To the angel of the church in Smyrna write
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your affliction and your poverty – yet you are rich!
Of the seven churches only two, Smyrna and Philadelphia escape some area of criticism from the all-seeing Saviour. That is not to say that they were perfect but that they were living well and pleasing to Jesus in spite of difficult and challenging circumstances. In the case of Smyrna, the risen Lord says, ‘I know your affliction and your poverty – yet you are rich!’.
That says a great deal about this church. They had a set of priorities that were radically different from the world in which they lived. Life was hard (their affliction). They did not have the world’s riches (their poverty). There were imposters among them (those who claimed to be what they were not). Persecution was on the horizon (what they were about to suffer). Satan was at work. Some were to be to be imprisoned but that imprisonment was time limited.
But they were rich!
Faithful to their Lord and thus rich. Their priorities were right and a great reward was promised v.10b – the crown of life.
We naturally seek to avoid difficult and dangerous situations. Many tend to be risk averse, particularly in times such as we have been living in with Covid. Further, if we are honest, it is easy to avoid committing to service that interferes with our freedom to do what we want and sadly, if we take this path, we forfeit the real riches which are to be found in the service of our Lord and Saviour.
They, and we, are called to be faithful unto death. It has happened in brutal on our own shores. Think of Tyndale, Ridley, Latimer just three, who fulfilled this calling. Think of many in other countries who have done, and are doing, the same.
What did it cost? Their lives?
What did they gain? The certainty that the second death (Revelation 20.14) could not hurt them.
Lord, help me to such faithful living no matter the cost.