A Beautiful Church
“The letter to the church at Smyrna”
June 7th, 2009
§ Smyrna was second only to Ephesus in importance in this area.
§ It was a port city that was breathtakingly beautiful.
§ There was large Jewish population in this city.
§ The city was also very loyal to Rome and had two different temples where the emperor was worshipped.
§ It was in this city that a small church received a letter of hope and encouragement in the midst of suffering.
§ Christ writes to this church encouraging them, to be faithful and focused in the midst of suffering.
§ “In the midst of suffering Christ gives us hope and Himself”
I) I Am the first and the last- Encouragement and hope (vv. 8-9)
1) Remember that the way Jesus starts the letter is an indication of what the church needs.
2) He is telling them that He not those around them are in total control. (He is the first and the last- Col. 1:15-19)
(a) He is the One who created the North and the South (Ps. 89:12-13)
3) I was dead and came to life- Of course He did (He said that He would and He did- Christ is more powerful than even death itself)
(a) The city of Smyrna had once been leveled and had laid that way for over two hundred years until it was rebuilt in all it’s glory.
(b) Jesus is encouraging them that He is that One that has the power over life and death.
II) I know what you are going through
1) This is not a trite statement. (Ps. 139:3)
(a) God knows what we are going through (Is. 53:3)
2) Why does God allow suffering in our lives?
(a) Understand that not all suffering is due to the hand of God
· Some suffering comes from personal choices we have made
· Some suffering comes at the hands of others- this is the case in Smyrna
(i) The church in Smyrna was suffering greatly due to their stance for Christ
1. Economically- they were poor- due to lack of work, and interestingly to the fact that when faced with a situation like this they will give more of what they have. ( 2 Cor. 8:2-4) There would also have been mobs who would have taken things from them. Yet they were deemed rich! Because they had a treasure that money couldn’t buy nor take away.
· Some suffering comes from the hand of God to get our attention
(b) God uses suffering so that:
· To remove those unwanted traits in our lives- illustration- silver smith
· To reveal God to us- Often times when things are going well in our lives we don’t have time nor need for God. Yet when those things are taken away we realize our desperate need for God.
· To reveal God to others- how we respond and live in the midst of suffering will reveal our heart for God to others who are watching our lives.
III) I know who is hurting you
A) God knows who it is that is attacking them- Jew- explain the connection between Jews and Christians and the Jews turning in the Christians. (Be careful not to broad brush Jews for there were some of our ancestors –Germans who committed atrocities as well)
1) The real enemy – the devil- this is the true enemy but the Jews through their attacks on the Christians unwittingly played into the hand of satan.
(a) When we attack another, when we slander and misrepresent another person we are also allowing our words and actions to be a tool of the devil.
(b) When we attack another especially a believer who is that we are attacking? We are attacking God.
2) How do we respond when we are attacked?
(a) Bless and don’t curse. (Lk 6:28, Rom 12:14) Pray for them.
(b) Give the person over to God.
B) Be faithful (v. 10) (Rom. 1:17- the just will live a life (lifestyle marked by) faith)
1) Do not be afraid (Mk. 10:28)
2) The suffering was for a period of time- ten days (symbolic)
C) Be faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you a crown of life
1) Crown here is the crown one received for winning a game- made often of laurel leaves, it would fade after a while and fall apart.
2) The crown here is a crown of life that would never fade.
D) Stay focused (v. 11)
1) Keep your eyes on Christ
2) Keep your mind on what is to come. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death (Rev. 20:15,14)
E) Video of John Stumbo- Suffering yet living in hope.