1. A rummage sale will be held jointly at Gethsemane as a fund raiser for the CHIC trip out youth are planning. If you wish to contribute goods from your fall cleaning, contact Cheryl Borndal.
2. Paula shared that there will be a Circle of Life women's get together on September 20 here at the church from 10 - 2.
3. Building committee is meeting Wednesday evening at Winships, 7 p.m.
Pastor Shannon reversed the order of the service today. Immediately following the opening introit, he commenced with his sermon about the Lord's second letter to the seven churches, this one to Smyrna.
8"To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.
Down, But Not Out
Pastor Shannon opened with a series of questions. How many of you like music? How many of you like jazz? How many of you like rock? How many of you like classical? How many of you like country?
The questions were designed to set up the observation that music is a universal language, a truth that is fairly indisputable.
Another universal language, he then pointed out, is suffering. As noted in the book of Job, "Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward." (Job 5:7)
John Shelton observed that pleasure is the intermission of pain. In other words, life has more pain and struggle than pleasure. Life is hard.
Jesus Himself noted that in this life you will have trouble.
And so it is, the letter to the church at Smyrna is written to Christians who are well acquainted with sorrows and poverty.
8"To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death."
Of the seven cities to which the letters in Revelation 2 & 3 were written, Smyrna is the only one that is with us to this day. Now Ishmir of Turkey, the city was located approximately forty miles north of Ephesus.
Smyrna was a crown jewel of Rome, an intellectual city noted for both its size and beauty. The polytheistic Smyrna was exceptional in its loyalty to Rome. Its temple was a centerpiece of emperor worship, and their loyalty to Caesar and to the Empire made it challenging for the Christians there. After Nero, it even became deadly to be a follower of Christ, for Smyrna became intolerant of everything the emperor was intolerant of.
The letter to the church at Smyrna is filled with compassion. "I know your afflictions," Jesus says. "I know life is hard for you because you love Me. I know what you are going through."
Yes, Jesus knows first hand what pain is like. In addition, He knows what your pain is like and He cares. "I know it's hard that many of you are without jobs, that many of you are impoverished. Yet... you are rich."
Pastor Shannon reminded us that Scripture nowhere promises a pain free life. Nor does Scripture promise wealth. In point of fact, many of the most blessed Christians are serving in destitute circumstances in appalling Third World conditions.
Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:10-12, said, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Here in this letter to the church of Smyrna, we read that there is still more suffering to come, but Jesus promises that it will be finite in duration... ten days, which is a short time compared to eternity with Him.
Many passages speak of the brevity of our suffering when compared to eternal life. Paul, to the Corinthians, wrote, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (II Cor 4:16-18)
Peter elaborated on this theme in his letter to the early church.
3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy... (I Peter 1:3-8)
Remember the goal: salvation of your soul. This present suffering is just for a little while. In James 1:12 we read that our reward for remaining faithful is a crown of life.
The persecution of Christians continues down to this very day with torture, martyrdom and other mayhem. In fact, more Christians have been killed for their faith in the past one hundred years than in the previous nineteen centuries combined. In the book of Hebrews we read not only of the heroes of faith, but of the many forgotten as well.
"Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground." (Hebrews 11:35-38)
Fox's Book of Martyrs tells the story of Polycarp, an early bishop of Smyrna who at age 86 was told to renounce Christ or be burned. He declared that "eighty and six years I have served Him" and that the Lord had always been faithful. How can I now be unfaithful. He accepted the flames rather than turn his back on Jesus.
In this letter, it is as if Jesus is saying, "I know you're suffering. I know what you're going through. I love you. Remember, the end is not the end, because I am the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega, and you have a seat there with Me in Heaven."