1 Pet. 3:14-17; 1:6; 4:13-14).

e.       They were rich in their spiritual lives because they were living close to God by faith.

f.       Jesus could say, “I know about your poverty,” because He had experienced the greatest of poverties. He left the splendor of heaven to come to earth as a common baby. He grew up as one of us, without any of the benefits of glory to aid Him.

g.       This church had a spiritual richness.

3.       This very church of Smyrna can be contrasted with another of the seven churches. Look in chapter 3 and verse 17.

a.       This is an address to the church of Laodicea.

b.       Notice what Jesus says to them. “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.”

c.       Notice what He told this church. “You have all of these possessions, and they mean nothing to me. Riches of this world are not what indicate your wealth. These are all perishable things. You need your eyes healed so that you can see what I count as important.”

Application:

1.       There is a valuable lesson for us today.

2.       Wealth and the riches of this world are not the important things to God.

3.       He is not interested with how much you or this church has in the bank account.

4.       He would rather a church work on faith, trusting Him for the provisions, than to be so fixed on money that we loose dependency upon Him.

·        I am not saying that the church ought to be irresponsible with God’s money.

·        We are commanded to be good stewards of it.

5.       The thing that I am saying is that we should not let money cripple our faith and involvement in the ministry of His church.

·        Money issues should never stop us from taking the gospel to a lost world.

·        Money issues should never keep us from saying that we believe God for the provisions, and we are going to support the ministry of the church.

·        Listen; if you make a commitment to God to support the ministry of a church, then the needs will be met as you fulfill your commitment.

6.       Why?

a.       It is because He has already promised to supply our needs.

b.       Every need that we have, He already knows about it.

c.       Every need that we have, He has the provision to meet it.

d.       Our needs are supplied according to His riches in glory through Christ Jesus.

D.      Notice in verse 9, He knows your tribulation, He knows your poverty, and he knows your opposition.

“And I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.”

1.       This was a group of people who were opposed to the very ministry of the church, and to the man of God.

a.       Jesus knew all about it.

b.       The best reference we have to give us an indication of these people           can be found in Acts 13:45      

“But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.”

c.       This group of people was envious of the real church.

d.       They were envious of the people that worked in the church.

e.       The Jews to which this refers to was a group that was legalistic in the way they approached worship.

f.       It had to be a certain way, and anything else needed to be opposed.

g.       They refused the word of God, and opposed the man of God.

2.       Why?

a.       Part of the problem was envy.

b.       Envy wants to gain what another person has.

c.       When you are envious, you desire to obtain what another has, so that they do not have it.

d.       But wait preacher; you said this church was poor.

3.       They were poor in material goods, but they had a drive about them.

a.       They had a joy about them.

b.       They were steadfast, unmovable, abounding in the work of the Lord.

c.       And so this group wanted to oppose it, because they didn’t have it.

d.       They didn’t have that passon like this church.

e.       They were not engaged in a ministry work with the same joy and passion as those in this church.

f.       They were not on fire for God like those in this church, and so they became envious.

Application:

1.       How familiar does that sound today?

2.       You have one group of believers wanting to serve the Lord,

And there is another group that are mainly just talk, and do nothing but oppose the very principles of the word of God, and the workers in the church.

3.       If someone constantly opposes the word of God, and refuses to operate in the church according to Godly principles, I question that person’s relationship with the Savior.

4.       Something is wrong with the heart that continually refuses the instruction of Scripture, and continues in disobedience, without any sign of repentance.

TS>   Jesus knew what they were going through. He knew their tribulation. He knew their poverty. He knew their opposition. But Jesus also knew what faced them.

E.      Notice in verse 10. “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days.”

1.       The first thing He told them concerning the things they were going to face was to not fear.

a.       That is a command in the negative sense.

b.       A command like this is designed to override the negative that is involved.

2.       Looking at the passage, you would see that prison was a definite, not an option.

a.       The devil IS going to cast some of you into prison.

b.       This group of Jews that opposed the church, as history records, made numerous accusations against the church at Smyrna, in reference to Rome.

c.       As a result, many were persecuted, and cast into prison.

d.       The persecution of the Christians had begun and was carried on for the next 250 years.

e.       The church suffered as a body, and the individual Christians suffered as well.

3.       Notice what else Jesus said, “that ye may be tried.”

a.       Jesus gave a purpose clause for the suffering.

b.       You are going to suffer, and it is for the purpose of trying you.

c.       Literally it means to test, to scrutinize.

d.       The sufferings were intended to test and scrutinize the church.

e.       They served the purpose of purification.

f.       But, it was for a time. Notice that Jesus said, “ye shall have tribulation for ten days.”

g.       This is not a literal length of time. But it is a prescribed length of time.

4.       Jesus was saying: “I know what you are suffering through. I know what you are going through. I know the things you must face. Don’t be afraid in facing these things, because it is for a period of time.”

Application:

1.       Jesus knows and realizes everything we must face, but it is only for a time.

2.       He is saying: “Be Faithful to the Calling!”

·        There is an end in sight.

·        There is coming a time of peace.

·        This thing will not be forever.

·        The fact that God wants to ensure us of is simple.

·        No matter what you suffer through, no matter how hard the troubles and trials, no matter how difficult the opposition, there is a very firm fact.

·        It is not forever, and God will have the last word.

·        Ultimately, we must never forget, God is still on the throne, and He is still in control.

F.      He said also in verse 10, “be thou faithful unto death, and I will give you      a crown of life.

1.       This is not a reference to salvation by works.

a.       It is not a reference to salvation by faithfulness.

2.       It is a reference to personal reward in the very act of faithfulness.

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

3.       We have something to strive for.

a.       Jesus was faithful unto death, and rose again in victory.

b.       What an encouragement to us.

c.       The very action of being faithful is the duty of actively participating in the victory of Christ, and for that, you will be rewarded.

Closing:

The opposition that this church of Smyrna faced was intense.

·        These Jews that opposed the church, on a Sabbath day in 155 A.D. gathered wood, breaking the very law they said to uphold.

·        On a Sunday morning, as the believers gathered in the church to worship, the Jews entered into the building, and took Polycarp captive. (Early Church Pastor)

·        They bound his hands and feet.

·        They carried him to a stake upon which they tied him.

·        They stacked the wood around him, and burnt him to death.

·        Could there be any doubt that Polycarp reflected upon the very words of the Savior?

·        Be faithful; be faithful, and fear not.

·        History tells us that when the smoke and flames began to engulf Polycarp, he sang praises to God.

·        Do you doubt that he remembered the words, fear not and be faithful unto death, there is a reward waiting you for it.

Could there be any doubt that this church at Smyrna remembered the words of Jesus?

As they watched their pastor carried off by the ungodly opposing men, they knew what would happen.

I wonder if they could still hear the words that Polycarp had read before the congregation from this letter. Be faithful; be faithful and fear not.

Invitation:

What kind of fears do you have concerning troubles and trials?

What is it that has gripped your heart with fear?

Just what area are you being unfaithful in?

How are you lacking in faithful service to Jesus?

He knows all about your troubles and trials.

Nothing escapes Him, and He has already experienced them all.

His very words to you to, “Be faithful, and fear not.”

Are you unfaithful and fearing?

Notice verse 11. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” Is the Spirit speaking to you? Will you listen?

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