We often face situations in life that buffet
our faith in the Lord. We or our family members
face injustice. We experience health problems.
Our non-believing family members die suddenly.
When we encounter such situations, we often
wonder, “Does the Lord really love us?” How
does the Lord feel about these types of situations?
There are times when life goes bad for all of
us. The letter from Jesus to the church at Smyrna
(Rev. 2:8-11) helps us think biblically about life’s
struggles, especially those struggles that come
because of our Christian faith.
The letter to the church at Smyrna tells us
something about this church and much more
about the Lord Himself. Through these brief
words, we will find much to encourage us in our
I. JESUS KNOWS YOUR TROUBLE
“I know your afflictions” (verse 9). The
word “afflictions” does not describe the ordinary
troubles of life; rather, it refers to what we might
call catastrophic pressure. In another context, it
was used to describe a man being crushed by a
massive boulder. When the sky falls around us,
when all hope is lost, when darkness surrounds
us and the enemy closes in, Jesus says, “I know
II. JESUS KNOWS YOUR POVERTY
“I know . . . your poverty—yet you are rich!”
(verse 9). These words are literal, not metaphorical.
Christians in Smyrna evidently came from
the lower rungs of the economic ladder. If they
once had been rich in worldly goods, those days
were long past. No doubt many had lost their
jobs in the trade-guilds because they would not
say, “Caesar is Lord.”
To these poverty-stricken Christians, Christ
says, “But you are rich!”
Is He mocking them? It depends on how
we value time versus eternity. If this life is all
that matters, then the words of Jesus are nothing
more than pious nonsense. What good is it to
say, “You are rich!” to people who are starving?
III. JESUS KNOWS YOUR ENEMIES
“I know about the slander of those who say
they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue
of Satan” (Rev. 2:9). Who are these people who
are called a “synagogue of Satan”? This fearful
description applies to those Jews in Smyrna who had joined forces with the pagans to accuse the
Christians of treason against Rome. In taking
sides against the church of Jesus, they were taking
sides against the Lord Himself.
Because Christians did not worship idols
but instead worshiped God, who is invisible, they
were sometimes considered atheists.
Never be surprised when religious people
hate you. They hate Jesus, too. And religious
people crucified Him.
IV. JESUS SAYS, “DO NOT FEAR”
“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” (Rev. 2:10).
We find much to instruct us in this verse.
First, our Lord has perfect knowledge of all that
is about to happen to us. What surprises us does
not surprise Him. Second, the Lord sometimes
allows the devil to attack us severely. Third,
the Lord limits our sufferings. Jesus tells the
church that the severe persecution will last for
“ten days.” Some of us may think, “That doesn’t
sound so bad.” But how will you feel after you
have been fired from your job, beaten senseless,
your house plundered, your spouse abused, and
your children physically attacked? Will 10 days
seem so small to you then?
I cannot explain why some people seem to
suffer more than others. While it is true that “into
each life some rain must fall,” some folks seem
to have a perpetual monsoon pouring down upon
them. After pondering this for many years, I
have concluded that all our speculations are just
that—idle speculations that do not help us much
at all. But let us rest our soul in this: We cannot be
tempted beyond that which we are able to bear
(1 Cor. 10:13). Think of it this way: If Jesus says
you will suffer for 10 days, no force on earth can
make your suffering last 11 days! It won’t end
early, but it won’t go longer either. The Lord has
determined the time limit on our trials—whether
for 10 days, 10 weeks, 10 months, 10 years, or
That is why He says, “Fear not.” The Lord
knows what He is doing, and He is doing it. He
will accomplish His purpose concerning us.
V. JESUS SAYS, “BE FAITHFUL”
“Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I
will give you the crown of life. He 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” (Rev. 2:10, 11).
There is one important fact we must not
miss: Jesus never promises to remove the trials
of life. He never says to the church at Smyrna,
“Just believe in me and everything will get better.”
Jesus was not a “prosperity gospel” preacher.
That heresy has infected the church around the
world and created a generation of Christians who
are materialistic, worldly, and spiritually anemic.
Because they have no theology of suffering, they
are not ready when suffering comes, so they
have no strength to face the terrible struggles of
Jesus never says, “Believe in me, and I will
give you an easy life.” He says, “Be faithful unto
death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
No doubt many of the believers in Smyrna
paid the ultimate price for their faith. Having
followed Jesus in life, they now wait for Him in
death. It is against that backdrop that we see the
importance of Christ’s title for Himself in Revelation
2:8: “These are the words of him who is
the First and the Last, who died and came to life
again.” These are the extremes.
Death itself has no power over the believer
who remains faithful (John 11:25).
We may die—indeed, we will die someday!
That’s not the question. Will we be faithful no
matter what? Fear not! Be faithful! Death may
come, but it cannot take from us what God has
given us. The world gives fame, and the world
takes it away. So be it. We are rich today and
poor tomorrow. We have a job and then we don’t.
We are healthy and then cancer strikes. We have
a happy family and then it falls apart. Our friends
say they love us and then they disappear.
To those who stand strong in the midst of
trials, the best is yet to come. We will receive the
“crown of life” and reign with Jesus forever.
Be encouraged, child of God. Buckle up your
chinstrap and get back in the game. Don’t run
from the troubles of life. You are richer than you
Jesus is coming soon! Jesus knows your
troubles. He knows your poverty. He knows your
enemies. Jesus says, “Do not fear. Be faithful,
and I will give you the crown of life.” Are you willing
to be faithful to the Lord?