Wednesday, November 10, 2021

A Model Church

“I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! – Revelation 2:9

 Afflicted, dirt poor and slandered. It was just another day for the Christians in Smyrna.

 Although the ancient city of Smyrna was the most beautiful city in the Roman Empire, it had some really ugly stuff going on inside city limits. You see, Christianity was outlawed. So, it was open season on followers of Christ. But in Revelation 2:8-11, Jesus sends a little message to the Smyrna Christians, and He praises them for patiently enduring three things:

1. The Smyrna Christians endured afflictions. Christians were persecuted in every one of the seven cities in Asia Minor, but the persecution against the Christians in Smyrna was particularly cruel. In the city of Smyrna, everyone was expected to worship the Roman Emperor. Refusal to do so was treason. So, if a resident of Smyrna neglected their patriotic duty to worship the emperor, they were discriminated against. They were kicked out of the local trade guilds—leaving them unemployed. And many vendors in the marketplace wouldn’t sell them food. So, starvation was a real possibility. Many of them endured torture. It was stifling, even crushing, and Jesus knew it.

Remember, Jesus is not oblivious to our pain and suffering. He KNOWS what we’re going through, and He knows what it feels like: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering…. He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and … afflicted” (Isaiah 53:3-4). In Revelation 2:9, Jesus says to the Smyrna Christians, “I know your afflictions.” And He means it. He’s been in their shoes. He’s felt the crushing weight of persecution for the sake of the Gospel.

2. The Smyrna Christians endured poverty. The Christians in Smyrna were dirt poor. They had nothing. Under the persecution of the emperor, these Christians had their homes and property confiscated. They lost their jobs when they were kicked out of the local trade guilds. And many Bible scholars believe that since Christianity was illegal in Smyrna, the Christians had their smaller possessions looted by both Jews and the Romans. So it’s remarkable that Jesus tells them in verse 9: “You are rich.”

But Jesus isn’t as shallow as we are. In 2 Cor. 6:10, the Apostle Paul says, “[We are] sorrowful, yet always rejoicing, poor, yet making many rich, having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” How was it possible for Paul and his fellow missionaries to have nothing, yet possess everything? The short, sweet answer is: Because they had Jesus. Anyone who has Jesus is rich. Forgiveness, grace, love, eternal salvation, adoption into God’s family, peace, purpose and joy: All of these riches and so many others are ours in Christ. As far as material possessions go, the Smyrna Christians had nothing. But they actually had the greatest Mother Lode of treasure that money can’t buy. So, Jesus tells them in verse 9, “You … are … rich.”

3. The Smyrna Christians endured slander. Sadly, much of this slander came from people who called themselves “Jews.” The Jews in Smyrna seem to have practiced their religion only to the extent that it made their lives easier, while ignoring God’s commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The Jews jumped on the bandwagon and slandered Christians’ good names. They accused Christians of having orgies at their church services, and of eating human flesh and drinking human blood when they took the Lord’s Supper. They called the Christians “cannibals.” Was any of it true? Of course not! But that’s one more reason why the Smyrna Christians’ endurance was so remarkable.

If you’ve been a follower of Christ for any length of time, you have probably faced discrimination and persecution for your faith at one level or another. And when it comes to endurance, the church at Smyrna is a model church. Like the Christians in Smyrna, we need to remain faithful to Christ and endure, no matter what the world throws at us. When we are afflicted, we must faithfully endure. When our Christianity costs us our jobs, we must faithfully endure. And when we are slandered for the name of Christ, we must faithfully endure. And with Christ’s help, when the heat is turned up in the kitchen, we will do just that: We will faithfully endure. And as Jesus promises at the end of His message to the Smyrna Christians, every bit of endurance for Christ will result in a heavenly reward. 

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. His new book, “Buoyed Up: Jesus’ 8 Steps to an Unsinkable Life,” is available on Amazon in paperback, e-book and audiobook. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on Facebook Live or YouTube. For more information, visit

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