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Will Persecution Revive Our First Love in the Church?

Will Persecution Revive Our First Love in the Church?

 Contributed by Fred Shelton

In the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ in chapter 1, the resurrected Christ is pictured standing in the midst of the seven churches. These seven first century churches were located in Asia Minor or today known as the country of Turkey, which is a place known for persecution particularly for the refugees of the area. Some persecuted for their Christian faith, others persecuted simply because they are refugees fleeing persecution from their homeland.  How is their persecution affecting the Church around the world?

Jesus Christ is pictured as having within his grasp the 7 angels or the 7 messengers which are the 7 pastors of these churches. HE holds them. HE has control over their lives. HE shall use them for HIS glory. HE stands in the midst of these 7 churches ready to give instruction. What are HIS instructions for pastors, servants, teachers today? Oh, may the LORD of the harvest send more pastors to serve, to love, to give of their lives in these persecuted areas filled with sinners in need of the gospel. Will you pray to the LORD of the harvest that HE would send forth laborers, pastors, servants? Would you give, that laborers may have bread, medical help, supplies to minister to the wounded and weary of today’s Turkey? We pray. We give, and then, many will be called and shall go.

God has wisdom for them who go. For those who respond in faith to the calling of God to serve in these lands of persecuted. HE sees the path that they currently walk, HE is aware of the challenges that lie before them. HE shall give light to that path with the message of God. “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way. 105 NUN. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalms 119:103-105) Are you praying? Pray for them, stop reading and pray for them. They must trust God through the most difficult of times. They must walk by faith and not by sight. We must support them in the way by prayer. 

 I also think it is interesting to note that Smyrna the persecuted church follows the church that left its’ first love. Ephesus had been a center of evangelical mission. God had blessed them and used them greatly, but God sees with greater clarity than men. HE recognizes their love, their worship, their HIGH VIEW of the Savior is diminishing. The first step away from God toward the apostacy of the Laodicean church is to leave the passionate, burning, heart of love for the Savior. This is most meaningful since the LORD frequently uses suffering to draw believers close to HIMSELF. Is there suffering in your life today, then draw near to Christ. Glory in the tribulation, give thanks for all things, “And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:14-16)

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;  3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:2-4) Listen to the Apostle Paul’s testimony in 2 Corinthians 12

“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn  in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for  my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore  will I  rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in  reproaches, in necessities,  in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake:  for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2Corinthians 12:7-10) 

Smyrna was a persecuted church.  There are churches today that are persecuted, there are believers today who are persecuted therefore, this message is of great importance to them.  Have you ever been persecuted for living out your faith? From God’s perspective the persecuted are most blessed.

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)  

In Revelation chapter 2 and verse 10 the Bible declares the church of Smyrna, will have tribulation 10 days.  For the church of Smyrna, this probably meant the suffering would last a short period of time. The church historically experienced 10 periods of severe persecution as there were times the church was outlawed. Christians were hunted down, arrested, tortured, burned alive, and fed to the lions.  The church age period of Smyrna typifies 200 years of church history where Christians were severely persecuted. That persecution is alive and well today as the devil and his principalities and powers of darkness know their days are numbered. The body of Christ must pray for the persecuted saints of God. We must pray for those who are yet to come to faith by the preaching of the gospel: “…, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! 

“And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write;  These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;” (Revelation 2:8) Jesus is speaking to the Pastor of the church, and HE states:  I am Christ.  I understand death.  I was dead, but now I am alive forevermore.  “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Corinthians 15:55) The greatest fear that plagues mankind is the fear of death, but Jesus OUR SAVIOR, has defeated death. 

“I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich)  and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.” (Revelation 2:9) It is one thing to have poverty, but it is quite another thing to have poverty and pain, but Jesus tells the believers at Smyrna that they are rich. Their wealth and blessing will be for eternity.  What sufferings are we willing to endure for the cause of Christ? Secondly, there will always be wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Believers who say they are Christians, but are not. There will always be tares among the wheat.  Jesus will do the separating we must purpose in our hearts to do HIS expressed will. 

“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12) 

Jesus begins his commendation with the comforting words “I know”. I know, I understand, I sympathize, I am standing with you in the dark hours of your trial. These believers who suffer persecution for their faith, they are a Hebrews chapter 11 church.  “And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:)” (Hebrews 11:36-38)  What does it take to stop us from serving the LORD? Jesus states to this noteworthy group of believers: “I know, I understand, I have not forsaken you, I have prepared something very special for you, “THOU ART RICH”, I would say that places the persecuted child of God into a pretty elite group.  There is no Condemnation from Christ because a persecuted church is a pure church, but another promise is given. 

“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. 11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” (Revelation 2:10-11) 

In the natural realm we shrink away from anything that is physically painful. But the Lord Jesus tells us to trust HIM. Tribulation, poverty, blasphemy would certainly bring individuals to a point of great despair. But the encouragement is to “fear not” for the tribulation that you are facing will last for a limited time period. And God’s promise to those who overcome. These shall not be hurt of the 2nd death. What is the 2nd death? 

“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.  11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it,  from whose  face  the earth and the heaven fled away;  and there was found no place for them.  12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them:  and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.  This is the second death.  15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation  20:10-15) 

Satan hates the church.  He hates all believers for he knows that one day they will be enthroned in heavenly places with Christ.  And he along with all of his evil cohorts will be hurled from heaven to the earth; from the earth to the pits of hell, but HE who upholds all things by the power of HIS might; HE who controls all factors of time and eternity; HE still has the devil and his angels on a chain, and he will jerk him back into place whenever it is time.  THEREFORE, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”  Satan and the principalities and powers of darkness;  Satan and his world system offer: death, darkness, sufferings, and scorning, but JESUS offers: “A CROWN OF LIFE”  –  “BE THOU FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH”. Persecution, yes, it is present around the world. We pray. We give. We go. But above everything, we Worship the lamb of God who gave himself for us that we might live with HIM forever and forever.

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”  (Revelation 12:11)  

The Mission of VOC is to become a lifeline for persecuted Christians by providing them Rescue and Refuge while Replenishing their mind, body, and soul in order to help them grow their Christian faith.  Donate To VOC