Polycarp or Punk out?
The city of Smyrna was a hot bed of Caesar worship, which then presented a conflict for the Christians. As we saw with the early church leader Polycarp, whose faith lead to martyrdom, suffering was not a matter of if, but a matter of when and how. Polycarp or punk-out? Courageous or cowardeous? Stand fast or sit down? When we take our faith in Christ public in a pagan world, we will suffer. The letter to the church in Smyrna gives us three reasons we can stand stand firm in our faith in times of suffering. Because Jesus knows our suffering we can stand fast. We don’t serve a distant deity. Jesus is near to us and he knows all about our suffering. The church of Smyrna was impoverished because of financial persecution they were experiencing, due to their faith in the Savior and not Caesar. How can Jesus say that this impoverished and afflicted church is rich? Because when Jesus is all we have, we learn that Jesus is all we need. Suffering strips us of everything and all we have left is Jesus, who actually first got a hold of us. We will be slandered for our faith in Jesus Christ, and he knows all about it. It was his rejection and suffering that has allowed our salvation. Because Jesus controls our suffering we can stand fast. Behind all opposition there is demonic opposition, but Jesus harnesses that opposition with a purpose. Suffering is a separator, testing the reality of our faith and whether or not we truly do put our faith in him and in him only. He controls the purpose of our suffering and he limits the extent of our suffering. Lastly, because Jesus has a promise for our suffering we can stand fast. This crown of life is not only for exceptional super Christians, but for all Christians, everyone who puts their faith in Jesus Christ. There are no prizes for how we start the race, only for how we finish. And we can finish well by looking to the one who ran and finished the race perfectly and won the victory on our behalf! Jesus doesn’t promise us roses, but commands us to be faithful unto death for he will give us the crown of life. We are called to take daily doses of martyrdom through daily doses of self-denial for the sake of His name! Sadly. we’ve all punked-out, been a coward, and sat down rather than stood fast. But just like Jesus restored Peter when he pinked out, he can restore and use us even after we punk out! This should give us massive encouragement. It’s all about Jesus, and the perseverance of the Savior! You can listen to this message on the church of Smyrna from Revelation 2 by Pastor Mike HERE!