THE PERSECUTED CHURCH
“Do 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 life as your victor’s crown.”
This Bible verse contains the words of Jesus. He writes specifically to the church in Smyrna, an ancient city in Asia Minor (present day Turkey). At the end of His letter the Lord expands His message to a larger audience. He says that “whoever has ears” should hear the words of this letter. And what is the message they are to hear? The church in Smyrna was persecuted, poor, and afflicted. So, in this letter, Jesus encourages them to be brave and faithful, even though some of them may be imprisoned, mistreated, and even killed for their faith in Jesus. But nothing can defeat a believer in Christ! Even in death we are more than conquerors, overcoming sin, death, and hell, gaining forgiveness and eternal life through the blood of Jesus our Savior!
1. Jesus encourages His readers to “not be afraid” of what they are about to suffer. Why do you think God allows believers to suffer? Why should we not be afraid?
2. Jesus also relates that the devil will put some of them in prison. Why do you think the Lord allows the devil to cause Christian to go through pain and suffering?
3. In our scripture, one reason the Lord gives for suffering and persecution is “to test us.” Why does the Lord bring tests into your life? What are some ways the Lord tests us? How can we pass the test?
4. This verse also mentions that Smyrna’s persecution will last only “ten days” and that those who are faithful will receive “life as a victor’s crown.” In other words, your suffering will not last forever. How do you think this knowledge helps believers to persevere?
1. PREPARE. You are either going through suffering, have gone through suffering, or will go through suffering. It’s just a part of life. But by receiving Jesus we have His presence to guide us each step of the way to victory. Receive Him today!
2. ENDURE. Around the world there are people being arrested, imprisoned, persecuted, tortured, and killed because they are followers of Jesus Christ. Pray for these believers and be ready to endure any suffering yourself for the sake of the Gospel.
3. EXPECT. Expect your suffering to come to an end. It will not last forever. You will prevail and will receive life as a victor’s crown. Like the old hymn states, “We will understand it better by and by!”
Almighty God, thank You for holding Your children in Your mighty hands. We intercede right now on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are experiencing persecution. Lord, have mercy upon them. Give them the courage to endure. Thank You for their boldness and their faithfulness to You. Help them not to give up. Make them ever more aware of Your presence with them. And help me to follow their example to endure all for Your sake. In Jesus’ mighty, name we pray. AMEN