04.5 Revelation – Do you fear suffering?

Do you fear suffering?

In Revelation 2:10 Jesus tells the church of Smyrna, “ Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.

Let’s think about that for a moment.  Isn’t having a healthy fear of suffering a good thing because it keeps us out of high-risk situations?  Don’t suffering and pain go hand-in-hand and didn’t God give us pain as a warning sign?

But as I thought about this command from our Lord, I realized that the opposite of fear is not “to seek out” or “to look forward to.”  So I looked up what the opposite of fear is.

According to Roget’s Thesaurus, the antonym of fear is faith.

I thought about the story of Jacob upon his return trip to his home land and the fear that gripped him.  As you will recall, Jacob tricked his father into giving him the blessing he had intended to give to his brother Esau.  Esau was so angered, that Jacob fled for his life.  Years go by.  He raises a family, prospers, and the time comes for him to return home.  But returning home means facing Esau and the 400 men who, alerted to Jacob’s return, are on their way to meet him.  A stream separates the land and picking up the story in Genesis 32:22, Jacob sends his family and all possessions across the ford and remained on the other side by himself where, it says, in verse 24, “Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.”  As daybreak came, despite suffering from a dislocated hip, Jacob refuses to let go without receiving a blessing.

We have been given the same choice.  Are we starting the new day in the grip of fear or are we clinging to God.  What is faith other than an unrelenting holding on to God?  We cannot allow fear to prevent us from the mission God has for our life.  God does not promise that mission will be free of suffering and persecution.  God never promises an easy road while on this earth. But the reward of the suffering of the path is that it is an on-ramp to the ultimate “high-way” of heaven that lasts for eternity.

But, let’s be honest with each other – we do not have the power to overcome this fear on our own.  If we are fully aware of the pain and suffering that standing firm to the word of God will bring, our initial reaction is to draw away in fear.  But, God does not expect us to overcome this fear on our own.  We are not to overcome fear by looking through it to the reward on the other side, nor by convincing ourselves that it will be temporary or “not-so-bad”.  While those may be true, they are insufficient. The only way we can overcome fear is by faith.  The only way we can overcome fear is by following the example of Israel and relentlessly refuse to let go of God no matter how much the synonyms of fear (anxiety, despair, doubt and worry) grab ahold of us.

Hold the hand of the Lord firmer.  He is reaching out to you with assurance, confidence, calm, encouragement and joy. “ Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.”  Do not allow fear to keep you out of those loving hands!

My Answers:

imprisoned, death, torture, whipped, cursed, falsely accused and tried, taken out of jobs, homes, land, the synagogue., stripped, beaten.

Some of this happens in places today.  In all places, where followers stand strong in their faith, they are ridiculed and made fun of, caused to lose or forgo earthly riches, etc.

They are either in the grasp of fear or the hands of God – you can’t turn your life over to both.  To allow yourself to be in the grip of fear is to deny that God has the power and authority and desire to protect you.

He suffered.  It is an honor (not one we look forward to, yet we are taught so by the apostles) that He considers our faith strong enough to allow us to face that level of trial and persecution so that His message can shine through it.

I anticipate suffering in ever human matter possible – physically, emotionally, financially – as I continue to witness for Christ.  I do not look forward to this suffering, but I do look forward to growing my faith through it and the comfort and assurance that Christ will provide through it.

04.3 Revelation – Getting Out of the Rut

Getting Out of the Rut

Jesus said to the Church of Ephesis, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen!

I don’t think this means they had forsaken Christ nor that they had stopped loving Him.  Clearly from the previous commendation, they still were active in the church He held in His hand.  They continued to seek the truth and endured without growing weary.  But they did not love in the same way they once had.

Many Christians have experienced this.  There is the first excitement as the Holy Spirit pours into their life and they shake off the bondage and despair they held before in exchange for the hope and promise of the good news of the gospel.

But, day to day life the progresses.  They travel the same paths.  The routine of their life begins to form paths, which over time form ruts along those paths, until the are bottoming out in the ruts of life they have made.  Most of us have been on that path.

But that is not the life Jesus wants for us.  But it requires a change on our part.  Each day, Christ would have us take a new path.  We may drive the same way, we may do the same work.  But the Christian life is not about these things it is about souls.  Along that same drive we will encounter different people.  At work we will transact and talk with different people or, even if it is the same people, their life will have changed from the previous day.

Do you start your day by asking God to open your eyes to the person you are to witness to today?  You may witness to them by discussing Christ with them, by praying with or for them, or maybe by refraining from the anger you would like to show when they cut you off or mistreat you.

In life we will get on the wrong path.  Rarely, if ever, will we have the strength on our own to get out of that rut and change direction.  More commonly, if we try to do it on our own, we fall right back into the same (or a deeper) rut.  It is only by the strength and love of God that we can truly repent.

You are a fully forgiven, eternally living, child of God who has been invited to do what Adam and Eve were prohibited from doing – to eat from the tree of life and live forever with and walk with your creator.  Does your life reflect that?

My Answers:

You have forsaken the love you had at first

To put time with God at the beginning and end of every day.  To stay in His word daily and carry it in our thoughts, in our words and in our actions.  To let the light of His holiness shine through us.  To walk in the light not hide in the shadows.

Willingness to lay down my own life, interests, priorities and desires to serve the Lord in what ever way He calls me.

1. recognize you are on the wrong path   2. confess   3. with God’s power, turn back
My lack of self discipline in many areas of my life (diet, exercise, time management) reduce the days I have to serve Him

After sinning (by eating from the one forbidden tree) man was not allowed to eat of the tree of life (he lost his rights)
Jesus is giving man back the right to eat from it and live forever

It means that every sin and all sin have been erased.  Man will be restored to the garden to live and walk with God and live forever.