Smyrna: Facing Suffering

David Bast

Read: Revelation 2:9-10

You will have tribulation. (v. 10)

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that,” quipped C. S. Lewis. “If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity” (God in the Dock, p. 48).

Jesus never said that following him would lead to a trouble-free life. In fact, he said just the opposite. Smyrna was a church under the cross, as are many today. The suffering that Jesus warns the church about is specifically Christian suffering. It is suffering “dishonor for the name” (Acts 5:41), the persecution that comes from identifying with Jesus. This persecution takes a number of forms. It is economic (“I know . . . your poverty”); being members of a despised minority, Christians can be squeezed out of the best jobs or schools or careers. It is verbal (“I know . . . the slander”); believers in John’s day were accused of all sorts of antisocial attitudes and behavior, and it’s the same for faithful Christians today. And persecution may be physical (“Do not fear what you are about to suffer”). Following Jesus in some places means prison, beatings, even death.

Here’s the thing about Christian suffering: it’s all voluntary. It’s like the grueling qualifying course for the U.S. Navy SEALS. A trainee can drop out anytime just by ringing a bell and “tapping out.” In the same way, we can escape the trials of faith at any time. All we have to do is tap out, stop identifying as a Christian, stop holding to God’s Word. —David Bast

As you pray, ask the Lord to keep you faithful.