The second sign of a true church is suffering. The church in Smyrna. Love and suffering have a very close relationship to one another. The church in Smyrna were a congregation that did not lose love, and yet remained faithful despite all their suffering. They loved God and remained truly faithful and obedient in His will. The church in Smyrna is one out of two churches that did not receive rebuke from God. Instead, God praised and comforted them for their suffering. God also strengthened the church in Smyrna because they remained faithful in the midst of the trials they faced. This is a church that was rich in the Word of God and in their love for God.
The church in Smyrna faced four types of afflictions:
- Poverty – The church in Smyrna experienced poverty. This was likely because they rejected the ways of the world in the city of Smyrna that is symbolically described in Revelation as ‘The Beast’ (Revelation 13:16-17). What most likely happened was that the church refused to worship ‘The Beast’ and this caused them to experience many difficulties. As a result, they faced poverty.
- Slander – The church in Smyrna also faced slander from The Accuser. Although we do not know the details of this slander, we know for sure that it hurt the church and caused them to struggle greatly.
- Imprisonment – The church in Smyrna also went to prison for their faith and beliefs. The closest example to our context is the Suppression Act that was enacted last month, which has the potential to put us in prison if we do not agree with same-sex marriage and express our beliefs in the wrong way.
- Death – Although some will have to face temptations, they must remain faithful to God in their suffering until death.
These afflictions surely remind us of our calling to suffer. We are called, as children of God, not only to be saved, but also to suffer for Him. Suffering for Christ is a sign of salvation. Striving to fight selfishness is also a form of suffering, and God wants us to fight and deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Him. These are the marks of a true follower of Christ.
Besides the call to suffer, we must also focus on our consolation. For those of us who, like the church in Smyrna, face hardships and afflictions because of our obedience, God consoles us by giving us seven truths about Himself:
- God is eternal. He is the Alpha and Omega. He begins all things and ends all things. Nevertheless, do not be afraid to trust in Him. He reigns over time.
- God is victorious. He is sovereign.
- God understands our sufferings. He Himself had suffered humiliation, persecution, and death.
- God can accurately assess all things that happen. He knows everything.
- God is in control of everything.
- God has a plan that we do not fully understand, but that is definitely for the good of His people.
- God is generous.