Church Life, Scripture

Smyrna Speaks

BUT YOU ARE RICH

The first and the last, who once died but came to life, says this: “I know your tribulation and poverty, but you are rich. I know the slander of those who claim to be Jews and are not, but rather are members of the assembly of Satan.”

“Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer. Indeed, the devil will throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will face an ordeal for ten days. Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The victor shall not be harmed by the second death.”

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“But you are rich.” How I long to hear those words from God about me! “You are rich in My love. You are rich in faithfulness, in endurance, in hope. You are rich.” Imagine the joy you would experience hearing Jesus Christ announce that to you.

Because the thing of it is, these people are being hunted, tortured and murdered. They are being arrested, exiled and denounced. They are, in the eyes of the world, despised, unlucky, weak, marginal, and oppressed. “But you are rich” says the One who sees beyond appearances and into the heart, “But you are rich.”

“Remain faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

A Protestant missionary once remarked to a friend before he was martyred: “He is no fool to give up what he cannot keep in order to gain what he will never lose.” Are we being fools in America? Do we trust the powerful Providence of God that He will take care of our parishes and our people, as long as we remain faithful to Him?

God never promised us a rose garden, but He did promise to be with us during the Agony in the Garden. That is why he says to the Church of Smyrna, “Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer.” I’m here with you. I got you. I’m going nowhere.

Jesus Christ is promising this Church that if they remain strong in faithfulness and endure the sufferings of this present age they will know nothing of the second death. And that was enough for them. So why isn’t it enough for me? Why do I let every shining thing in this world distract me from the love of God? I have the same Spirit in my heart, the same sacraments in my life, and yet, and yet, I am desperate to be rich in this world that it becomes easy for me to dismiss the next world.

The saints of Smyrna were clothed in rags, but their faith made them rich. The attenders of our local parish are clothed in refinement, but our faith…?

“Remain faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life.” May the desire for the pretty things, and not just the pretty things themselves, be extinguished from my heart, that you may be the central longing of my life. May one day I truly want nothing other than You, and You alone.